So almost exactly 10 years ago, I shared this recipe for Chicken Pot Pie. To be completely honest, I don’t think I had made it or read that post in the 10 years since I had posted it, I just remembered that a) it was a lot of work, b) I really, really liked it, and c) it reminded me of a time of life that was somehow more simple and more complicated than now. Reading through the post was strange, because it felt so close and so long ago at the same time. My original intention was to post new pictures, clean up irrelevant text, take out some of the more personal stuff that didn’t feel as relevant anymore, and repost it.
Because I know that food bloggers wax poetic and it’s not really in fashion anymore and I think we can all relate to this:
But I stumbled into that post and was taken back to another place and time and I couldn’t change anything. It reminded me of one of my most favorite scenes ever from Mad Men:
For better or worse, this blog has become a journal for Sara and me, little pockets of memories, things I had forgotten, most of them centered around food, which seems to have a strong hold on so many of my memories. Food, recipes, all of it takes me right back to a moment that happened years ago, but feels like moments.
that time when I was a better parent…
One of the things that has struck me as I’ve gone through old posts is my snobbery or judgmental attitudes toward a lot of things–parenting strategies, life choices, prepackaged foods. And then life happened. Kids got older, easier in some ways and harder in others. I did a lot of things I swore I would never do and stopped doing things I always swore I would (like that time I read a 60+ page Dr. Seuss book to my 5-day-old baby when we came home from the hospital. I hadn’t eaten or slept in 5 days, but by golly, my child was going to be a genius.)
Last December, as my dear friend sat in the hospital with her unborn baby’s life hanging in the balance, we had a talk about how the world spends first 20-25 years of your life telling you that the world is your oyster and if you dream it, you can be it/have it/whatever it, and then it starts to wear you down (I actually think the actual terminology I used was “kick you in the crotch.” ????????♀️????????) Student loans for your arts degree come due, miscarriages happen, infertility strikes, kids rebel, young and healthy spouses get sick or pass away, marriages fall apart, your heart gets broken in a lot of different ways. And those hard edges start to soften and you realize life isn’t one size fits all and for heavens sake, if I want to use canned soup or my kid wants to play a game on my phone while we wait for our food in a restaurant, sometimes that’s gonna happen.
what’s worth it
In the Chicken Pot Pie post, I shared a recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup instead of using canned soup, which I prided myself in never using. I touted the virtues of using homemade pie crust and I even roasted my own “fauxtisserie” chicken instead of grabbing an already-roasted chicken for the same price from the grocery store deli. All done in the name of somehow loving my family more, or something. I can tell you exactly why I haven’t made this recipe in 10 years–because I’m NOT DOING ALL THAT. I can remember how much work it was and it wasn’t worth it. But here’s what was worth it.
- When I was pulling the chicken meat from my (store-bought) rotisserie chicken, I remembered a sunny Sunday afternoon when my friend Kami and I sat in my kitchen, pulling chicken from rotisserie chickens for a well-intentioned but short-lived bout of meal prepping.
- My blue pie plate reminded me of Sara and her love of this color and how our lives have intertwined over years of shared recipes, phone calls, text messages, book launches, speaking engagements, hotel stays, laughing, crying, our kids picking right up where they left off every time, and some of the darkest, hardest moments of both of our lives. I don’t know if God is involved in every friendship or detail of my life, but I truly believe that Sara has always been part of my “life plan.”
- Rolling out the top pie crust for the pot pie, I wondered how I should vent it; my go-to has always been a lattice crust, but on a whim, I cut out a heart. My freshman year of college, my roommate taught me how to make apple pie, the BEST apple pie, and her signature was the heart in the center of the crust. 3 years ago, she passed away from breast cancer, but this pie was a little bit of her (not in a Game of Thrones kind of way, just that I had a fleeting, love-filled memory of someone gone, but not completely.
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
I don’t normally ruminate quite so much food. Sometimes dinner is just dinner and food is just food. But sometimes it’s more. Apparently Chicken Pot Pie is one of those times.
A couple of years ago, I heard a stunning performance of “She Used to be Mine” from the musical Waitress and it set me down a path I never thought I’d be on.
Some you have picked up on the fact that I’ve been going through some stuff over the last couple of years. I haven’t gone into details or a whole lot of specifics because it’s not entirely my story to tell and it’s also hard to be vulnerable and not feel like a failure. My husband and I separated a couple of years ago. We’re not divorced, and it’s kind of a complicated situation, and I’ve learned a lot. A lot. The word that kept coming into my head was “crucible,” and I didn’t even completely know what it meant other than that it a famous play/the “Crucible Cast Party” SNL skit with Lin-Manuel Miranda. So I looked up the word “crucible” and it means, “a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.” Feels about right. Sometimes I wish it never happened, that I never saw things for what they were, that I never opened my mouth, but, in the infinite wisdom of The Avett Brothers,
There’s no fortune at the end of the road
That has no end
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream
Now I’m rested and I’m ready and I’m ready to begin.
There’s no going back to how things were. I couldn’t go back. That was a loss in and of itself.
ready to begin
I didn’t make chicken pot pie, a recipe I loved, for 10 years because there was an easy way and a hard way and I chose the hard way because I had this silly notion that if I spent 72 hours in the kitchen, I loved my family more or something. One thing I’ve learned in all of this is there are a million ways to do the right thing. You know how many people have asked my kids if they were c-section babies and then told them they were loved less because they we’re surgically extracted rather than born to a mother who didn’t get an epidural and listened to Enya and had her feet rubbed with essential oils? Absolutely zero people have told them that. Same thing goes for breast feeding vs. bottle feeding, cloth diapering vs. disposable diapers, preschool vs. Joy School, daycare vs. stay at home moms. As my kids have gotten older, the situations have gotten more complicated…sometimes I have to make decisions that break their hearts and it kills me. But I hope they remember at the end of the day, I love them more than anything and that I made Chicken Pot Pie for dinner and they have no idea that I used Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup and a couple of store-bought pie crusts.
If I’ve ever made you feel “less-than” for anything, whether it’s in life or in the kitchen, I’m sorry. I’ve changed. I’m changing. That crucible thing is real, yo. “Life kicking you in the crotch” (sorry, y’all) has some transformative properties. Let me be the first to tell you that if you are feeding your kids, you’re doing a good job. If you’re getting them to school, you’re doing a good job. On those days when you literally pay your kids money to go to bed, you’re doing a good job. They are more resilient than we give them credit for. You have intrinsic worth that has absolutely ZERO correlation to your success or your family’s success or to the choices that other people make. You are stronger and more resilient than you think. You have not failed. Even (or especially) if you fed your family cereal for dinner when all you wanted to do was crawl in bed.
Love you all.