Families are weird. Have I said that before?
My maternal family is far away from me, my mom and siblings are in another state and there are times that that distance feels so enormous that I can barely stand it. Usually it’s around holidays. Next week it’s Easter* and normally I don’t care about it because as religious holidays go, this one is pretty flipping religious and as an atheist it’s very much off my radar. My daughter knows all about Easter though, at least the secular bits, and asked if we could have an Easter egg hunt with our family to me that translates into food, so I suggested to my in-laws we hunt eggs and have a potluck, to keep it low stress for everyone.
In my birth family this would be a seemingly innocuous request, indeed it would be met with joy and pleasure and we’d probably be fighting over what to bring. I know for a fact that my mom and I would get in a huge argument over who was going to provide and cook the main course (I would win, hi mom). Asking my in-laws for a potluck results in my FIL inviting everyone and in the invitation stating that bringing food, if you’re not a cook, is not a requirement. Of course, to me, this is devastating. Bringing food is a total requirement and it makes me want to cry just thinking about the only food at Easter being what my spouse and I put together… and it makes me miss my own family deeply, like a hole in my chest.
I’ve tried to explain to my in-laws before that for me, cooking for the family is a gift, and it’s one I enjoy. When they try to take that away from me it hurts. I don’t know how to say it anymore plainly than that, it flipping hurts. Last time I cooked for the family was on my husband’s birthday, and it was a fight then too. My FIL kept suggesting we just order some pizzas. I tried to tell him that it’s my pleasure to cook a meal for my family, that I like knowing what goes into the food I make, that I’m training for sport and I really don’t want to eat pizza right now, and he asked me again anyhow. This is my gift, cooking for my family. When you suggest it would be better if we ordered pizza, or got a prepackaged roast from costco or safeway (the salt content alone makes me break out in hives), it hurts me!
I think maybe they think cooking stresses me out? Or that it’s a burden? I don’t know, because having a frank conversation with them is like pulling teeth. It’s not a burden and I’m not stressed out about it, if anyone wants to tell them, because they obviously don’t believe me**. I love to cook and I love cooking for my family. If it looks stressful from the outside, then stop looking, sit back and enjoy the damn meal. It’s okay! That’s the flipping point.
And for the sake of gravity, please, don’t tell people that it’s okay if they don’t bring a dish to a motherfucking potluck. They don’t have to cook anything, sure that’s fine, but they sure as shit need to bring something!
*As a side note, on Easter 24 years ago all the egg hunts were cancelled and I was rushed off to my grandparents. No one explained why to me at the time, and I was really really upset because my mom went to the hospital. She came home a couple days later and I had a little sister. Easter doesn’t fall on her birthday this year, but I am always reminded of my sister Katie’s birth when Easter rolls around, thinking of you today and everyday, girl. Love.
**There was one holiday, 7 or 8 years ago, when I cooked the entire holiday meal for 23 people by myself. That stressed me out. I have not attempted, nor will I ever attempt, to do that again. Thus the potluck, thus the struggle two or three times a year to get everyone to participate. I honestly don’t know which is worse anymore. FWIW, getting stressed out about cooking 1 meal over 5 years ago for 22 people does not equal getting stressed out about preparing 1 or 2 dishes for a family event now. Just to clarify.
p.s. I’ll never forget at said holiday when one of the guests thanked my BIL for the meal that I cooked and he accepted the compliment without giving credit where credit was due. No, I swear I don’t hold a grudge or anything.