All the Good "What Ifs"

Sous-ChefOne of the first times Mike and I went to a restaurant together, he literally covered his plate of eggs and bacon in ketchup. It was so much ketchup that I thought he was joking. Like he was trying to make me laugh at the absurdity of it. So I did. At which point he became embarrassed. And then I felt a little bit bad for having done so. But not too bad because it was a ridiculous amount of ketchup.

Not long after we started seriously dating, Mike would invite me over and cook for me. They were always tasty but it involved a lot of stir-frys and sauces from jars. Regardless, I wasn't complaining.


And then one day I got to his house and found a pot bubbling on the tiny stove in his apartment. I lifted the lid saw a bay leaf floating on a red sauce. "It's marinara sauce," he said, "because they cooked it for sailors on ships with whatever was left in the galley kitchen." It smelled amazing.


Translation: if they can make something delicious on a ship with few ingredients, I can learn to make a sauce from scratch too. What ensued was probably about four months of various combinations of canned tomatoes, sugar, butter, carrots and celery.

From there, I can't tell you how many experiments have happened in the various kitchens we've shared together. One involved fish heads and a Swedish cook-book. I'll save you the diatribe and just let you know that it didn't end well. (Post Script: In what seemed like a poetic ending to this story, the Swedish cook-book was one of the ones Cliff happened to devour this past summer).

Ultimately, the great thing about getting to know and love someone is watching them grow and change and take fearless steps in life and today, Mike's heading to his very first job in the kitchen as an official culinary student.

So much of what drives decision making can be rooted in the fear of "what if."

"What if it's a waste of time?"

"What if there's something else I should be doing with my life?"

"What if I don't make enough money?"

"What if I have to work long hours?"

And then you settle, and life is good. But you didn't learn how to be a chef (or give journalism a try, or run a marathon … )

"What if this guy I wanna date, covers every meal he eats in ketchup?"

(And then you miss out on knowing a person who is more right for you then you would have assumed upon first impressions).

The flip side of those fearful decisions are the good what ifs: What if I find my passion. What if I find fulfillment in doing work that I love, What if, I don't mind the hours because I'm happy?

I've been known to be a fearful decision maker in the past. But I think it's safe to say that life is about going after the good what ifs. first-day-chef.jpg