You can tell me you're mad with me. Just don't criticise my cooking.
I've always thought that I was pretty good at taking constructive advice. I can be dispassionate. I can be thoughtful. I don't get offended.
The letter was from a friend I've been writing to for a while now. We're on a kind of 'secret mission' project, writing letters that we hope might one day be published as a type of memoir about grief. A while back, one of my letters was reasonably insensitive. She told me so. I felt bad and wrote a better one. She forgave me. Today I got her more lengthy reply in which she told me how much she liked the fact that I took the criticism and acted on it and made changes. So, yay for me.
The ravioli was requested by Son #2, a very fussy eater who refuses most meat and most veg, at 3.45pm, for a 5pm dinner. (Okay, yes, we eat super-early. Don't judge me.) Ravioli? You'll eat it? I'll do it! I said and flew into action.
Now, I am not Italian and one day I am going to go and bother my Italian soon-to-be sister in law for some pasta-making lessons because I just can't figure out how wet or dry that dough is supposed to be. By the time I'd rescued it from the pasta machine and the 'helpful' hands of the three year old a few times, I was nearly ready to throw the whole thing against the wall and cook toast. But we persisted (me and the three year old) and eventually I had a series of small chicken-filled dough pieces to cook.
The chicken, though, was where I went wrong. I knew it wasn't going to be a great filling, but I didn't have the right ingredients defrosted at the right time, and because it was all so unplanned and last minute, I just said, "Okay, this will do."
Look. It was average. I mean, what can I say? I'm not Italian. I was not schooled in the art of home-made pasta as a small child at the knee of a portly grandmother. But the Second Son had requested it, and promised to eat it, and I made a pretty delicious pasta sauce to accompany it (also from scratch, with hidden vegetables, thank you Thermomix) and probably if I'd had to rate it, I'd have given the whole thing about a 6 out of 10.
But then someone in my household expressed some constructive criticism. I will name no names. "It would have been really great, except for the chicken part, and maybe if you did it differently, they would have eaten more of it."
All of it was true. I knew it to be true. I had known it to be true since 3.45pm.
BUT I DID NOT WANT TO HEAR IT.
A largish over-reaction ensued. On my part.
We discussed the criticism. We discussed my over-reaction. We discussed the possibility of future constructive and loving advice.
"So, what should I say on the extremely rare occasions that perhaps there could be a tweak so that the kids might eat it more?"
"SAY NOTHING AT ALL .NOT FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS. NOT IF YOU WANT TO LIVE. AND IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, MAYBE LEARN TO COOK INSTEAD." (That was me, in case you didn't guess.)
So, I guess I can hear some criticisms and not others. Where the criticism comes about something I don't do often, about something I'm not invested in really heavily, or where it's something that I know I've done wrong , I can hear it. Where I'm overly emotionally involved, and trying very hard and daily am hearing childish criticism of my efforts, I am not able to be rational.
(Plus, I just really hate cooking. Especially home made pasta, and especially with the help of three year olds.)
Tiny postscript: I've just asked my husband to read this post. He says: "You, good at taking criticism? Pffft. Ha ha. It takes you AGES to recover and admit you were wrong." So maybe I'm not as good as I thought... ah well!