My husband and I have shared a kitchen with work traders for 13 years. Inevitably, I’ve seen it all. Sometimes, after just meeting them, I can predict the future behavior of a new work trader. As life has a way of telling you, you haven’t seen it all, and you don’t know it all, who shows up but the food perfectionist duo.
According to Wikipedia, “Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.”
This definition specifies that a perfectionist’s looks for approval from others, though I’m relatively sure I was not included in our recent food perfectionists’ concerns. Most work traders have long sought our approval. I know when I am serving food, I’ll take the broken egg before I serve it to someone else.
There is many forms of food perfectionism. Maybe perfection in quality ingredients, dietary concerns, and/or execution. I should have known, when on the first day of them being on our farm, they organized the pantry. They also tend to know exactly what food there is and how much. A misplaced half of a potato can literally turn the kitchen into two people resembling large hens racing around for their lost treasure. I heave a sigh of relief, when it’s found, and wonder why I was mildly concerned.
Maybe the diagnosis involves not only perfectionism but self-preservation. The fewer people you choose to evaluate you, the less chance of a negative assessment. Or maybe its just a way to ensure proper food abundance for hard-working bodies.
I am all for people cooking and sharing food made with farm-fresh ingredients. I usually do a fair bit of cooking myself. Some people, who come to my farm, one would specifically prefer them not to cook for you. Washing up is their desired and more efficient task. Both are assets.
Recently, I made a bone broth from a young cockerel with homemade noodles. A cockerel is a juvenile rooster, who is just learning how to crow. If you have ever heard a cockerel just starting to crow, you would know that the need to make soup out of it is more about silencing it than savoring it.
I made a big, cast iron pot and everyone served themselves. Since, I heard no talking, and only slurping, this is all the verbal appraisal I ever really need. (Though, my loving husband, is always full of praise.)
Our perfectionists can make some pretty intricate soups, being careful to follow the recipe very close. A few weeks ago, they made a ramen soup. I was completely surprised in the details of this soup. Mostly cause my experience with ramen is those little plastic pouches of soup you eat in college or when you’re broke.
This soup contained soft boiled eggs marinated in a soy/mirin sauce, tonkotsu (pork) broth, local pork loin, Chinese-derived ramen noodles, garden-green onion, enoki mushrooms, and mayu (blacken garlic and sesame oil). From start to finish, this soup took about three days to make and it showed in its impressiveness. Odds are great that I will never make this soup or eat it again unless I am at a Chinese restaurant. Even then, my love of sweet and sour soup is greater. But that doesn’t take away from this awe-inspiring work of art.
Food perfectionists tend to hem and haw, inspect, evaluate and scrutinize their food. Everything must be perfect from the exact ingredient, to the freshest quality, to the precision in its consumption. Each popcorn kernel must have the appropriate bit of butter, cheese and salt. This must be done, even if it means combining everything in a large brown paper bag and violently shaking it repeatedly. A plain piece of popcorn with none of these things in unworthy. The fried potatoes must be cooked slow and low and must have the perfect crunch, even if it takes 45 minutes to an hour. It’s not just about filling the void.
I’ve run into fruitarians who will pick fruit on the tree and off the ground to satisfy their hunger without the slightest bit of concern for evaluation and preparation. I sort of admire that. If I could even for a few days, just eat ripe fruit and not have to prepare a meal or wash a dish, that would be something.
For me, living with food perfectionists, was terrifying. I was forced to worry that my prepared dish wasn’t good enough. In addition to the constant back-seat observations that I needed to cook it this way or that. Was I missing an ingredient, or did I not follow the recipe to a T? I have never had to doubt my cooking before on such a perfectionist level. If I was out of sesame seeds for homemade hamburger buns, I was expected not use poppy seeds instead.
Even so, being a food perfectionist is not necessarily a bad thing. There are other less desirable traits to have, such as, the food slob. They leave trails of food, empty food packages and dishes in their wake. Living in the jungles of Hawaii, this can be troublesome because rats and mice will chew their way into the kitchen or hale and gobble up the leftover picnic.
Still all in all, a meal shared is one of the delights of life. It brings people together to laugh, eat and talk about their day. It’s good that I’m continually surprised by people and their habits. It’s also good that it’s temporary.
Sometimes when I share my kitchen with total strangers, if we can stand each other’s quirks and differences, we very often become really good friends.