Lessons from the kitchen: Why life is like a bag of rice


By Sarah Colson

There’s just not much better than watching a movie and seeing it end in a beautiful way. “Tangled” is one of those movies. Laugh all you want, but that animated movie about Rapunzel is a beautiful reminder of what happens when two people believe in each other and literally live happily ever after. It is pure magic, floating lanterns and all.

That’s how I want my life to be—like a good Disney movie. And that’s how it was going last Wednesday. I had grocery shopped that afternoon and was planning on making a lovely little chicken dish with mango-chile sauce, couscous and asparagus. I was going to be a cute little wife that the husband would come home to after playing golf. I had on an apron and everything. Maybe not the best movie ever, but in my mind, the curtains would close with trumpet sound and an adoring crowd cheering because of how adorable we were and how good the chicken tasted. The End.

Now, I’m not an experienced cook but in the last couple of months I’ve been trying to experiment a bit and learn the basics (So far I’ve mastered a few tilapia dishes, homemade lasagna and some mouth-watering Thai turkey burgers.). The mange-chile sauce needed to be blended. You know how in movies, like “The Game Plan” (also a Disney movie) where Joe Kingman (Dwayne Johnson) and adorable Peyton Kelly (Madison Pettis) are in the kitchen and Peyton’s dancing around in her little pink leotard and hits the blender, causing a pink shake to explode all over the kitchen, drenching the pair. It’s adorable and eventually leads to the duo becoming the best of friends.

Spoiler alert: that’s not how real life works. In real life, when you pour a sauce into a blender to be pureed and you hit the blend button and the top isn’t secured, it just makes a mess. It turns your cute little happy ending into a sticky horror show. And then when the bottom of the blender is not secured and you lift it off the bottom piece, it will pour out all over the floor you just mopped. That’s what happened and there was nothing cute about it.

I managed to save about half a cup of the sauce and just left the rest there to dry. I had other things to worry about—like the chicken that was poaching on the stove that was supposed to take seven minutes and was taking more than half an hour. Fed up, I stuck another steak knife and fork into the middle of the chicken because there was just no way it wasn’t done… right? My answer came in the form of a large stream of bright red chicken blood, yes chicken blood, which not only escaped the chicken, but also escaped the pot, narrowly missing my face by a few inches.

I don’t do blood. In fact, handling raw chicken in the past has caused me to seriously consider becoming a vegetarian. I screamed. I screamed and ran out of the kitchen. A few minutes later, driven by my now roaring hunger, I skulked back into the kitchen and had a meal of burnt asparagus and couscous. I didn’t step back into the kitchen until the next morning.

I know it’s childish and ridiculous, but I started sobbing over my bowl of couscous. I kept playing the scene over and over in my mind of Jonathan coming home to a good-smelling house full of good food and a cute wife. Instead, he came home to a blubbering girl who asked him to clean up the kitchen for her. It wasn’t just my evening, but my Disney movie that was ruined.

A few months ago – I don’t remember the specifics –  I was crying about something as ridiculous as spilled sauce and bleeding chicken. Poor, wise Jonathan looked at me, smiled, and said, “You want so badly for life to be like a movie. But it’s not. Life is like a bag of rice.”

I don’t know how it is in all countries, but in Tanzania, the bags of rice come with rocks in them. It’s a common injury to crack your tooth on one if you’re not careful to rinse the rice thoroughly before you cook it. I actually met a lady who smiled and showed me the chips in her teeth from all the rice she eats. When I was in Tanzania, I relayed this story to Jonathan to make sure he always checks his bags of rice for the little, easily-missed rocks.

I’m not just a perfectionist. I want my every day to end beautifully, floating lanterns and all. I’m learning that instead, we often get beautiful moments in the same bag as the little rocks. We have to learn to take the good with the bad and live life undaunted by the pressures of Walt Disney.

We have the choice to throw out the rocks and keep the rice. Or we can just storm away from the kitchen and cry. We have an advantage over the characters in all of those fantastic Disney movies. We have the power to react to our scene, to change the way the movie ends. We have the power to let the credits roll with cliché or even downright horrible closing scenes. Or we can get up, stop crying, and realize that messy moment is just one teeny, tiny rock in a big ol’ beautiful bag of rice.



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