Appearances Can Be Deceiving

I am a firm believer of culinary medicine. Thus, I’m often experimenting in the kitchen with how to make food with health-promoting substitutions – to get the most nutritional bang-for-your-buck from everything you ingest, without negative subtractors (like sugars, etc) added in. This past weekend, I was experimenting with ways to get a nice, chewy cookie. You know, “chewy”… that phenomenal texture experience that was lost from our lives with the loss of gluten?

I made a batch of cookies using homemade vanilla extract. I was proud of being a ‘homesteader’ and doing something so basic as making my own vanilla extract.

These cookies turned out HORRIBLE. Possibly the first dessert I’ve ever made that is truly inedible (I have really low standards when it comes to my own cooking – and generally find everything at least edible. After all, my time, effort, and love went into whatever it was, so that makes it worth it.)  But these? No, not these. These truly could not be eaten. It took a moment, but there was this revolting aftertaste that really packed a wallop.  It had to be the vanilla – because everything else that went into them was pretty standard.

I announced to my hubby that I had finally made a dessert that I would rather throw out than eat.  He knows of my let-no-dessert-go-uneaten standards, and was immediately skeptical. He bravely tried one.   Wanting to defend my cookie efforts like any good husband would, he starts to say “These aren’t that bad…”

“Wait for it….”  I say.

Sure enough, I get the exquisite joy of watching his face contort in retaliation to the assault on his taste buds whilst he went running to a paper towel to spit out the offending matter.

I made another batch without the vanilla. And this batch turned out decent. Bland, but with an amazing chewy, crumblike texture so often lacking in a gluten-free world.

…All things in life truly ARE relative – because ‘bland’ felt like a huge step towards redemption over ‘revolting’…  So we called this batch a ‘win’.

Later that day I was sitting at the table, looking at a baggie of offensive cookies and a baggie of good ones.  And you know what? They looked the same. 

Exactly the same. Identical.

The ones I knew were awful played tricks on me – a bag of cookies just sitting there. Just begging to be eaten – and I had to keep reminding myself that, no really, I did NOT.  They were like April Fool’s cookies.  …How mean it would be to put out a plate of cookies at a party and put ONE bad cookie in and all the rest the good cookies.  I thought of that poor soul who would happen to grab the icky one.  But then I let that play out a bit longer in my head…and realized there is a *huge* life lesson in there.

I realized how often we judge ourselves on the basis of really no ‘real’ information whatsoever.

Imagine you are at a party.  Everyone is grabbing cookies having a great time. Now imagine, unbeknownst to you, you got the bad cookie.

It LOOKED like all the cookies. You couldn’t tell yours was anything different.  Yet, it would be revolting. Disgusting. Unequivocally.  You would KNOW, deep in your truth of truths, that this is one disgusting cookie!  You would know that anyone would agree with you on this inarguable fact.

Yet, you’d pause and observe others enjoying their cookies.

You’d exclaim, “These cookies are awful! HOW can you be EATING this!?”.

Yet everyone else continues to enjoy their cookie – to not react the way that you did.  They say things like “what do you mean? It tastes fine.  A little bland maybe, but fine.”

<blink, blink>

And you simply can’t reconcile this with the devastation you experienced inside your own mouth. You’d be feeling outnumbered though – everyone else liked it…. And then… you’d think it…  The classic thought we ultimately jump to: “What is wrong with ME then?”

Why does it taste bad to me when it tastes fine to everyone else?

What is wrong with me?

We start judging ourselves and our own experience – instead of realizing WE GOT A DIFFERENT COOKIE.

That it is not US that is off, or even our perception – but that the circumstance was different – we just couldn’t tell that it was.  From what we could compare on the outside – they were the same cookie.

This is profoundly metaphorical.

Remember this when someone else succeeds in the face of adversity, where you failed.

Remember this when someone else coasts through an experience, that you end up finding painful and arduous.

Remember that comparing yourself to others, and how they did, and using that to beat yourself up and find FAULT with what or how YOU did – – is crazy.  Because you have NO way to know if you did, in fact, have the same experience. There may have been completely different criteria in play as to why it worked out so much better for someone else.  We really can’t SEE, so we really need to stop comparing.

Comparisons, of any kind, really are futile. Inaccurate and useless.  There is literally no basis in looking at how anyone else is handling something and then comparing ourselves to be ‘not as good as them’.

So the next time you feel like you should be handling something “better”, or that you should be “stronger” …realize you are just as good and just as strong as that person you are comparing yourself to, but you got a different cookie.

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