Food is our common ground, a universal experience. ~ James Beard
For the last year or so I’ve been complaining to my friend Cécile (my partner in crime in all things chocolate) that I can’t make good crepes. Now this isn’t from lack of trying. I’ve gone through dozens of eggs, bags of flour, and too many recipes, secrets and techniques to count: use a stainless steel bowl, put the bowl in the freezer, blend the mixture, don’t blend the mixture, wait until the bubbles have settled, refrigerate, don’t use a non-stick pan and butter , use a non-stick pan, etc. etc. etc. I just couldn’t figure out what my problem was.
So every now and again I’d give Cécile a play by play account of my failure as I was eating a mockingly paper-thin crepe. And then there were other times I’d just give her a “subtle hint” like, Hey, you’re from France; teach me how to make the real thing. Cécile, being Cécile, suggested that we have a “crepe tutorial” not conducted by her, but by her boyfriend Fabian. After all, he’s the master. After months of anticipation we had a crepe tutorial slash party, not just for us, but for their friends as well. No pressure, just a bunch of French and Spanish people eating my experiment. Let’s just say they were good sports, each offering up family tips.
So last weekend, armed with my new found confidence, I decided to make crepes. It didn’t go exactly as planned. In fact, it was kind of disastrous. I followed Fabian’s “recipe” which consisted of very loose measurements and approximations. Keeping in mind that the French say “the first one is for the dog”, I kept my expectations low. The first crepe was pale, but it was thinner than any other I had ever made. Prematurely, I thought I succeeded. Wrong. It went from not bad to worse. All of my crepes went to the dog pound, never mind to the dog! But as I was making one bad crepe after another, I kept thinking of language; a far jump, right?
Well, it hasn’t escaped my attention that in roughly 6 weeks I’ll throw myself into a totally Spanish speaking world. My first foray into learning a second language wasn’t exactly the best experience. I was confused, frustrated and often discouraged. I couldn’t really grasp the “why” of it. I over-thought things all of the time. In short, it was incredibly uncomfortable. I was hard on myself and thought that I failed on so many levels. By the way, all of those struggles actually led me on a journey to become an ESL teacher, but that’s another story for another time.
What I realized was my crepe disaster wasn’t a disaster after all , but a reminder (one that I always give to my students) to have the courage to make mistakes, to keep a sense of humor and most of all, never give up. And as Juan ate my overly brown crepe/pancake I just thought, “It’s ok, he’s not going to die and somewhere in there is the essence of a crepe”. And just like my awkward Spanish won’t be perfect, there will be the essence of communication. I will be misunderstood and people will misunderstand me, but hey, I’ll be trying and hopefully I’ll be laughing along the way.