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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of ďDonít Try to Walk before You Can CrawlĒ (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)

TITLE: Kiss the Cook
By Kristen Hester


I didnít normally find condiments romantic, but as I compared prices of Hunts and Heinz, I dreamily thought about my new husband. This was my first trip to the grocery store as a married woman. Jake and I had returned from our honeymoon two nights ago, and I was still basking in the glow of our recent nuptials.

I held my grocery list in my left hand and tried not to be distracted by my sparkling diamond ring. I wanted to do a good job and make Jake proud. He had teased me before our marriage about not being domestic, and Iíd playfully feigned offense. Then Iíd called my mother in a panic over his joke.

"Mom, Jake says Iím not very domestic and itís true," I whined. I did what any daughter does when discussing her deficiencies with her mom: I established blame. "You did everything for us and you never taught me how to cook."

"Itís true, I spoiled you," My mother said with resignation in her voice. "But, relax. If you can read, you can cook."

Her words calmed me, but only temporarily. A few days later I told my mother-in-law about all the cookbooks Iíd received as wedding presents. "I donít have much cooking experience, but Iíve received many wonderful cookbooks. Iíll be fine. After all, I can read," I said, trying to reassure her that her son wouldnít starve.

"If you can cook, you donít need to read," she said in her usual matter-of-fact manner.

The conversation with my mother-in-law replayed in my mind as I filled my cart with the items for my first home-cooked, married meal. I was determined to prove my husband and mother-in-law wrong by preparing an exquisite dinner. How hard could it be? Iíd browsed my numerous cookbooks, searching for the perfect recipe. The one Iíd chosen had ďgourmetĒ in the title, lots of ingredients, and numerous steps. Surely it would impress my mother-in-law and husband. Martha Stewart, watch out.

As I pushed my cart down the aisle, I realized I had a problem. Two ingredients on my list were items I didnít recognize. I thought when I got to the store, it would become obvious to me where they were, but it wasnít happening. I didnít even know where to begin looking. A helpful employee seemed as elusive as my mystery ingredients, and I was too embarrassed to ask another customer for assistance. Finally, I found a pimply-faced teenager wearing an apron that said, "May I help You?"

"Excuse me, sir?" I used my best manners and flashed a friendly smile. I didnít bat my eyelashes, a technique I would have used in my single days. "Iím having trouble finding the shallots and capers. Could you point me in the right direction?"

The young man scratched his head, "What are they?" What did they teach kids these days?

"Iím, um, not sure. I was hoping you could tell me."

When the young employee couldnít help, I switched to plan B: simplify the recipe. I shouldíve chosen an easier recipe for my first meal, but it was too late now. My grocery cart was already filled with most of the ingredients, and I didnít think Iíd have another use for salmon. I headed home, feeling defeated, without the shallots and capers. I hoped they werenít crucial ingredients. They couldnít be that important since Iíd never even heard of them. It wasnít like leaving out an onion or anything.

That night I worked tirelessly on the meal. By the time I placed the fish in the skillet, I had completely mutilated it trying to remove the pin bones - whatever they were. I set the table with our new wedding china, a tablecloth, linen napkins and candles. I thought this might divert attention from the unsightly salmon. I was horrified when the fish didnít "flake easily" as the recipe indicated it should, but instead stuck to the pan in blackened chunks. The pretty table setting was not going to be an adequate distraction, so I served dinner in my honeymoon lingerie.

This plan worked beautifully. My husband didnít eat any of the salmon, but he didnít complain either.

I learned my lesson that night. I threw out my gourmet cookbook and began using one titled "Four Ingredients or Less" with much greater success. My thin husband even gained some weight. It wasnít until weíd been married three years that he asked, "Honey, when do you think youíll be ready for five ingredients?"

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This article has been read 1071 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 01/24/08
Greatóand your ending is priceless!
Karen Wilber01/24/08
This was so much fun to read. Love the MC's voice - and all the details about her cooking dilemma. Great line about how it's not like she was leaving out an onion. LOL. Very satisfying read from title to final sentence.
LauraLee Shaw01/24/08
OK, so is this supposed to make me laugh or cry? This is MY life!

"Excuse me, sir?" I used my best manners and flashed a friendly smile. I didnít bat my eyelashes, a technique I would have used in my single days. "Iím having trouble finding the shallots and capers. Could you point me in the right direction?"

From realistic beginning to "lacey" ending, this one is a well-written gem. LOVE it!
Holly Westefeld01/25/08
well done. Beneath the chuckles, you touched on such important lessons as not over-reacting to a joke, (or perhaps being more careful with our jokes,) and our tendency to try and blame others for our own real/perceived inadequacies.
Betty Castleberry01/25/08
Very entertaining and well written. The ending is perfect. Thumbs up.
Sharlyn Guthrie01/26/08
What a hoot! I enjoyed every dtail, and serving the meal in lingerie sealed the deal.
Catrina Bradley 01/27/08
Your opening phrase grabbed me, and I was hooked till the end. Love the humor, the lingerie distracting husband from the food, the 4 ingredients cookbook (I have a 6 ingredients cookbook and I LOVE it.) The confidence of her mother, vs the disdain of the mil - everything was great. SUPER job!
william price01/27/08
I just love your voice, and your sense of humor is on the dry side of way-cool. The pace of the story, per usual for you, is perfect. Excellent job; one of my favs of yours. Makes me wish my wife didn't know how to cook salmon.
Oh, and thanks for the kind comment on my "stinker".
God bless.
Dee Yoder 01/28/08
LOL! You have such a unique way of describing domestic "bliss", it's a joy to read your entries every week. That is one blessed hubby, and I hope he knows it! Love the MC and her little flaws. (William's comment cracked me up-the wish of every husband, I'm sure.(; )
Jan Ackerson 01/28/08
Utterly charming! I really like your voice--your writing is so appealing to the chick lit crowd. Love it.
Sheri Gordon01/28/08
This is very funny. You're so good at putting the reader right in the middle of the scene.

We both wrote about cooking failures this week -- guess all those cooking shows and fancy cookbooks aren't turning all of us into gourmet chefs. :)

Great illustration of the topic.
Patty Wysong01/28/08
Why, oh why didn't I think of that?! Great story for this topic and a fun read, too. :-)
Sally Hanan01/28/08
Very funny. I like the way you hold back on declaring the obvious.
Sara Harricharan 01/28/08
Heehee! I am still chuckling over this one! I love the trip to the grocery story hunting for capers! Lol. As for shallots, well, I'd lend your MC a handful from my window garden, but I kinda like them a lot. This was great with making the character real with touches like, the diamond ring, and the 4 ingredient cookbook. Very nice! ^_^
Glynis Becker01/28/08
This one totally made me smile. Haven't we all been there? Great work.
Benjamin Graber01/29/08
This is great! You had me laughing... :-) You're quite talented at writing with humor!
Beth LaBuff 01/29/08
Yes...excellent for the topic...wonderfully told! Great ending!
Peter Stone01/30/08
Ah, yes, that would have been a very effective distraction. And the ending is just perfect. And three years? Patient guy!
James Dixon01/30/08
"I headed home, feeling defeated, without the shallots... It wasnít like leaving out an onion or anything."

What a cracker! Wonderful story.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge01/30/08
Cooking since I was 10 years old, I've tried to teach many gals like your MC. I was so curious about the ingredients she was perplexed over... then cracked-up laughing over the revelation because I love cooking with capers! Great story.
Temple Miller01/30/08
You hooked me and reeled me in like a salmon. I absolutely loved this story!
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/30/08
This is a priceless story. I had so many of the same kind of experiences. You really brought the topic to life.
Beckie Stewart01/30/08
I loved this and being a NON-cook wife myself for 20 some years, I could relate to this. My husband would tease that for dinner we were having shake n' burn chicken!!