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The (Not So) Joy of Cooking

Making muffins

I can’t cook. In theory, I am capable of cooking. I can physically put the soup in the pot, but I find it’s always a chore. There is no passion or joy in it for me.

I am blessed to have grown up in a family where both of my parents are not only good cooks, but they enjoy it as well. In college, I never needed to cook because I was on the meal plan every year.


Eating a sandwich in Ireland. I like eating.

In short, I rarely cook, and when I do I get bored and impatient. What’s the point of spending all that time on something that’s going to be eaten in 15 minutes? I’d rather order Chinese most (okay, all) of the time anyway.

However, here at Casa San Salvador, we rotate cooking duties on a daily basis. Everyone is responsible for his own breakfast and lunch, but each night two people cook for dinner. Honestly, if it were up to me we would eat cereal for my dinner nights (stop judging), but there are some pretty stellar chefs in my community here in Washington, DC who wouldn’t be very happy with that decision.

The other reason I don’t enjoy cooking is that I’m not good at it. I’m also not good at playing soccer, writing poetry, and trigonometry, but cooking seems like a fairly useful skill so I’ve decided to use these few months of formation to become a chef. Thus far I have made pancakes, gnocchi, garlic bread, spaghetti, muffins, and baked ziti. Yes, I like carbs.


None of my meals would receive any Michelin stars, but I’m pretty proud of myself. Consider this: when I recently spoke to my friend Peter and told him that I regularly cooked for twelve people, he deadpanned, “And nobody has died yet?” Sadly, he’s not the first person to express this sentiment.

The experience has been humbling, but not because I’ve lit the kitchen on fire or experienced a huge comical cooking mishap. Instead, I’m realizing that even if I don’t become a great cook, the time I spend preparing a meal is fruitful because it’s a manifestation of my love for my fellow community members. The effort that I put into my cooking translates into this love because they know how difficult cooking is for me.

Making pancakes at the Casa

Making pancakes at the Casa

On mission, and throughout my life, I am going to be put in situations that make me uncomfortable. Instead of complaining about my lack of cooking abilities, I can offer up the awkwardness and use the experience to work on patience and learn to better love the people I’m serving. I’m always trying to find the balance between Martha and Mary, and formation provides the perfect opportunity.

I’m getting there, one pasta dish at a time.

Maeve Gilheney-Gallagher is a returned lay missioner with Franciscan Mission Service who served for two years at Valley of the Angels orphanage in Guatemala City, Guatemala. She currently serves on the FMS Board and works as the Global Solidarity Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Mission. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband, Dan, and three-legged dog, Lola.