Lessons of Life From Cooking Camp

My sweet daughter Marie, know too many of us as “ReRe”, is the center of this story that reinforces the idea that we learn the lessons of life in sometimes unexpected moments and locations. Over the past few years, I have shared stories about “turkey bags”, mountain hikes, Paris Metro stations, and historic family recipes. Well today my daughter’s experience at a summer cooking camp is the backdrop for a few moments of insight and wisdom.

Well I was back on the road this week with a number of key meetings in Santa Monica and Bakersfield. We had recently come back from a marvelous family vacation, so getting back on the road for a whole week away was a total bummer. The kids are busy this summer with all kinds of great activities, and this week was Marie’s week to attend a week long cooking camp at a local kitchen/cooking store. Marie has already established herself as our “cupcake queen” with her baking prowess, and is now expanding her horizons across the culinary spectrum. I love the fact that she shares my passion for cooking and I look forward to our time together in the kitchen!

I checked in through the week with my early morning calls to the family as they started their days back in Atlanta. Everybody was doing well, busy with their respective plans, and Marie was enjoying being at camp with a number for her close friends. In my call yesterday from my morning walk on the streets of Bakersfield, there seemed to be a different tone on the phone. Marie was clearly upset about something that had happened at the camp and with all the limitations of cell phones; I wanted to know what had happened. She shared that their big end-of-week competition was planned for Friday, and that she and her friends were teamed together to compete against the other kids at camp. They had to create, plan and cook a complete meal that would judged by the teachers and shared with the families of the campers. It sounded so cool, now I was really curious why/how Marie could be upset.

She shared that her little team had come up with a great menu (bruschetta, caprese salad, roasted pork tenderloin, and upside down strawberry shortcake….. total yum!!!) And as they were sharing it with one of the teachers, some girls from another team listened in and decided to replicate their menu item by item. They were cheating and Marie was understandably hurt, surprised, upset; you name it. The emotions were expected and predictable, it was her response that caught me by surprise. As she told us about the other girls and their actions, she shared that “she would rather lose than cheat;” such a moment of truth from my sweet 12 year old on her way to cooking camp!

In our era of media scandals of entertainers, sports figures, politicians, and financiers all cutting corners, bending the rules, or blatantly cheating to get ahead, Marie’s advice to all of us is powerful. The ends don’t justify the means … they never have and never will! We are judged not solely by “what” we accomplish in life, but maybe more importantly on “How” we live our lives. Are we generous and kind to others in need? Are we fair and truthful in our dealings with friends and strangers alike? Do we love our neighbors as ourselves? These are certainly some of the core questions in life and I am humbled and proud of Marie’s response from cooking camp that she would “rather lose than cheat!”