Taking a risk

Love is a risk. The result of taking this risk and failing as many times as I have is now a book. The book explores my attempts at finding a lasting love, missing the mark, then taking that heartbreak and disappointment to the kitchen where I have found comfort, healing, and kinship with food.

Writing a book is a risk and the end result of that is a bragging right, and if all goes well, a legacy.

While writing the book, I fought writer’s block with a sledgehammer.

working through writer's block
This is what writer’s block looks like.


I demoed and remodeled my healing place—the kitchen. It’s hard to take your heartbreak to a place that doesn’t exist. I took the cabinets out, took the plumbing out, took the floor out and even removed a wall. I was doing the same with my self: removing the walls and trying to build a new and better me.

Getting rid of stuff was easy.

Wall removed in process of being removed
floor is coming out as is the wall. 3 layers of flooring. rotten cabinets…and writer’s block.

Putting it back in was challenging.  Putting it back in so it didn’t look like a DIY fail was even harder.

The kitchen re-do was necessity which was both preceded and followed by an idea.  The necessity was an old leak that had rotted the wall and cabinetry unsuspectedly, in my new-to-me home.  The idea was to tear it all out, tear out an additional wall and build an island where the wall used to be. An accompanying idea was to do it all by myself, which was also a necessity.  In reality, I needed a plumber, an electrician, a contractor to put in a beam where I tore out the wall, and a friend or two to help lift the heavy stuff. The rest I did myself. It wasn’t rocket science or brain surgery.  It was a steep learning curve, occasional cussing, and some damned determination.

The Final Product
New Kitchen. This was a course in determination, for certain! But I did it. There it is. 

I mention the kitchen remodel not to boast about self-empowerment and the tenacity of some women, but rather to be open about taking risks, making mistakes and trying again.  It took me three times to install the flooring and there are still noticeable flaws. I cover them with throw rugs. It took me weeks to get the cabinets plumb and level.  They are neither, really.  There was a compromise and I sealed that imperfect deal with some imperfectly cut countertops. The kitchen looks beautiful despite its flaws and I get to say that I did it. As for the flaws, only I know where they are and when guests come over, I distract them with food.

Food is imperfect as well.  I take a lot of risks in the kitchen, not just by taking down a wall, but also via the practice that I call, “I wonder what this will do” cooking and baking. I throw a lot of food away and consequently have one very happy and very fat racoon. My daughter named him Jeremy.  Jeremy loves my cooking….all of it.

With the kitchen back and in full swing, I’m back to baking and am on a mission to make Jeremy a little thinner.

I’m also on a mission to finish the book and get it published. The book explores love and heartbreak through food. Cheesecake, to be specific and all the recipes in the book are of my own design and are my personal flavor preferences. Some of the flavors are risky.

Recently, I’ve been playing with coconut for flavor.  As a meat, it’s a newly acquired taste and I’m still working on accepting the texture.  As a milk, cream, or oil, I’m on the steep learning curve, still taking chances and still failing often.

Holy F*ck…Epic Coconut cheesecake fail! This recipe is NOT in the book.

Coconut cream, both a bane of my culinary skillset and a favorite flavor, has challenged me more than trying to plumb the cabinets and more than trying to sand the drywall seams to look seamless.


Coconut cream is not pretty. It’s the color of used chalk and can taste like used chalk when you use starch as a stabilizing agent. Not only did the starch not stabilize the cream, but it made it grainy.

Several things went wrong.  To make coconut whipped cream, everything has to be chilled. EVERYTHING:  the can of coconut cream, the bowl, and the beaters. I chilled nothing rather set the bowl over an ice bowl much like I do with cow’s whipping cream. That won’t do the trick. The second thing I did wrong was to add the sugar prior to whipping the coconut cream.  I messed with the fat-to-air ratios by adding sugar too soon.  Save the sweetness until after things have stiffened up. Too sweet too soon and things just stay soft.

I’ve been there before. It’s called the Friend Zone.

Finally, I may have landed on a dud can of cream. I’m not sure how this happens but apparently, according to a quick internet search, it’s a regular occurrence. A dud can is indistinguishable from a non-dud can.  The dud-factor shows up only when trying to get it to peak and it can’t.

There it is again. There’s a reference to my dating life that I probably shouldn’t be sharing details about….but we’ve all been there. We take the risk to love and be loved and we get to that next level of loving when…dud-can.  You can let things chill. You can try to add stabilizers.  You place blame, internalize it or you can begin again. Each effort is a new risk; a foray into the unknown, into vulnerability and also into the possibility of success.

Risks are scary, but in the end, they help to move us into the direction of our dreams, whether a new kitchen, a book that will finally see print, or a love that is lasting and fulfilling.  Without the risk, none of these things will be anything. If risks aren’t your jam, start small.  Open up that can of coconut cream and start whipping. There’s only one way to know what will happen after that.

3 thoughts on “Taking a risk

  1. Greetings Marianne,
    Your Uncle Thom Huebner and have known each other since we trained together as PeaceCorps volunteers in the summer of 1966 and then were in Thailand together from 1967 to 70. During that time we ate lots of delicious Thai dishes make with coconut meat and cream, although never coconut cheesecake. Good luck on your writing journey, kitchen project and in your personal life. It all takes work but the rewards are grand.
    Best of luck with your book.


  2. My gosh girl…I can’t believe you have a raccoon! Lol Way to go, Marianne, you have amazed me yet again! So proud of your fearless ways. Love Ya, Sis


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