This week, for the first time ever, my husband and I attended a cooking class. We walked into Plum’s Cooking Company in Sioux Falls, not knowing exactly what to expect. We were greeted immediately by friendly people and, upon confirming our payment (a reasonable $25 apiece), we were offered a complimentary glass of wine or pop.



We then were shown to our assigned seats, complete with name tags and a very sharp knife awaiting us on a sturdy cutting board. The name tags were free. The knives, not so much. For the next three and a half hours we were led in a fun, informative and incredibly delicious journey, guided by a professional chef who hailed originally from The Netherlands.



He started out by teaching us knife skills, including how to properly cut an onion, something which I’ve never been able to master. We traded the knives around, getting the opportunity to try out different styles, and we cut our onions with dexterity and precision. Despite the fact that my husband was better at cutting perfectly than I was, it was still quite enjoyable. (Not that I was comparing or anything. Except that I was.)



After the knife skills lesson the chef began to cook our dinner right there in front of us, even incorporating the basil, which we all had chopped with varying degrees of success. It was a three-course meal and it ranks, easily, as one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. The fact that it was unique and special added to its power, but truly, it was that good.



What’s even better is that I now have the knowledge of how to replicate it. Whether I have the exact skills remains to be seen, but I do hope to try someday!



The menu included a first course of corn and lemon soup topped with crème fraiche. (Though I do not own a Vitamix, I can always hope that my 20-year old, $20 blender would be up to the job.) The soup was silky (something my blender is unlikely to replicate) and startling: I don’t think I’ve ever had lemon and corn together before. It was crazy-good.



The next course was lightly browned cauliflower florets in a cauliflower cream sauce, perfectly cooked scallops (I didn’t like scallops very much before Wednesday, but now I’m a fan-girl), pickled raisins (yes, you read that correctly), and something green, which I never did identify. A wee bit of creamy salsa was sprinkled over the top. I can’t even tell you how good that dish was.



We ended the evening — it was now 8:30 p.m. — with slices of wonderfully rare steak and fingerling potatoes, green beans and barely roasted tomatoes, topped with a wine-reduction sauce. It was a fabulous ending to an extremely fun evening.



I can’t help but think, looking back, that attending a cooking class is a lot like attending church. You go there. You get shown how to do things. You get tips and you get to practice and you even get to eat (ever been to a church potluck?). The trick comes when you go home and try to replicate the things you’ve been taught. It’s easy to feel competent when you walk out of a lesson (“I can cut onions with the best of them!”) or when you walk out of church (“I am a child of God and I want to tell everyone that Jesus loves them!”) but when you get into the world and face the challenges of dissent, it’s harder to feel confident. Your onions look amateurish. Your words about God are imperfect.



The challenge, both in cooking and in living your life for God, is to keep trying. God doesn’t care about perfection; he cares about your heart. Neither will your family care about perfectly-uniform pieces of onion; they just care about eating tasty food and about being together as they eat it.



In other words, do what you can to the best of your abilities and leave the rest up to God.



I love finding new verses to inspire me, and this one is a new favorite for sure: “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart. … Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Ecclesiastes 9:7,10 NIV



Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is gcodon@gmail.com.