Recipes for guilt

“Don’t break the chain!”

“If you have a moment to spare…” A moment? I’ve got to get through all my emails, finish a brochure, edit my audio, go pick up a woodcarving of my dog, get groceries, make dinner for our guests tonight, figure out my finances, and maybe write something. Yes, I have exactly one moment to spare. What’s up?

“We have picked those we think would make this fun.” Did you? When I did this last time, I picked those I didn’t think would get mad at me. Cousins, childhood friends. You’d think I’d pick people who cook a lot, but most of them are disciples of food blogs or they have multiple shelves devoted to cookbooks. They don’t need these emails.

“Please send a recipe to the person whose name is in position #1 below (even if you don’t know him/her).” Him? Do men ever receive these things? Dave’s never gotten one. Just me, and other women who won’t get mad, and also who can be counted on to do what they’re told. “The best recipe is the one you know in your head and can type right now.” Here are the recipes I know in my head: Toast. Everything else, I look up on my phone. Hard-boiled eggs, I look up every single time no lie. I always forget how long you let them boil and how long they should sit with the lid on while they simmer, and do they simmer or do you turn it off and leave the lid on, and it’s not like anyone wants a recipe for hard boiled eggs anyway.

Other, more recipe-sounding things, like pasta with whatever, I do based on whatever the whatever in the fridge happens to be – shrimp, tomatoes, basil, squash. There is no recipe. If there’s a recipe, it usually means I have to go get groceries. “Don’t agonize over it; it is one you make when you are short of time.” If I’m short on time, why would I be cooking?”

“After you’ve sent the recipe to the person in position #1 below, and only to that person, copy this letter into a new e-mail, move my name to position #1 and put your name in position #2. Only my and your name should show when you send your e-mail. Send to 20 friends BCC (blind copy). If you cannot do this within 5 days, let us know so it will be fair to those participating.” Jesus.

All these discrete actions combined are only going to take me one moment? It’s already taken me six moments to read this, fume, and write about it. By the time this is over, I’m thinking we’ll be at 46 moments, each of which takes approximately three minutes. That’s the cinematic equivalent of Red River, during which John Wayne ages about 20 years.

And yes, each friend I send this to counts as three separate moments. I have to decide whether each particular candidate will be annoyed by this message, whether they’ll actually do it, and whether I’ve sent them one of these in the past. If so, did I use their recipe? Probably not. Will sending them a new request be an admission of that? Probably.

“You should receive 36 recipes.” Last time, I got two.

“It’s fun to see where they come from!” I guess.

“Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas.” You know what? Let’s see who drops out. I wrote back to Jordan, the friend who sent this. Jordan’s not the type to send chain emails, so I felt safe telling her, “love this idea but I’ve done it before and can’t send it to 20 friends.” I did send a recipe to her and person #2, but it was one I’d copied from another email someone had sent me, which I’ve never made.

Jordan wrote back to tell me no problem. She added that she’d only sent the email because the person who sent it to her was a good friend. And the friend had only sent it to Jordan because her aunt asked, and the friend felt guilty. Jordan added, “I imagine her aunt felt obligated to someone; and then I see a very long line of women exchanging recipes from guilt.”

One day, no one will send these messages anymore. Instead, people will send recipes just when they feel like it, with no expectation that anyone’s going to do anything about it. Until then, when I want a home-cooked meal I’ll concentrate on getting myself invited to Kismet’s. We had dinner there Sunday: grilled-cheese-with-apple-and-dijon on homemade honey-wheat, with cream-of-tomato soup, followed by Marzipan cake topped with raspberry-and-rosemary-and-black-pepper magic. Her husband used to blog about her amazing cooking, but he’s dropped off lately. I hope this picture re-motivates him.