The Noodles That Never Were
Pre-parenthood, I found my dopamine rush on recipe sites, which fueled my Pinterest boards and resulted in untold dollars in wasted ingredients because, inevitably, I lost interest in most recipes before they made it to the cutting board. Now that time is tight, I have devised a clever workaround that keeps me dreaming of kitchen gold without all the shame and stale noodles.
More than two years ago, I bookmarked a recipe for Spicy Sriracha Noodles. Recently, I decided yet again I wanted to attempt the recipe. The lo mein noodles I had originally purchased for the recipe were, of course, very expired. I then had to buy a new package of lo mein noodles, which until recently were sitting alongside an entire island of old, misfit ingredients.
These ingredients all belong to fantasy recipes that may or may not have been realized in what my spouse and I jokingly refer to as The Book of Dreams. This is isn’t a physical place; it’s not even a virtual one. Rather, it’s a placeholder for all of the recipes I may or may not try someday. Some are pinned in Pinterest, others I have emailed to myself. Some make it to real life, others don’t. Some are dog-eared in cookbooks bought either on impulse or after hours of obsessive research.
I recently cleaned out my pantry. Do you know how I knew my lo mein noodles were more than two years old? Because I haven’t dreamed about recipes since my toddler was born. The pantry was a tomb of all sorts of dreams never realized, like copycat Kodiak Cakes I once loved, then got bored with. And multiple bags of flour because I never knew how much I had in the house when I randomly decided, mid-grocery trip, to bake something.
I’m sure this is a neurotypical thing as well, but I have a hunch the extremes take new heights in the ADHD brain. Pre-baby, I used to manically select recipes, sometimes getting my husband involved. I experienced the same I-have-stumbled-on-gold euphoria every time, eventually followed by the shame of never following through. Of course, once the baby got here I bought an Instant Pot and stuck to practical meals over dreamy ones. The baby ended the madness.
The more I’ve learned since my diagnosis, the less shame I feel about stuff like the Book of Dreams. The Book of Dreams was something I did because I have a brain that’s predisposed to stuff like that. It’s a thing, so what?
I recently started watching the Netflix TV show Atypical, about a teen boy with autism. The way the showrunners handle his propensities, normalizing them and weaving them into the fabric of general society (while still paying due attention to the challenges) is the same way I handle my spicy noodles.
In one example, the main character in Atypical starts dating a girl who has read up on autism and its various interventions. They have developed a system for him to stop talking so much about his obsession, Antarctica. He gets three cards a day, and each time he brings up Antarctica, he has to give up one of his cards. Once he’s out of cards, he’s gotta lay off of Antarctica. The way the show (and the couple) navigate this is so relatable and normalizing.
I’ve made up my own rules to get through the Book of Dreams chaos. I no longer go on recipe binges. If I see something I want to make, I save one recipe at a time and I’m not allowed to save any other recipes until I’ve at least tried the one I’ve already saved… or I relinquish the original recipe for the newly discovered one.
We all devise workarounds like this to get past our symptoms, and it’s magical when you see these techniques at work, making real changes in you. Suddenly it feels less hopeless and more like a finite thing that can be addressed.
But back to the noodles.
I may never make the Spicy Sriracha Noodles. Or, someday I may make them and love them so much that I make them every day until I burn out on them. Either outcome no longer carries some larger, shameful meaning that ends in me being the buffoon.
They’re just noodles.