Admitting Secret Desires

So I’m back to regularly bringing Saturday night dinners to Mrs. S. at the nursing home. While I long ago gave up on cooking for her from Fannie Farmer (Ms. Fannie’s recipes being a bit too unreliable for my taste), I do try to cook foods that are familiar to Mrs. S., who also enjoys occasional take out from Brick Oven Pizza (who around here doesn’t?) and random mid-week visits with coffee and donuts from Blue Duck Bakery (again, who wouldn’t?)


One of the reasons (I think) that the S’s marriage lasted truly ’til death did them part was that they both loved to please the other. And food was a big part of that love language. When Mr. S retired from working, he decided that they’d eat many of their dinners in restaurants so that Mrs. S could ‘retire,’ too–his way of thanking her for the decades of excellent meals which he spoke well of pretty much to his dying day.

But whereas Mr. S was usually forthcoming with what he liked and didn’t like, Mrs. S has always been much quieter. So much so, that a few weeks ago, I had to pry her dessert request out of her.

(I don’t always ask her what she wants. Just sometimes.)

Me: What do you want for dessert next week? Whatever you ask for, I’ll make it.

Edie: Brownies are the easiest.

Me: I don’t want to do what’s easiest! I want to do what you want.

Edie: I don’t know if I should say.

Me: Mousse? Pie? Any kind of pie? Rice pudding?

Edie: No, not rice pudding…they give us that a lot here, and it doesn’t taste homemade.

Me: Tell me what you want!

Edie: says nothing, looks away, ashamed.

Me: (thinking: what is she possibly thinking of? A cake out of which Chippendales pop?)

Edie: (uncomfortably) I’d like a chocolate layer cake. With chocolate frosting.

Me: (thinking: is that all? Finally!)

And so on Saturday morning, I pulled out my stand mixer, made a terrific mess:

and a classic chocolate layer cake from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook:

To tell the truth, I’m not altogether sure that Mrs. S even remembered asking for the chocolate layer cake. And her appetite was smaller than usual, so she ended up eating only half of it. But neither of those things matters.

What matters to me is that she was able, finally, to admit her secret desire, and that, by God’s grace, I was able to meet it.

I’m still trying to figure out why that feels important, right and good.

Maybe it’s because I read somewhere that American women are embarrassed to buy candy bars.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a tradition that taught that all (or at least most) desires are evil and not to be fulfilled.

Maybe it’s because admitting desires takes trust and facilitates closeness.

What do you think? Did you grow up in a tradition that taught you to be suspicious of desires? When have you experienced freedom and pleasure in admitting what you want?

4 thoughts on “Admitting Secret Desires

  1. “Maybe it’s because admitting desires takes trust and facilitates closeness.” Wow, Rachel. That one hit me hard, and made me realize that if there’s anyone I should trust enough to tell my secret desires to it should be God.

    I need to do that more.


    P.S. Making a terrific mess in the kitchen is awesome. Last week our son was home from college for a couple days and made a terrific mess as he tried out a chili recipe on us. He made 5 quarts of chili. He and I are the only ones who eat meat in the family. 5 quarts! I’ve almost finished off the leftovers.

  2. Awww. My Grandmother is like that too. “Do you want lunch?” “Whenever you feel like it…” We keep trying to get her to just say “Yes, I’m hungry now.”

  3. Hm…I think you’re on to something. Being REALLY honest about what we want does require vulnerability.
    It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to read that you were able to discover Mrs. S’ secret desire. I have a feeling I’ll be thinking about it all day.

  4. For some reason I relate the feeling that Mrs. S. was exhibiting to two things in my experience: first, the feeling I had as a young girl when I asked myself, “But, if *I* get pleasure out of doing good to others, then doesn’t that make it SELFISH for me to LOVE them?” and second, the general perception that if we choose our own pleasure in ANY WAY that we choose selfishness (i.e. evil). There’s also a sense in which I dislike being served or ministered or condescended to, which vibe I was not getting from your story. Finally I wonder if a small part of Mrs. S’s hesitancy is not necessarily theological but cultural/generational.

    I think this is a wonderful post, and although I can argue all day with good old John Piper about many things, one of the things I most love about his teaching is his “Christian Hedonism” and his (Biblical) “rewrite” of the Catechism:

    Q: What is the chief end of man?

    A: Man’s chief end is to glorifying god *by* enjoy(ing) him forever.

    We were made for joy, and desires are a grasping for that joy; let us not deny them, but sift them.

    Great post. I have lots to meditate on here.

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