by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

After watching the movie, Julie and Julia, I was inspired to clean my very dusty cookbook shelves and fix something I’d never cooked before.

It was amazing to discover how many awesome cookbooks I own — many that I have never opened. Some I purchased through the many years of my marriage, and others were gifts. I found the first cookbook I bought almost thirty years ago when I started dating my husband.

This reminds me of the first time I prepared dinner for him. I had never cooked before other than grilling a hamburger. My biggest mistake was not purchasing my cookbook before I cooked.

We were having baked chicken. This seemed easy enough to accomplish without instructions. My mom had never told me, however, that I needed to remove the neck and whatever else was on the inside of the bird. And no one had ever told me which side was up. I baked my chicken — breast side down.

Our side dish was mashed potatoes. This, too, seemed easy enough for a novice like me. My boyfriend graciously ate his dinner and asked a few questions after complimenting his food. He was very interested in how I made the potatoes. I told him I simply peeled, cut and boiled the potatoes and then mashed them with my new electric mixer. He suggested that maybe next time, I should try draining the water from the potatoes and adding milk and butter before mixing. After taking a bite of my first mashed potatoes and setting them aside as inedible, I agreed that something more was needed.

I bought a cookbook before I cooked again.

Some of my fondest memories have been of cooking. As with the rest of my life, I’ve had firsts, successes, flops and mistakes. But regardless, all of the dishes became an important part of a cherished memory. Diligence, patience and perseverance were found to be key ingredients for success in cooking as in most other areas of life.

When I first started cooking, everything was new. Cooking was a fun adventure as I learned to do something I’d never done before. But it didn’t take long before I was repeating my tried and trusty recipes again and again, and cooking something new became less and less frequent.

Cooking is not the only area of my life that has become stagnant, boring or not working as efficiently and creatively as it once did. And I suspect I am not alone.

Many people are being faced with rewriting their lives. Some are in search of a new career at a time when they should be looking forward to their retirement benefits. Some are waiting for their stock values to go from stagnant to gain. We all have times in our lives when our daily routines or relationships need a good overhaul.

Maybe we already have everything we need at our disposal and we only need a new perspective or a fresh idea on how to use what we have.

Julia Child said, “I was 32 when I started cooking. Up until then, I just ate.”

I think that describes me. Up until now, I’ve just been eating — and eating the same things day after day. But I’ve also just been living — sometimes only going through the motions, no longer curious, no longer excited, no longer with high anticipation. So now over 50, I’m ready to cook up something new and not just in my kitchen.

I already have over 50 old cookbooks sitting on my shelves filled with new recipes to be tried. And I’ve already redecorated my house by taking everything off my walls and re-hanging in new locations. Now I plan to revamp my daily exercise program, redefine what I do for fun as well as explore untried avenues for making money.

Often the answers we seek are not “out there” somewhere but rather within our reach. Do you need to cook up something new for your life? I think you’ll be surprised to learn you have what you need, my friends.

Julia Child once said, “This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” Sounds like good advice for outside of the kitchen, too.