Tara Bench: Stirring Up Success
As a college student, Tara Bench saw pictures of beautiful food spreads in magazines and knew what she wanted to be: the person who made that food. It took awhile to figure out what that job would look like, but eventually she landed a dream job as a food editor at Martha Stewart Living. From there, Bench rose to senior food editor and became the food director of Ladies' Home Journal magazine. Now, Bench—perhaps best known as Tara Teaspoon—is living the New York dream, having just published her first cookbook.
Even though we may be quiet or a little bit quirky or a little bit weird, each of us have these really awesome, amazing, unique talents, that are going to help inspire somebody else.
Tara cooking with Martha Stewart:
Tara speaking at SUU Apex:
Tara on the Today Show:
2:33- Culinary beginnings and Light Bulb Experiences
12:12- Martha Stewart
19:36- Taking Every Opportunity to Learn
22:31- Standing Out Because of Beliefs
24:54- Embracing Change
29:00- A Fly Wheel
38:24- Choosing How We View Opportunities
41:55- The Unexpected
44:58- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
Last Thanksgiving Tara Bench shared this quote by Henry David Thoreau on her Instagram, "I am grateful for what I am and have. My Thanksgiving is perpetual." She then wrote, "I am spending the day with family and friends getting up bright and early for the parade. I live one block from the Macy's parade route and it's so fun to watch the giant balloons and floats in person. My cousins are the absolute best, getting up at five in the morning to save seats. Dinner is at my house later, there has been shopping and prep all week. I'm excited to see how my little kitchen holds up to the task this afternoon."
Doesn't that post just give you all the Thanksgiving feels and make you want to get into the kitchen right now and start on your side's? Well, hold your horses, it's not quite time yet. But today we talk with Tara Bench, aka Tara Teaspoon about seeking out and taking opportunities and appreciating the lives we've each individually been given.
Tara Bench has spent more than 20 years in the food publishing industry creating recipes and articles and food styling for various magazines, books, television and advertising. Most recently, she has been the food and entertaining director of Ladie’s Home Journal magazine. Prior to working at the journal, Tara was a food editor at Martha Stewart Living kids and weddings magazines. She has appeared on the Martha Stewart television show, The Today Show, and on the Food Network as a show judge and contestant. She just published her first cookbook: Live Life Deliciously.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I'm so excited to have Tara Bench on the line with me today. Tara, welcome.
Tara Bench 1:58
Thanks for having me. This is great.
Morgan Jones 2:01
Well, I, I have to tell you, I watched a podcast video that you did over the weekend, and then I watched another one this morning, and I was so impressed by you. And I think we actually have probably more in common than you may have any idea. So –
Tara Bench 2:20
Oh, I love it.
Morgan Jones 2:20
I'm excited to talk. And the one thing that we don't have in common is you are an incredible cook. And I am an aspiring cook. But I'm not a really great one. So first of all, what originally drew you to food? And what is it that brings you back, time and time again, into the kitchen?
Tara Bench 2:42
Great question. I grew up cooking with my mom and grandmothers, and so really it was that time spent with them that drew me to food. Of course, eating it drew me to food, I love food. But cooking – as far as being in the kitchen and cooking – and making food, it really was just that time spent with my mom in the kitchen learning from her. She would give me every opportunity to cook and I remember sitting – being too little to even reach over the counter, and I'd sit on top of the counter and help stir the bowls, and you know, watch her put dinner together really. And so those, those were great moments. And of course that moved into me having my own Easy Bake Oven.
Morgan Jones 3:32
I also had an Easy Bake Oven, and so when I was listening to you talk about it, I was like, "Wow, this really ended differently for the two of us."
Tara Bench 3:39
Right, right, some of us took those lightbulb experiences and took them in a different direction. Right? Well, it – I'm glad it led me to where it did, it doesn't lead everyone to that, obviously. But I was able to create my own treats and my own things in my own size oven. And I loved that. And so I think all of those experiences, you know, early on, started bringing me back to the kitchen and bringing me back to those feelings that I had, sharing food with people. And bless my dad's heart, he would eat all of those crusty little baked things from that little oven. And even when I graduated to the stovetop and the real oven, I would imagine a lot of my creations and meals and recipes were not that great, but I got nothing but praise and motivation to keep doing what I was doing. And so as I got older, coming back to the kitchen was a place of refuge for me. It was a place where my mind could just go somewhere else, and in the end, I had something great to eat – I had something to share. It was always a good place to come to.
When I was deciding what to study in school, my, my dad and my parents were both very encouraging of me choosing something that I enjoyed. Not necessarily something that "Oh, you know, go to law school so that you can be an attorney so that you can make X, Y, and Z ," and whatever. It really was a discussion of, "What do you like to do? Because what you study and what you enjoy doing is probably what you will do for a career." And it was! I, you know, got into food in a roundabout way, but my education even brought me back to the kitchen. So that's, that's where I ended.
Morgan Jones 5:42
Yeah. Well, and I love, I love that your parents did that, and I think we'll see that throughout your story, if, from what I understand is correct, but I think your parents were supportive and set a tone. And I think that's so important, because your life has gone to kind of a different direction, a different trajectory than you anticipated, and had you ended up doing something that wasn't something that you enjoy. I think sometimes we think, and I'll just say this up front, I am also single, and in my 30's, and so I feel like when I was listening to you talk about your experience, I thought, "I'm so glad that I ended up doing something that I love, because I've done it a lot longer than I thought I would."
Tara Bench 6:31
Morgan Jones 6:31
And so I think there's something very valuable in that.
Tara Bench 6:35
Absolutely, yes, absolutely. And, and that enjoyment is that – it's that bit of life that's fulfilling. That you're not struggling with, right? So we have enough struggles in our life, other than what we choose to do on a daily basis for work, right?
Morgan Jones 6:54
For a good chunk of your life – your day. You know, like, I don't think anybody – nobody prepares you entirely for the amount of time that you spend doing whatever your career is. Somebody should warn you, honestly.
Tara Bench 7:10
Well, and I honestly, I think that's what my father was doing so many years ago. And it's funny, both my brothers – I have two brothers – and they have both said, "Oh, we didn't get that talk. We got, you know, 'Go into something that can provide for a family that can – '". It was just that mentality, that mindset. But I was encouraged to do something I enjoyed. And I think a lot of people get that advice and also get the opposite advice. There are stigmatisms around career paths or paths of education, whether it's you know, I had a friend once who wanted to go into acting, and her family was against that because they didn't see a potential for sustaining yourself and knew it would be hard. And so she battled that from a different angle, right? She battled that from the angle of, "But I enjoy this, I'm going to make it work." So I think it comes at people in different ways. and I just happened to take that bit of advice and put it into action.
Morgan Jones 8:22
Yeah, I love that. So when you were a student, you knew that you wanted to do something with food, but you said you didn't want to work in a restaurant. So I'm curious, why is that? I think I might have an idea, it might be the same reasons I don't want to work in a restaurant, but tell me why that is, and then also how you ended up satisfying those specifications in your career – how you ended up doing something that was so unconventional that your professors in school didn't even know what it was.
Tara Bench 8:56
It's true. That's true. And yes, I, I knew I wanted to cook. I knew I wanted to do something in food, and I actually started in food science. And that was my major. And I realized, "Oh, this is all chemistry. This isn't cooking." And so I – after a few years and my generals, I switched – and switched colleges even – and went to Utah State from BYU, and they had a culinary arts program. So that was a major in which I was able to cook and minor in journalism and get my education and my degree and still have that hands-on experience. And most of my classmates wanted to work in restaurants or become caterers and work in food service. And I hadn't thought it through. I haven't thought, "Oh, what careers are out there for this thing that I like to do? I like to cook. I'm majoring in what was called culinary arts and what do I do with it?" Other than working in restaurant, because like you said, there was a reason and it was because I didn't want that lifestyle.
So that may be like you, I knew that lifestyle was working nights and weekends and long hours and different hours and off hours. You know, chef's and restauranteurs are working when most of us are enjoying our time. And so they're, you know, their lives are just very different schedule wise. And I didn't know what was in store for my life, but I knew that that aspect – my daily life, and my schedule was something I wanted more control over.
And so that took me into looking at other opportunities. And I told my professors, because at the time, I loved reading food magazines, whether it was Food and Wine, or Bon Appetit or Fine Cooking, whatever it was, I could get my hands on – I loved those. And I looked at the pictures of the food in those magazines and I thought, "I want to make that food!" I mean, that's the whole point of magazines and books, right? As you look at the pictures and –
Morgan Jones 11:11
They got ya.
Tara Bench 11:12
Yes, they get you! And you think, "Oh, I want to make that." Well, who actually made that food the first time? I wanted to be that person. So I asked my professors and my chef’s at school, "Who is it that makes this food? I want to do that." And they didn't know. So my educators were professional chefs and nutrition professors and dietetics professors, and they didn't know. So we both kind of did research. And I had a professor, Tammy Vitale, who came and said, "I think this is what you want to do." And she had ripped a page out of a trade magazine that was talking about food stylists. And I'd never heard the term food stylist before. So I looked at it, and the article was about how food stylists make food look good in pictures, and they use glue for milk and Crisco for ice cream, and I thought, "Well, that's not what I want to do."
So I had to do a little more research. And I realized that all these magazines have test kitchens. And that's what eventually led me to call every magazine in the country and asked if I could work in their test kitchen. So I did that. I said, "I want to do an internship, and can I do it in your test kitchen?" So, yeah.
Morgan Jones 12:35
And the big dog said, "Come fly out."
Tara Bench 12:40
Yes, the only magazine that responded with a positive with a, you know, didn't say, "Oh, we already have our interns," or "No, we don't accept people we don't know," or whatever it was. The only one was Martha Stewart Living. And the test kitchen director at the time, Susan, said, "Oh, okay, I'll interview you. But you have to fly out to New York and cook for me."
So I did! So I flew out to New York, I was still a student at Utah State and flew out. There were, you know, lots of details to it. She wanted me to cook a three-course menu for her and come to the test kitchen, etc. So, long story short, I did, and I was a ball of nerves. I was so nervous. This was really my first professional interview. And on top of it, it was a cooking interview. And it was at Martha Stewart.
Morgan Jones 13:36
Yeah, like, no pressure. I don't know why you were nervous, Tara.
Tara Bench 13:43
Right? I don't either. I mean, come on.
Morgan Jones 13:45
Tara Bench 13:45
Right? My first steps into the office, I was greeted and taken down the stairs of this office on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. And I go down the stairs headed to the test kitchen to cook for the test kitchen director. And there's Martha at the bottom of the stairs. And I'm five two – if that – and she's six feet something. And so it was just this towering persona that I walked by, and of course my nerves went more crazy. So –
Morgan Jones 14:15
I had no idea she's that tall.
Tara Bench 14:18
She IS tall. She's tall. She's a model, so she's a presence. And yeah, so I walked by her, you know, she, she was in a meeting didn't notice me. But I sure – my knees were shaking. I had to cook all day in the test kitchen, and I didn't do a very good job. I was so new to the world of professional cooking and cooking and I messed up a lot. And really, I think it was just kind of being pushy, and I said to Susan at the end of the day, "I know I've messed up, but I'm a fast learner. I've never been in a test kitchen before, but I'd like to learn, and if you'll give me this chance, I'll make it happen." And so I flew home not knowing whether I would get that opportunity or not. And three days later, she called me and said, "You can come and be our intern for the summer." So that got me in there.
Morgan Jones 15:18
Amazing. Well, and I think one thing that I, I love about that story, so when I was, when I was in college, there was somebody that I wanted to intern for who was a journalist, and he's actually been on this podcast, Jeff Benedict is his name. But my mom encouraged me, she said, "You know, if this is something that you – if this is someone that you'd like to learn more from, go ask him. Intern for him." And I was like, "What?" Like, "No, he's not gonna say 'Yes.'" But I think you called it being pushy, I don't think it's actually being pushy. I think, I think that there's something about believing in ourselves and our ability to learn enough that we put ourselves out there. And I also think that the cool thing about that story is that not only did you end up getting the internship, but you were able to climb the ladder and eventually become senior editor at Martha Stewart Living, which is crazy. So tell me a little bit about how – so from that time that you were an intern to becoming senior editor, like how did that happen? And I also I want to put a plug in, I found there's that video of you and Martha in the kitchen on Youtube, and I'm gonna put that in our show notes because it's amazing.
Tara Bench 16:39
Good, good. Um, yes. That was a long time ago, and, and such a fun experience. I got to cook with her on her TV show several times. And I have some, you know, there's good stories from that as well. But I, I did, I started as an intern. So they hired me for the summer as an intern, and I was the bottom of the barrel in the test kitchen. So I was running everybody's errands, I was going to the grocery store for last minute ingredients for the food editors, and you know, doing menial tasks, etc. But it was such a great opportunity to learn, so I was shadowing all of these amazing food editors. And by the end of my internship, I was – like I say, Martha Stewart through and through. You know, everything I knew about publishing, food publishing, developing recipes, working in a test kitchen, I learned from the editors at Martha Stewart Living, so I knew it inside and out.
And so they gave me the opportunity to stay on and hired me. Made up a position for me, because I was, you know, I was under qualified, I was very new, right out of school. And they created a position for me, it was called "Recipe Developer." And I still learned a lot. I worked along with all of the editors to create the content in the magazine, and create the recipes, and then I learned food styling. I learned how to take my own recipes and make them look good for photography, and work with world renowned photographers. And the rest of the staff was so talented from the art directors to the garden editor and the craft editors, and the, you know, all of these people that I was able to learn from and just – I don't want to say "just" – but, after years of work, I was promoted. Every few years they would promote me to the next higher position and the next higher position, because I was qualifying myself for that. And I was growing while I was there, which was an awesome opportunity. And I think there's not a lot of opportunities where you can do that anymore.
You know, a lot of times you have to bounce around to different companies in order to work your way up to a senior position. But I was lucky enough to do it there. And by the time I sort of hit what I call my ceiling, I was a senior food editor and directing my own stories that were in the magazine and creating content that was on the main pages of the magazine. And from there it really, it really was a matter of making that transition and saying, "Okay. I'm not going to progress anymore here, I've learned what I'm going to learn here," and taking that step to change that.
Morgan Jones 19:33
Yeah. Really quickly before we move on from there, I really appreciate that you brought up the point of learning from the people around you. And I think that is maybe one of the most important things that we can do in any opportunity that we're given, is recognizing who within that space can we learn from? Do you have any tips about how people can seek to take the opportunity to learn in whatever space it is and how you get those people to help you learn?
Tara Bench 20:07
Oh, good question. Yeah, so I, I think about this a lot. In fact now, you know, over 20 years into my career, I think about this even more. I run my own business, and I'm not surrounded by professionals that I'm necessarily learning from. I have to make the effort to go and seek that out. And sometimes I laugh at myself thinking about this, but I know – God knows me so well, and he knows that I need a lot of support to get through this life. And I've just noticed that I've been more aware the last few years about who that is that comes into my life that I know Heavenly Father sent my way. And I've been so touched to see who those people are, and who those helpers are, and I'm learning from them. And so I'm much more cognizant of who I'm learning from and who is in my life, and maybe for what reason they're in my life. And that can work in my professional life and my personal life. But I just know, you know, these people in these opportunities are sent my way. And I want to be aware of how I can learn and grow from them.
And I think just being more aware of that pattern, and maybe God's hand in who you are around, who you're working with, can help you to see, "Okay, what can I learn from this person? Maybe, maybe I don't love this person, I don't love working with this person. But what could I learn from them? What could I learn from this experience?" And or maybe, "Oh my goodness, I have the best boss in the world, I want to learn everything from them that I possibly can while they're in my life, while this opportunity is there." And so I think just keeping your eyes open for those opportunities and those connections in life will help.
Morgan Jones 22:09
Yeah, I think it's definitely something that when you're intentional about seeking it. I mean you can just take the opportunities that are given and not be intentional about how you approach them, or you can be intentional and get way more out of it. And so I love that you highlighted that you took every opportunity to learn from those people. Another quick question before we move on to the to the Ladies’ Home Journal, I thought it was interesting to think about, here you are – are you from Utah originally?
Tara Bench 22:44
Yes, I was born in Utah, I grew up there for many years. And then I did High School in Arizona. So kind of from both places.
Morgan Jones 22:52
Okay. And then, so then you go to New York, and you're fresh out of college in a big city, and you've stayed there. What is it like to be a member of the Church and to navigate a big city when you've come from Utah or Arizona? What have you learned from that experience?
Tara Bench 23:11
I have learned that you sometimes stand out a lot. And I don't really like standing out. I don't like being that center of attention in any way. And because of my religion, and because of my beliefs, and because of the way I live my life, I do stand out in a big crazy city or some professional circumstances. And if you can imagine, I work in food. And so in a city like New York, it's actually food and wine.
Morgan Jones 23:42
Right, right. I was actually just thinking that.
Tara Bench 23:44
Yes! It's food and wine. And I mean, I belong to a group of women here that's women in food and wine, and I don't drink wine. So I have been asked many times if it's been hard to continue to choose to not drink or to live the values I've chosen to live because of the gospel. And for me, it has not been hard. I have just made that choice. It's a choice that I've made that I – it's easy for me, it's not easy for everyone. So for me, telling people that, "Oh, do you have, you know, anything without alcohol in it that I can drink?" Or "Hey, I'm just going to have seltzer water," or "I just made this recipe with a lot of alcohol, I'm not going to eat it, do you want to taste this or eat it?" You know, that sort of thing. And I've had to learn and adapt. But I also am very aware of how much I stand out because of that.
Morgan Jones 24:47
Thank you so much for sharing that. I – so from there, from Martha Stewart Living, you said you kind of reached a place where you knew that you had learned what you came to learn and I think that's an important point as well, to realize, like when we've come to the end of the road with a certain life experience, and it's time to move on. I struggle a little bit with change. You said you like change. But you transitioned from Martha Stewart Living to Ladies’ Home Journal. And so you said you went from high end cooking, to more in–home cooking? What are the biggest differences between those two spaces?
Tara Bench 25:26
Yes, it was different. And I, I left Martha Stewart, she had gone to jail and come back from jail. So that was sort of the timing is –
Morgan Jones 25:36
Tara Bench 25:37
I stayed there through, through her little jail experience, and when she came back to the company, it was, it was different. And like I said, I knew I had hit sort of that level at the company that was the top for me. And leaving there – I, I did, I dragged my feet. And I think that was one of the most poignant moments to look back on, you know, hindsight is 2020. Going through it I didn't know what was happening. But that was one of the biggest signs Heavenly Father gave me of like, "Make this decision." So, work was getting so hard, and I was so comfortable. I was so comfortable in what I was doing, where I had gotten to in my career, that I wasn't willing to make that move and step out into the dark. And I think everything started to become so much harder. And work actually became very awful.
There was a lot of politics at the office that I was having to navigate, and I sort of hit a rock bottom where I finally realized, "Oh. Heavenly Father's kicking me out. He's literally booting me out, because I won't take that step myself." And I didn't realize it until later. But it was a great step to make. And funny enough, yes, I do like change. I like – you know I like moving and setting up a new house or, or apartment or I like changing – shifting gears in life, because it's kind of exciting. But some changes are really hard to make. And that one was. And it turned out to be a really great change.
So I left Martha Stewart, I actually didn't have another job. So I freelanced or I was a consultant for many years, doing food styling and working for different brands, creating content and recipes, and it was great. It was so great. And I fell into a position at Ladies’ Home Journal as the food and entertaining director there. And it was a new chance to have a new test kitchen and a new staff and a new creative outlook on food publishing. And the difference was, if you thumbed through those pages, Martha Stewart is almost aspirational. You know, it's – you might not make all the recipes in that magazine, but man, it's beautiful. And you just want to envision yourself in that life of being a Martha Stewart cook, right? And so the difference was Ladies’ Home Journal was what they called a more "service magazine" or "lifestyle magazine."
And so the recipes were much more approachable. It was about getting dinner on the table every night in a new creative way, or giving people my expertise and tips in how to cook. And what to cook, and what makes life easier in the kitchen. So I really liked that aspect and that difference.
Morgan Jones 28:48
Yeah, I think it's so it's so cool to see how you had these two very different experiences, and then now you have created this cookbook – how did both of those experiences shape what you put in the cookbook?
Tara Bench 29:06
They both shaped it a lot. I definitely feel like I got my love of food presentation and you know, that sense of eating with our eyes – what it looks like – from working at Martha Stewart and working to make the food look so amazing. And so that played a big part in my book. I wanted every page to draw you in with the look of it. And then I also thought well, I want it to also sound good. So all of my experience at both magazines about creating a recipe that makes people want to make it, it has to do with the look of it and the sound of the name. You know if we're talking about pigs in a blanket, great, they're delicious, but pigs in a blanket doesn't really make you want to eat it so much.
Morgan Jones 30:01
Tara Bench 30:01
But burrata with pistachio and orange chimichurri over grilled toast, that sounds good, and then you look at the picture, and you're drawn in with the look of it – and I've learned all of that over the years with all of my experience. So that – I took from each place, I took from all of my experiences in food, and recipe writing and I added that to the cookbook and made a book that I want to flip through that I want to make all the recipes. And they are my favorites. Some of them are sentimental. Some of them are from – inspired from meals I've eaten at amazing New York restaurants. Some of them are just family favorites that I like to make when I get people together, when I cook for my family. And so it's a great mix. And it really does have to do with all of my experiences.
Morgan Jones 31:02
I loved hearing about how you didn't really plan on ever writing a cookbook, but I think it's indicative of – you said in your email to me this morning, you said, "I feel like my career slash life has been like riding a flywheel," And so I wondered what you mean by that, and how this cookbook kind of plays into that narrative?
Tara Bench 31:29
Oh, it plays in so much. And yes. So if you can imagine, I do feel like my life and my career has been like riding a bike with a flywheel. If you've ever ridden like an exercise bike where you pedal, and you have to get that started, and then once it gets started, the wheel almost propels itself – and that's called a flywheel. And it's, it's that physics of the wheel. And I feel like, my life has been like that. Sometimes when you're riding a bike like that, you get going so fast, that you kind of are out of control. And I think at times, I've felt like my life is like that, like, "Oh, oh, suddenly, I'm going so fast. Let me just slow down, let me hold those handles tighter, and get back on pace. " And so you might stop pedaling for a minute just to slow down, or you might start pedaling a little more consistently, to just get back on track. And then if you've ever ridden one of those bikes, you know that if the flywheel starts to slow down, "Oh, I got too comfortable. Suddenly I have to pump a little harder, I have to push those pedals a little harder to get it going again at a pace that's comfortable."
And so I just think that's my life. Is, yes, I get going too fast, sometimes, for my own good. And I have to slow down and then sometimes I'm just coasting. And I think, "This is it!" You know, I think, "Oh, I've learned everything I need to learn. And I've accomplished everything I need to accomplish. This is it, it's smooth sailing from here." And I let it go and then suddenly realize, "Oh, now life is really hard, and I have to pump that – those pedals so much harder to get to a place where I can feel that comfort again. So that's what I mean by the flywheel. It's I think we all have those ups and downs and rushes and pauses and times where we're just pedaling so hard, we don't know if it will ever end or if we'll ever get going again.
And that, that's just life in general, right, for me. And I think I've got a lot of learning moments in all of that experience. But the cookbook, it plays into that in the sense that over my life and career, everyone's watched me and said, "Oh, when are you going to write a cookbook?" "Oh, you should write a cookbook." And I think, "Well, okay. I hadn't ever planned on that, I'm just working and doing what I want to do." And then after many years, I thought, "Oh, well, everyone's saying this, so should I write a cookbook? Am I supposed to?" And I think that's hard when you take outside information and think, "Is this expected of me or am I supposed to do this?" And so I sort of realized that. And I didn't want to live up to anybody's expectations. And so I put it off for many years. And in fact, my publisher came to me five or six years ago and said, "Hey, we'd love to publish your cookbook. Do you want to work with us?" And I said, "No." It wasn't – it didn't feel right, it wasn't the right time, something was going on with that flywheel. I was either coasting or I was pedaling hard and it just wasn't the right time.
And so all these years later, the opportunity came again. And I realized it's never the ideal time to do something big and new. And I was at the point where I had the desire to do it, so I wasn't living up to anyone's expectations. So I jumped in with both feet. And I think like a lot of experiences, I had different ideas about what it would look like, and I thought, "Hey –" it was one of those times that I thought, "This is it. I've got this. I have all this experience behind me. I can write a cookbook, it's going to be easy." And it has been one of the hardest learning experiences I've ever gone through. So it – yeah, it's, it's interesting. I've had to start to pedal really hard to get things going again, but at the same time, it's been a good ride. It's been enjoyable. I've enjoyed learning this new skill.
Morgan Jones 36:00
Yeah, well, and it absolutely is a skill. I want to come back to a couple of things that you touched on there. One, I – in one of the things that I watched, you talked about this principle of timing, and recognizing that sometimes it's the right time, and sometimes it's not. And you said that that was something that you had learned from cooking – about timing, and I thought that was such a good, good point. So I wondered, could you share a little bit about that?
Tara Bench 36:28
Oh, sure. Yes. It's a fun analogy to make. That correlation between life timing and cooking timing. I think you learn as you go, and the more you cook, the more you know your oven, the more you know how hot your pans get, the more you know how long to keep those cookies or that cake in the oven, or at what temperature to cook – to roast your vegetables so they get that perfect caramelization – that comes with experience. As much as I write that into a recipe, people's ovens will be different, their experience will be different, the way they cut their broccoli will be different, and so so much of cooking comes from timing and experience with that. And you do it once and you think, "Okay, I'm going to do that differently next time," or "I'm going to leave that in the oven just a minute longer." Or "I really over baked those brownies. Let me try it differently next time." And that's experience! You have to do it, you have to do it once. And even if you follow the instructions exactly, everyone is going to have a different experience.
So, sure, that plays into learning the timing of your life and accepting it. And I still am working on that. I'm still struggling with that. The whole accepting timing and accepting that I have to learn from my experiences, good or bad. Some are, some are great. Some are like, "Oh, I did that? Look how much I learned. I can do that again really easily." And other ones are, "Whoa, I never want to go back to that. That was rough. But what have I learned? And how can I apply this to my next experience? Or my next recipe?" Right?
Morgan Jones 38:23
Yeah. I love this idea that you've touched on of getting to choose, and that's one thing that you mentioned in your email to me when we first started talking about this episode, was that we get to choose whether or not we're going to be happy in our lives. And on one of these podcasts, you said that we get to choose how to view the opportunities we've been given. And I think that that's a powerful thought in your life situation, you've had many opportunities that I don't think you anticipated, but are like for many people – dream jobs. And so can you explain a little bit about what you've learned about how we get to choose how we approach or perceive the opportunities that we've been given and how we appreciate those?
Tara Bench 39:17
Sure, and a lot of that is learning to look back and realizing how I chose and what I chose as far as my feelings towards things. I have had some personal life experiences the last several years that have led me to understand my choices and how I show up in my life, and the thought of choosing how I feel about things has been new to me. So instead of thinking that something happens to me and I have to feel a certain way, or someone hurt me or something was a rotten experience and now I'm going to be mad about it, I can say, "Hey, I had a rotten experience. And I get to choose how I feel about it. I don't have to be mad or sad, or depressed, or angry. I get to choose what that looks like in my life, and how I show up in that experience." So that – I've learned so much looking back at my life, and saying, "Oh, here's how I chose to react to that really exciting experience, or here's how I chose to feel emotion in this really crappy experience."
And I love that now, it's very freeing to understand my agency that way. And that I have the blessing of agency, the gift of agency – to choose all of my emotions. So when I'm feeling like, "Oh, my gosh, why? Why did they hurt me so much? Why did this person hurt me?" Or, you know, maybe it's at work or in your personal life, and "Oh, my goodness, I feel so sad. And I'm angry." I get to say, "Okay, that experience happened to me, and my agency allows me to be positive, to move on, to surrender that pain, whatever it is." So I'm still learning about all of the choices that I have in life because of my agency, and how they change what my day to day looks like and what my opportunities look like. It's, it's been really freeing and hard at the same time.
Morgan Jones 41:52
That's so well said. And I think you're spot on, I always say – and you you'll have to tell me whether or not you agree with this, but as I listened to your story, I couldn't help but think about, again, parallels and being like, "Man, my life has taken some weird turns, and there have been a lot of things that I expected and a lot of things that I didn't expect." And I always think that the hardest things in life are those hard things that we didn't see coming. So my example is always on my – when I went on a mission, I thought that the hardest thing would be being with another girl 24/7. And turns out, that was fine. Like I was totally good with that, I didn't have a problem with it. But the hardest thing on my mission was we lived with members our entire missions. And in the first area, I was allergic to cats. And we lived with a lady that had a cat and everything in her house was about her cat. And, and that was really hard for me. And so I think that it's interesting, because it's these things that kind of blindside us and we don't see coming, that end up being the hardest, but also the things that we learn the most from Would you agree with that? And why or why not?
Tara Bench 43:11
Oh, I say absolutely. And what a story, right? What an experience to look back on and say, "Yes, those hard experiences are where we get to choose how we're showing up." I totally agree with you. And, you know, as we learn as we go through those experiences, you get to say, "Okay, Heavenly Father, I'm here in a house with a cat and I'm allergic to cats. I'm giving this to you. How do you want me to come to this opportunity? To come to this experience, because you know, I'm allergic to cats, you know, this is going to be really hard for me. So I need to give this to you. I need to give – surrender this." And that's what I'm still learning is, is how to surrender those hard things, when they show up. Because we all do. We have those, "Oh, my goodness, I didn't expect this coming! And it's way harder than I ever thought and how am I going to get through it? How am I going to get on the other side of this?" Either it's painful or hard, something that you didn't expect, right? And we have to learn to let go and have that conversation with God and say, "Okay, here's what I can handle, and I need to give you the rest and have you take this on right now, because I want to get through this I want to take this opportunity, I want to learn, and you know my capacity." And He does! He knows what we can handle. We, we aren't exposed to anything that He's not aware of, that we can't deal with, with His help.
Morgan Jones 44:56
Thank you so much. Tara before we wrap up I just have one last question for you. And that is, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Tara Bench 45:08
I love that question. And for me, it's ever changing what it means to be all in. And I know you said that before too, is it's hard to pinpoint that "all in" feeling and what it means. And right now, for me, at this moment, it means learning. And it means – to be all in is to learn and grow in my relationship with God and Christ. And by doing that, I want to be open to all those experiences. I don't want to have blinders on, and put my expectations or my perspective on what God wants me to learn. And so being all in means taking off those black blinders, being open to people that come into my life, to thoughts that come into my mind, to opportunities that show up in my life, and asking Heavenly Father to help me through those so I can get to the next one.
Morgan Jones 46:19
Beautiful. Thank you so much, Tara, you are so fun to talk to. I am so interested in your story. And I want to try some of these recipes, so I'm gonna have to get the cookbook but –
Tara Bench 46:31
I love it!
Morgan Jones 46:31
Thank you so much.
Tara Bench 46:33
Thank you. Thanks for having me. This was so fun.
Morgan Jones 46:37
We are so grateful to Tara Bench for joining us on this week's episode. You can find Tara's cookbook on deseretbook.com now. Tara's book is also our LDS Living Book Club pick of the month. So be sure to check us out on Instagram for all kinds of great content with Tara all month long. Thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six studios for his help on this episode and thank you for listening. We'll be with you again next week.