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Who’s Cooking Tonight?
My husband (Barry) cooks dinner most of the time now. When someone asks about my cooking, they always tell me that I have cooking burnout. He explains that I served dinner for most of the years our kids were growing up while he worked very long hours, and now it’s his turn. Barry also adds that he likes to eat and cooking allows him to prepare the foods he loves.
He is absolutely right! If I were hosting dinner parties, I’d probably be making the same old dishes I’ve been making for years. I don’t cut recipes out of newspapers and magazines like she does; my dinners would follow the same formula – easy, quick and assembled with as little mess as possible.
Inevitably, I started cooking when I was about 12 years old. Both parents worked in the family grocery store and sometimes my mother came home late. He usually had dinner planned and something in the fridge ready for the stove or oven so he would call me and give me step-by-step instructions on what to do next. When we moved above the store, it was easier for him to run up the stairs and make dinner, but he still left some of the prep to me.
Still, I had a lot to learn. One year, on my mother’s birthday, I decided to make her a cake myself. I started very early when my parents were still sleeping and soon got into trouble. I had all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, but I couldn’t figure out how to put the beaters in the mixer. I know I know. This should have been easy to figure out, but it was my first time using the machine. So I woke up my mom hoping she could give me a simple answer and go back to sleep. Of course he got up and went into the kitchen, gasping audibly when he saw the mess I made.
Years later, when I was in my late teens, my parents went on a trip and left me in charge of making dinners for Suki, the CEO and the butcher who ran the store while they were gone. I really wanted to impress Sukie, who was in her early twenties and very good looking, so I decided to fry the chicken. I worked hard on that meal and when he came upstairs for dinner I proudly put the whole chicken on the plate in front of him. He picked up a fork and knife and had just managed to cut the chicken in half when he started laughing. When I came over to see what was so funny, he reached inside the chicken and pulled out the giblets bag. I had no idea they were there. In fact, I had no idea what they were at the time.
I’m actually a pretty good cook (or so I’ve been told). My specialties are usually party dishes; potato-noodle kugel, chicken soup, brisket, honey cake, sweet potatoes, melted marshmallows on top, filling, carrot cake. I like to make one-dish meals that all go in the same pot with as little cleanup as possible (soups, stews, roasts). I have supplemented the “really easy” meal; fried meat, microwave vegetables, baked potatoes. I love to eat and really appreciate good food, but after years of providing food for my family, I have no problem throwing in the towel – literally!
Barry has been interested in cooking for many years. His medical school friend was from Texas and he taught Barry how to cook Mexican food. His roommate also taught Barry how to make a Margarita, and sometimes the two friends couldn’t make it to the main course. Barry made me enchiladas on one of our earlier dates, and in retrospect I think I must have recognized the potential for the future even then.
While she was still in private practice, I prepared her for the future by giving her the gift of cooking classes, which she loved. A few years later we traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico so she could take a Southwestern cooking class. When we arrived we were told that there were only three people in the class so I could also attend at a reduced price. I politely declined and spent most of the day visiting tourist sites and was always careful to arrive back at the cooking class in time to eat the students’ meals.
Since retiring, Barry has branched out into his culinary adventures. He has amassed quite a collection of cookbooks that he reads for fun. He specializes in ethnic and international dishes such as Indian curries, Thai spices, Spanish dishes such as paella and of course Mexican food. He loves hot and spicy food and sometimes the heat is too much for me. And sometimes the newest dish doesn’t quite pass the taste test. But most of the time, our dinners compete with the food put on the table in the best restaurants. In fact, his dinners have made it difficult to find good restaurants when we eat out.
The biggest problem with Barry’s cooking is that he always enjoys trying something new. That means last night’s scrambled eggplant in garlic sauce, which I loved down to the last piece of eggplant, won’t be making an appearance for years. The good news is that I get to taste something different almost every night.
So every now and then, when he needs a well-deserved day off, I take my turn in the kitchen and prepare the usual from my cooking repertoire: meatloaf, spaghetti, roast or fried chicken. We enjoyed them because it had been a long time since we had them for dinner. And that’s exactly how I’m going to keep it!
PS: Thanks Barry for all the great meals.
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