“Why do you even love me?”
I asked this question early on in my relationship to the man I would eventually marry.
I was testing out how well he knew me.
It was like a scene in a romantic comedy. He whipped out a big, charming speech. There was probably something about my eyes in there, but I only remember two of his reasons specifically.
- “You make the world sparkle.”
- “You’re a terrible cook.”
I’m a terrible cook? What did that have to do with anything?
I suppose I had known it before he said it–on some unconscious level. But this was the first time it was mentioned aloud. He didn’t even know about my exploding baked potatoes (stab them with forks, people). Or that Christmas fudge I made in high school. It slid from the pan in one mass and didn’t even crack when it hit my mom’s tile floor. Somehow I had produced a pan-shaped brick of burnt sugar.
I thought back to the only meal I had ever “cooked” for this man.
- I heated up pre-grilled turkey bacon and made drop biscuits with low-fat Bisquick. I’ve always thought they were pretty good (if you stuff them with jelly.) More importantly, they require a minimal number of steps to completion.
There had been other cooking moments between us.
- I needed to make cookies for the place where I volunteered. And my son wanted cupcakes for school. He offered to help me on these occasions, and then gently took over.
- He was also aware of the way my beautiful enamel tea kettle had actually melted onto my stove top. There was a weird smell that lasted for days. I didn’t even know how it happened exactly. I boiled some water and then forgot about it?
Or maybe I forgot to put the water in? Not sure.
He laughed about it because I literally could not boil water.
I guess he did know me. And he was trying to tell me that he loved me just as I am.
That was nearly a decade ago. Since then, I’ve managed to get “banned” from doing the grocery shopping for my family.
My husband barred me after I dropped $75 on salad dressing that had a cool label, gourmet macaroons, cans of exotic stuff we would never use, and the wrong kind of milk—the one item I had been dispatched to procure.
One time, early in our marriage, I resolved to cook my best darling, my husband, a fantastic meal.
For Father’s Day. Home-cooked. From “scratch.” All that stuff.
The first step was googling “fantastic meat loaf.” I found one with great reviews that was wrapped in bacon. Then I got ambitious. I will serve it with baked asparagus with a parmesan “glaze.” Then I stepped it up. Twice-baked potatoes with an elaborate filling. (There is nothing “twice” about these babies. There are millions of steps to create them.)
First, I spent well over an hour at the grocery store. I had to ask somebody what scallions were, etcetera. That pushed me behind schedule since I was doing the whole project as a one day affair.
The “cooking” itself struck me as akin to building a car engine once I got down to it. Not to mention the searching out of measuring cups and additional tools. I was going to follow the instructions to a T. And I did. But it took me five hours to build this meal.
I kept having to push back the start time. 6pm. No, 7pm. Sorry, 8:30.
Seriously, how do you cooking people get everything ready at the same time?!
At the last second I threw on some heels, a pencil skirt and a pink apron. I was going all out with this “home-cooked meal” thing.
Guess what? My husband loooooooved it. Ravenously. (And not just because I’d inadvertently starved him.)
I kinda saw the real point of cooking.
Of watching someone you love scarf with relish something that you made. (Not actual relish. Yuck.)
And not like those health muffins I formulated that one time that I could tell he was choking down. Granted, they were in rigor mortis despite being technically fresh..
This meal was perfection. Bravo. But that doesn’t mean I kept cooking it.
Instead, my husband took over the recipe and finessed it. The key was in the sauce. I remember having to simmer spices, Worcestershire, probably ketchup, and a bunch of other stuff over low heat for a while. Then I had to take this kitchen-y “paint brush” thing and slather the loaf with the stewed substance every seven minutes. Very complicated.
Not for my husband though. He is the kind of cook who flavors his hand cut French fries with truffle oil. He makes donuts and potato chips from scratch. His spicy mac and cheese will demolish you. One time my mom asked him for the secret to his pancakes which convey something of the fluffiness of heaven. I was present for this conversation, but I don’t remember his answer. Something to do with milk. Probably?
My mom is a wonderful cook, by the way. As a child, I remember noticing how the men sat around watching television while the women did all the work in my grandmother’s tiny kitchen. I consciously opted to sit around with the men.
And look, I landed a guy anyway!
Just so you know, my kids get a lot of finger foods when I’m in charge. I do up a mean cheese and cracker platter for dinner when my husband is away for work. (Yes, I bought it in the deli section, but they love it! Ok, if I’m perfectly honest, I had my husband pick it up for me since I don’t really enter grocery stores.)
I’m good at things other than cooking—like making the world sparkle. Whatever that means. When I figure it out, I’ll post the recipe.