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Who’s Cooking Tonight?
My husband (Barry) cooks dinner most of the time now. When someone asks about my cooking, I always tell them that I have burnout in the kitchen. He explains that I provided dinner for most of the years our children were growing up when I worked long hours and now it is his turn. Barry also adds that he likes to eat and cooking allows him to make the dishes he likes.
It is absolutely right here! If I were catering dinners, I’d probably be making the same old dishes I’ve been making for years. He would not cut recipes out of the newspaper and magazines like he did; my dinners will follow the same pattern – easy, quick and put together with a minimum of mess.
Out of necessity, I started cooking when I was about twelve years old. Both parents worked in the family shop and sometimes my mother was late coming home. He usually had dinner planned and something in the fridge ready to go on the stove or in the 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 her to climb the stairs and prepare dinner, but she still left some of the preparation to me.
Still, I had a lot to learn. One year, on my mother’s birthday, I decided to make her cake. I started very early, while my parents were still sleeping and soon got into trouble. I had all the ingredients in the mixing bowl, but I couldn’t figure out how to put the beaters in the mixer. I know, I know. This should be easy to figure out, but it was my first time using the machine. So I woke up my mother with the hope that she could give a simple answer and go back to sleep. Of course, he got up and went into the kitchen, audibly freaking out 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 providing dinner for Sukie, the general manager, and the butcher who ran the store in their absence. I really wanted to impress Sukie who was in her mid-twenties and very handsome, so I decided to roast a chicken. I worked hard on that meal and when he came upstairs for dinner, I proudly placed the whole chicken on a plate in front of him. He took the fork and knife and had just managed to cut the chicken in half when he started laughing. When I came to see what was so funny, he reached into the chicken and pulled out the bag of giblets. I had no idea they were there. In fact, at that time I had no idea what they were.
Actually, I’m a good cook (or so I’m told). My specialties tend to be holiday dishes; Potato kugel and tagliatelle, chicken soup, breast, honey cake, sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows on top, stuffing, tsimmes carrots. I like to make unique meals that are all put in the same pot and have a minimum of cleaning (soups, stews, roasts). I perfected the “really easy” meal; grilled meat, microwave vegetables, baked potatoes. I love to eat and really appreciate good food, but after years of providing my family with food, I have no problem throwing in the towel – literally!
Barry has been interested in cooking for many years. His medical school classmate was from Texas and taught Barry how to make Mexican dishes. His roommate also taught Barry how to make Margaritas and sometimes the two friends never made it to the main course. Barry made enchiladas for me on one of our first dates and in retrospect I believe he must have recognized the future possibilities even then.
When he was still in private practice, I prepared him for the future by giving him the gift of cooking lessons that he loved. A few years later, we traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend a class on Southwestern cooking. When we arrived, we were told that there were only three people in the class, so we could still attend at a reduced rate. I politely declined and spent most of each day visiting tourist sites, always careful to get to cooking class in time to eat the students’ meals.
In his retirement years, Barry branched out into his cooking adventures. He has amassed quite a large collection of cookbooks that he reads for pleasure. It specializes in ethnic and international foods such as Indian curries, Thai spices, Spanish dishes such as Paella, and of course, Mexican food. He likes hot and spicy dishes and sometimes the heat is too much for me. And occasionally, the newest dish doesn’t make the taste test. But most of the time, our dinners rival the food placed on the table in the best restaurants. In fact, their meals have made it harder to find good restaurants when we eat out.
The biggest problem with Barry’s cooking is that he always likes to try something new. This means that the fried eggplant in garlic sauce that we had last night and that I loved to the last piece of eggplant will not make another appearance for years. The good news is that I get to taste something different almost every night.
So, every so often, when he needs a well-deserved night, I take my turn in the kitchen and produce the usual from my cooking repertoire: meatloaf, spaghetti, roast chicken or broiled chicken. We like them because it’s been a long time since we had them for dinner. And this is exactly the way I intend to keep it!
PS: Thanks Barry for all the wonderful meals.
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