The five most romantic words my husband has ever said to me are: “Get out of my kitchen.” It’s not that I don’t like cooking, really. It’s that I like it less now that he loves it so much.
For the first few years of our marriage, Pete rarely set foot in our kitchen except to pour himself a bowl of cereal or grab some tongs for the grill on our patio. But a few years ago, he took up cooking shortly after he took up marathon-running. Perhaps he was hungry. I dunno.
Nowadays, he cooks elaborate meals on Sunday afternoons, and he’s even taken on Thanksgiving dinner for nine for the past few years. He brings home kitchen tools that I didn’t think we needed (I thought a mandolin was part of the lute family), and he treats the pans he got for Christmas like other men covet their cars: he cleans and buffs them, and he cringes when I touch them.
But I have to. I do most of the weekday cooking, the hurry-up-you-have-Boy-Scouts-tonight meals. So, I don’t have the time (or the interest) to spend 45 minutes chopping parsley or onions; that’s what the Cuisinart is for. Plus, I tend to speed-cook while doing three other things at the same time, all of which seems to concern him greatly.
If Pete comes home from work while I’m cooking, he quickly pulls off his coat and washes his hands, while a distressed look comes over his face, as though I’ve snagged a fiesty marlin while fishing off the back of a speedboat, and I’m in over my head.
“What’s going on here,” he says more than asks, while surveying with great dismay whatever I’ve got going on the stove. It’s sort of like playing tennis when Roger Federer shows up courtside. Suddenly, it’s no longer much fun at all.
So, as I frequently do when I lose whatever cooking mojo I used to have before Mr. Food Network took over the kitchen, I turned to Rachael Ray. Specifically, her recipe for Messy Guiseppes, a tasty Italianization of Sloppy Joes.
I was cooking them Tuesday night when Pete came home. This time, though, he was in a hurry to go running before dinner, so he didn’t pay as much attention (well, worry and dread, really) to what I was doing in “his kitchen.” And that’s a very good thing, because during the course of the 45 minutes it took me to cook this 30-minute meal, I:
- underestimated the amount of fluids one of his precious pans could hold, and had to dump some of the dinner in the sink.
- spilled some of the slippery mess on the floor along the way.
- nearly wiped out in it while holding said overflowing pan.
- answered the phone while mopping up the mess and the garlic skins on the floor and the stove.
- promised to sign my babysitter’s National Honor Society forms within the next 15 minutes.
- realized I hadn’t tested Skype on my new computer before my conference call with a potential new client the next day.
- texted my publicist to see if I could try it with her later.
- had to dash downstairs to my office to test it out before she had to leave for a meeting.
- turned off the stove and moved the pan to a cool burner first.
- tested Skype (success!) and came back upstairs.
- promised to help my son study for his history test.
- signed some of his homework and tests to return to the teacher.
- continued to cook with still too-much liquid in the pan, but didn’t dare to pour any out.
- ate four pieces of mozzerella cheese.
- realized I forgot to soften the butter, so I put in in the microwave and melted it instead of softening it.
- overestimated the amount of basil I needed and underestimated the garlic.
- produced a delicious dinner just in time for my husband to return from running without knowing any of the follies that had gone on while he was outside signing the babysitter’s National Honor Society forms and chatting about running. (Thank God she’s on the track team, thus buying me time.)
So you see, if it weren’t for Rachael Ray, I might stay out of Pete’s kitchen and give up cooking altogether. I might not love it, but I love when he loves what I’ve cooked — no matter what it took to get it on his plate.
Share, share, that’s fair: Got a favorite recipe that will make Mr. Food Network happy?