We Have a Stove?
The women have pulled a coup and men, we haven’t even realized it. I bet most husbands won’t know what hit them until tonight when the ladies are sitting at the table wondering where dinner is. It was a quiet revolution, probably sponsored by overpriced restaurants because they know men would rather purchase a meal out than cook one at home. What am I talking about? I knew you wouldn’t know, unless you’re a wife and then you’re laughing your apron off?
So, allow me to enlighten you. The first Thursday of every November is National Men Make Dinner Day. Now how on earth did this get past congress? Furthermore, don’t they have more important things to pass like raising the speed in school zones than to worry about me cooking one night out of the year? I mean, if they ever had seen me cook they would know what a joke they were pulling. Is the economy really that bad that the restaurants need this boost one day out of the year? Shouldn’t the Husbands Union be fighting stuff like this?
Char, of course didn’t understand my complaints. She never understands my complaints, for the record, and thinks I make too much drama over simple things, like which direction the toilet paper rolls when you pull it. Of course, in this case she grew up with a father who did all the family cooking for the sheer enjoyment of it. I know. I was baffled at the notion as well. Outside of this quirk, however, Rich was a pretty sane and normal man, good husband, hard worker, great father. He just liked to cook. And he could cook. He knew all the right cuts of meat, how to pick produce and even what thyme and oregano were. I was flabbergasted. I also thought how lucky I was because surely a man who could cook like that had taught his daughters how to cook as well.
The wedding was over, the honeymoon short and, after a two month layover at my parents, we were in our own home. I was excited, thrilled even. I had been waiting for Char’s cooking since I had tasted her father’s pot roast.
“What’s for dinner?” I entered the kitchen already drooling even before I knew what was in the oven.
“I don’t know. What are you cooking?”
I turned and stared at my bride. “What do you mean, ‘What am I cooking’? You’re the wife. You do the cooking.” Now, don’t turn all Jane Fonda on me. I was young and grew up believing that the wives cooked. Blame my upbringing. Blame my mom. Dad did breakfast once in awhile and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, but I don’t remember him cooking too much else. He worked all day at construction; Mom worked all day taking care of the house and part of that was cooking.
“Hellooo. My mom was the wife and she didn’t cook. My dad, the husband, did.”
We were going to starve. Neither of us could cook. Luckily, I worked at a pizza place and could bring home the bad orders. I even called a few in just to have food to take home. It wasn’t the best diet but starvation was held off if not malnutrition. Char called her father for cooking lessons and it wasn’t long before we were eating real food again.
I never learned to cook. I do grill, however. That’s how most men cook. Teri said that her father only cooked the big dishes such as goulash or seafood. Men also cook chili – they even have national competitions from what I understand – but other than that, we try to stay out of the kitchen. The grill is our domain. Just give us a flame over charcoal and a pair of tongs and we’re ready to create delicious masterpieces. And charcoal is the way to go, none of this sissy propane stuff. You might as well be cooking inside. Men grill; we don’t cook.
Shopping is also something else the ladies are better at. I go with the girls and watch as they pick vegetables and meat from an over-priced grocer. They’ll grab a melon and squeeze it and all I can think is the last time that I squeezed a melon like that I got slapped.
“What do you think of this piece of meat?”
“It’s red, real red.” They look at cuts and thickness while I look at price tags. “What’s wrong with this meat here? It’s half the price of that one.”
“That’s for pan frying. We want to grill out tonight.”
“Does the meat really know whether it’s on the grill or in the pan?”
“Go squeeze some melons.” My job has been reduced to merely pushing the cart. If I play it right they’ll make me stay in the car.
To be honest, I have done a little cooking, but I am one of those people who has to follow a recipe. I just don’t like too much experimentation when it comes to stuff I plan on putting in my stomach. We own a shelf full of cookbooks covered in dust, so I pulled one out one day and started browsing through it. How it really started was I needed reading material for the bathroom because I had finished my book and nothing else was close by. Sitting on the throne I decided I would start cooking one night a week, Wednesday since it was mid-week and my day off. I’d pick the meal and write out the grocery list. The girls, however, would still do the shopping because one piece of meat looks like another to me. The girls don’t care too much for experimentation, either.
I even had an apron to put on while I cooked. While visiting Disney a couple of years ago, my mom knew that I did quite a bit of grilling, at least three to four times a week, and decided I needed an apron. So, she bought me one that was designed like Mickey’s body. I wear it a lot when I grill and so I decided it would be great to wear while cooking. I even tucked a dish towel in the side strap to wipe my hands on so as not to get the apron dirty. I know, I know. I didn’t understand the function of an apron. I’m a man, sue me.
I also wanted fresh vegetables whenever possible because I’ve seen those cooking shows. Those people grab a green pepper and with ninja skills start chopping away with lightning speed. That just looks cool. I wanted to do that. So, the girls added Band-Aids and gauze to the shopping list.
Besides, growing up I watched my mom sit in the living room watching Barney Miller, snapping the ends off of fresh green beans or pulling husks from corn. It had to be healthier for you, and not the healthy that tastes like pond scum, either. No, this was healthy with taste, fresh and crisp. The colors even seemed more vibrant and less dyed. Sure, they may take longer and who really has the time for all of that fuss. So what if you’re eating dinner at eight during The Big Bang Theory instead of six like normal households. You’ll live longer than them and not be behind in your television viewing.
We’re so used to eating treated foods, we can’t even eat in some countries without bringing our frozen dinners along. When I went on a mission trip to Haiti, we brought our own food because American stomachs are too weak and sensitive to eat the food there. We process, pasteurize and preserve everything that passes our lips. In protecting ourselves, we’ve also weakened our bodies. I say, stop knocking that M & M out of the child’s hand that he just found under the couch. If they make mud pies give them Cool Whip to go with it and a hose to clean up. Their diapers may be gross, but aren’t they anyway? They’ll have stomachs that will survive Third World invasions.
Furthermore, as I was planning these cooking nights, I didn’t want season packets when I cooked. I wanted my own spices to make my own sauces. First, I needed to learn the terms, however.
“Honey, where’s your raincoat?”
I get the strangest looks from the girls whenever I try something new. “Why do you need a raincoat? Did you decide to grill?” Char asked.
“It’s not raining,” Teri said.
“No. The recipe says add paprika.”
They also count to ten a lot. “That’s a spice, dear. A raincoat is a parka.”
“Oh. Interesting.” And I went back to the kitchen.
By now, the girls are worried it’s going to be a McDonald’s night and follow me into the kitchen. “Robbie, why are the pork chops in the lap of that puppet?”
“It said to let them sit there for 30 to 40 minutes.”
“The recipe told you to do that?” They both start reading my cookbook.
“Look for yourself.”
And they did. “Robbie, that says to marinate the meat. Not marionette.” By now, they’re putting their own aprons on. “It means to let it soak in a seasoned sauce, not in the lap of a doll with strings.”
“At least, he didn’t try to make puppets out of the meat.”
Suddenly, I wanted to squeeze some melons.
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