Or How I learned To Live With Failure
I like to cook. My friends say that I’m good at it. I think I’m good at it. Never missed a Sunday episode of Julia Child on PBS back in the 1970’s. Took cooking lessons from an award winning chef, Benny, in Kochi a couple of years ago. After my grandmother died (she lived with us), my mother went back to work and I was responsible for “finishing” dinner after I got off the bus from school. Which is how I got into cooking in the first place. I was about twelve or thirteen at the time. My mother was not a great cook. Good - yes. Gourmet chef - no. But she could bake her ass off, something I’m not very good at. About six months ago I set out to conquer bread making. Six months later and with a dozen failures under my belt, I’ve just given up. To this day I’ve tried replicating Mom’s bread, apple pies, cakes and shortbread, but it’s hopeless. My brain just doesn’t do baked goods. Is it genetic?
So, when you’ve been with someone for a few years, you get to know their hot buttons, idiosyncrasies and when to “ask” for sex and when not to? Well that’s about the position I’m in now with my partner. I pretty much know when to back off, when I can charge ahead getting what I want and when to just ignore shit. (Like how he can never put the pots and pans back in the cupboard without making a total mess of it or why it is that he can never remember to close the closet doors). In other words, I’ve gotten to know him pretty well.
Our standard dinner prep pattern is to alternate successive nights. We never discussed who was responsible at any given time – we just sort of fell into this routine. He’s an expert at making really great tasting veggie dishes, a talent I greatly appreciate since I tend to put on weight at the sight of a steak or Baby Ruth bar. Me? I’m the master of French roasted chicken and Greek beef stews. In fact, most of what I cook I shouldn’t eat (see prior “weight” reference). Him? He just never gains weight.
The upshot of this whole domestic cooking thing is that over time meal preparation became a contest – who could make the tastiest, prettiest meals each day. I’m not sure exactly when this transformation took place and again, not that either one of us actually set out to be Domestic Top Chef, but like so much of the rest of our lives, it just sort of worked out that way. For about a year now, I’ve been quietly battling to maintain my dominance in this arena as he’s quietly upped the cooking ante week by week. And guess what? He’s better than me. I admit it.
Yup! All my years of collecting colorful, exotic cookbooks, watching “At Home With Julia,” “Baking With Martha,” “Rachel’s Thirty Second Meals Five Nights A Week,” to say nothing of that cute-as-a-bug Jamie Oliver’s “Cooking With Hot, Lispy & Sexy Jamie,” have all come to naught. My careful measurements (he never measures anything) and his less than precise mixing, stirring, and cooking times have defeated me. He’s just better than I am. I put it down to his artistic side (of which I have none) since he approaches cooking with the same “Let’s See What I Can Do With This Gnarled Coffee Can I Picked Up From The Gutter Yesterday” inventive, creative spirit he follows with all his work. Me? I guess my approach would be akin to “follow the instructions to the letter” and it just might turn out pretty darned good.
So, I surrender. I willingly accede my dented chef crown to the man. Not only do his creations taste wonderful, he gets an 11 for presentation, where 10 is the highest score. (I fall somewhere between a 6 and 7, if I were to judge myself.) And you know what else? This is typically how it’s gone for the past seven years – I keep acceding pieces of my hard earned, lifetime expertise to his mastery in arena after arena. Well, except for the laundry, house cleaning and organizing the pots and pans cupboard. At least I know how to empty the vacuum cleaner dirt cup and I’m just a whiz at cleaning the bathroom shower tiles. I veritably shine in these creative household endeavors so my Domestic Crown remains solidly immune from attack.