Really? The Way To A Man's Heart - Through The Stomach
Unfortunately, you have to get past his gag reflex first.
I need to reveal some truths before getting to the meat (pun intended) of this subject. I really sucked at cooking, baking and even dish washing. I had a highschool friend who prided herself on her domestic skills. She always would remind me of the old adage - "the way to a man's heart was through his stomach". Really? No other way?? I would always reply, "he who does carry out can have my heart."
Please note-my friend, Carol, was not married and lived alone. I, on the other hand, lived at home and was dating rather steadily my future husband. We would be invited for really great dinners at her place. She would also use this time to flirt with Bill, my date. She really did believe she could win a man's heart through the stomach. I was never asked, nor did I ever volunteer to make a dinner for Bill.
I had every opportunity to learn domestic skills. Home Economics was mandatory 7th, 8th, and 9th grade class requirements (for girls only). Classes I never looked forward to and felt this was the systems way of offering vocation training for girls. We were in that era that still believed women should be trained for nursing, teaching, office administration, or household engineers. That's how our counselors advised female students. A lot of the girls in my class married right out of highschool. Or, those who went to college were labeled as MRS majors.
My mother was the June Beaver of our home. She was excellent at all the skills necessary to run a household with great efficiency. She was supportive of my ideas of not being pigeonholed into only a select few vocations as well as very understanding of my disinterest in helping around the house. When my father would order us into the kitchen to help, she would allow us to leave by the backdoor to do other things. She always said she enjoyed doing things for us, and things would work better if she didn't have to listen to the moaning. My sister on the other hand did enjoy spending kitchen time with my mother. I did come to envy the relationship they enjoyed as they cooked, baked and canned. My alone time with my mother was spent shopping and talking about books and dancing. She and I danced to some of her favorite LP's. But, I digress.
It's Not Rocket Science or Brain Surgery
The first night in our apartment I tried cooking a meal for us. We had gone to the grocery store together because I knew even less about buying meat. I failed to mention my shopping sprees never included the A&P (grocery store). Although,I knew where the baby food and snack aisles were because when left alone to fend for myself I would eat baby food (only the fruit) and snack foods. Added benefit, no dishes to wash.
No cookbook, but we decided I could do this with instruction. Bill always said, "A person's intelligence is measured by their ability to follow direction." Breaded pork chops, baked potatoes, and a vegetable that's what Bill was going to walk me through. We had purchased prepared shrimp cocktail for an appetizer. After putting the groceries away he started to rearrange the apartment. We had also purchased new curtains and blinds that needed to be hung. My job, prepare my new husband a meal. So, Bill instructed me as follows: "You know to bake the potatoes in the oven; you'll need a skillet to brown the chops and a cookie sheet to finish baking them in the oven; you'll need to dip the chops into beaten eggs with a little milk, flour and bread crumbs; heat oil in the skillet and then add dipped chops, browning on one side then place on the cookie sheet to finish in the oven." The can of peas did not need instructions, I was confident in opening cans. Although, it did take a while to figure out the can opener (it wasn't electric and fitted on top of the can not the side). Breaded pork chops who thought it to be that simple.
So off he went to tackle the windows while I proudly started dinner. About 30- 40 minutes into my preparation of dinner the apartment was a little smokey because the chops were browning on one side but the breading was sticking to the bottom of the skillet. So he had a clue I needed help in the kitchen and was there before I could say "BILL". He didn't laugh or even crack a smile (anyway while in my sight) when he saw what I had done. He apologized for not giving me more detailed instructions (after all he was not about to insult my intelligence). What he didn't specify was three bowls were needed; ONE for the egg mixture, ONE for the flour, and ONE for the breading.
I had to spread the breading on the chops because it was so thick it wasn't dippable (is that even a word), but I didn't ask why, I just kept spreading with a knife and placing them in the extremely hot oil. I had mixed it all together (eggs, milk, flour and breadcrumbs) in one bowl and had a paste that wouldn't stick to the chops. The kitchen was a mess. Grease splattered on the stove, the skillet a burnt mess and meat that wasn't done and now so much smoke the door and windows needed to be opened. He finished cooking the meat (without breading), but it was a little on the tough and dry side from overcooking. I was demoted to peeling the potatoes I had placed in the oven to bake. There was no way they would be done that evening. I had placed them in the dutch oven filled with water in the oven. The water was barely warm. My mother couldn't believe he took the blame and even apologized for the dinner. She was now on his side as she had gotten over all the pre-wedding issues.
My sister began buying me McCall Cookbooks from the grocery store each week after she heard the story of our first dinner in the apartment. She bought a collection of eighteen books. It was a special each week with the purchase of groceries. I still have them. They are now a little worse for wear and a few of the covers are gone, but they do still serve a purpose. I, to this day, still need to follow a recipe when cooking, a WELL WRITTEN, tested recipe.
It's probably a very good thing I had Bill's heart without relying on getting it the round about way of through the stomach. I was not the domestic type and could do more damage in the kitchen than anywhere else. I definitely could make a mess of the kitchen. The kitchen was my nemesis.
That first year of our marriage was a real test for my domestic skills. We would always do the cooking together until I quit my job after Kelly was born. Then he asked if I could please learn to cook a meal by myself since I had more time and cookbooks.
I liked cooking best when we did it together. I liked my life best when we did it together.
Oh, by the way, the shrimp cocktail was delicious and the peas were just right.
Footnote To Carol:
It's really just an old, old adage. The proof lies in pork chops (don't even ask about pudding) and 39 years of marriage.
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