We don’t use the word “old” in my family. I will not share how long Luke and I have been married because you would then consider me very not cool. Not that I have ever been “cool,” mind you, but a “person of a certain age” sounds ridiculous. Mature is pretentious. I like “seasoned,“ but the visual image pretty much refers to meat or vegetables and I am not going there folks. Meat has too many implications and vegetable is an awful term for those living in locked residences.
Learning to Cook
Back to seasonings as cooking tools and the art of helping someone learn to stand over a hot stove making supper slowly become edible.
First, the student (in this case my husband) has to want to learn. For many this never happens. They are surrounded by others willing to cook. In most cases that is the unpaid household laborer known as the wife.
For others there is a lack of appreciation if not disdain for the taste of food. Food is fuel yada-yada. Many children go through periods of hearing eat your vegetables. They pitch their mini fits and wind up wearing their caregivers down. They being to believe fast food can’t be that bad, can it?
Here is where I say “but I digress” Which I did.
Luke had a mother very skilled in Southern-style cooking. He endured eating college food and then Navy food. Finally, he married a woman (me) who never really cooked because I also was blessed with a grandmother and mother who shooshed me out of the kitchen – I was in their way.
As a newlywed I decided to cook a different dish every night he was ashore. The experiments were stories unto themselves. For example the beef roast that was injected with red wine to point of spewing like a fountain when touched and alas, tasted pickled when roasted.
I persevered. Because of taste memory of the foods I grew up with, and cultivating a taste for foods I had never eaten, but learned to (oysters are an acquired taste), I think I am an accomplished cook.
Our Cooking Agreement
After many, many years and thousands and thousands of meals, I reached an agreement with him. If he wanted fresh vegetables like mama used to make, his job would be to purchase them, wash them, and slice them prior to my cooking them. Consequently he does a pretty mean southern-style yellow squash. And when I open the refrigerator and see bowls of cut vegetables, I am more than happy to prepare them and gradually have help which equates to teaching culinary art.
Luke, like many men, has been the keeper of the grill. He has a family recipe for a vinegar pepper-based chicken wings that are very good. He makes a wonderful chili with peanuts. These would frequently be served as a main dish for family gatherings.
I lost my cool when my kids would say something to the effect that dad does the cooking. No, Dad does not do the cooking. Fortunately he has not stood on a pedestal and taken bows for his efforts. (If he did he would find himself doing on the job cooking or ordering takeout) But the perception remains.
Taking Cooking for Granted
Back to cooking. Those of us who have been cooking all our lives take for granted the fact that those who do not rarely even know the first step. We know you really don’t need to add grease to a frying pan to cook a hamburger successfully. Hamburger meat generally has its own fat and doesn’t need a lot of help.
Like many other foods we cook, it needs a watchful eye. You have to learn food is finicky and needs to be stirred, flipped, tasted for seasoning, cooked quickly or slowly. Recipe terms need to be understood: Roasting, braising, sautéing, simmering.
Sophisticating your taste buds comes with eating things that are properly cooked. When the level of sophistication only reaches that of opening a can, dumping it into a sauce pan, and cooking it on high for 10 minutes, it is often difficult for the consumer of such food to understand quality. I have to admit I never understood the value of wonderful vegetables until I met and married my southern husband who grew up on a farm and never ate vegetables from a can. Vegetables were never really part of my eastern European food background except for potatoes. Goulash soups and roasts with potatoes and dishes using cabbage
were my drugs of choice!
Gradually Luke is learning his way around the kitchen and hopefully will someday actually google a recipe and surprise me. On Fathers Day. Ha!