Sunday, August 2, 2009

Kitchen Confidential

The Matron is married to a very good cook.

Notice how the Matron does not comment on her own kitchen acumen. This omission is intentional and, instructive.

When the Matron was a Youngish Miss and she first met her beloved, he invited her over to his house for dinner.

Youngish Miss: "Meatloaf? Are you kidding?"

John: "Gourmet meatloaf --with seared asparagus in a curry lime sauce and small beets, rolled in feta and then wrapped in steamed kale."

Youngish Miss: "What's kale?"

And so over the years, the Matron has feasted at her husband's hand. Life and its many demands, however, mean that frequently the Matron is the one forced to feed the family.

Matron: "Kids? Do you want some special breakfast?"

Scarlett: "Is Daddy here?"

Matron: "Pancakes?"

Stryker: "Where's Dad?"

Matron: "I'll make pancakes?"

Merrick: "I'll go get Daddy."

Then there was the time she decided to bake cookies.

Matron: "Let's make chocolate chip cookies!"

Small contemplative silence in the room.

Scarlett: "Mom, can we ask Jennifer to make them?"

Jennifer would be the Matron's next door neighbor-and a very good baker. Let her pause her and note: while hyperbole and the Matron are not strangers, that actual 'can Jennifer bake them' interaction honest to God-Buddha-Oprah-Allah-Universe took place not only with Scarlett but with Merrick and Stryker as well. This should tell you something about the Matron and her oven.

Moving onto popcorn. This would be Scarlett's favorite food. In fact, it constitutes 90% of her current diet, popped in oil on the stovetop and topped with butter and parmesan cheese. Scarlett has been known to call from the various backstages of her shows to insure that a big bowl of popcorn will be waiting for her on the kitchen table.

Matron: "Scarlett, do you want some popcorn?"

Scarlett: "Who's making it?"

Matron: "Me!"

Scarlett: "Do you have to?"

Matron: "Daddy's not home."

Scarlett: "Well then, no thank you."

So the Matron understands that she is not a particularly good cook. Indeed, this understanding is reinforced by her family at every turn and, unfortunately, but her various culinary endeavors. You cannot argue with the burnt black bricks of banana bread, raw-in-the-middle burger, crunchy pasta and rubbery halibut. She has several dishes she does well (not involving the oven) but every type of cooking involving timing and heat completely escapes her.

In case you haven't noticed, much cooking involves that tricky combination of timing and heat--especially in the northland where winter means you might actually die without steaming hot food to balance your body temperature.

Despite this knowledge--despite the Matron's fierce and brave ability to look at one's self and say: wow you suck--despite this, she cannot tolerate the following.

Here is the Matron, cooking dinner. There are pots of pasta on the stove and some green beans sauteing, there might even be a little bit of meat in the oven. It is a pleasant calm domestic scene. Mom is making dinner! What could be more reassuring?

Here is John, walking in the front door.

With a look of complete and startled (even though he has performed this triage every single time he has entered the Matronly-controlled kitchen in the past 18 years) alarm he rushes into the kitchen, turns down the heat on every pot (stirs) and opens the oven to check the meat--practically elbowing his wife (hey, wait! this is the lovely and much adored Matron!!) out of his way.

He wrestles the pan from her to flip the beans.

Thus the Conquering Hero leaves the room. Wait a minute--is that a steed he's riding? Wearing a cape?

This interaction--and its absolute unwavering predictability--triggers a toddler-like counter attack from the Matron (who is equally predictable in her own reaction). The instant he's gone, the Matron IMMEDIATELY turns the flames back to their original setting and undoes anything else she can think of.

Because SHE is cooking this meal and completely willing to sacrifice quality for control. Indeed, determined to sacrifice quality for control. Eighteen years and she can't let go of that spoon. . . . .


jean said...

I think you are my twin. I just didn't marry a cook, so I've become apt at take out. I can speed dial any restaurant in the tri-state area.

TexasDeb said...

My least favorite question in the universe is "what's for dinner?" because what that really means is 'Is dinner negotiable?". And it most certainly is not.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Although I am a reasonably decent cook, I admit to having emotionally traumatized my children due to a few too many kitchen pyrotechnics of my own.

Daisy said...

Iron Chef Daddymoto gets credit for being the fantastic cook inthe family. Kids forget that he cooks on weekends, when there's plenty of prep time. I cook after a full day of teaching.

Heather said...

I can relate about the control. My husband monkeys with the radio and the temp in the car and I have to switch it right back too. (if we're in my car)

Becky Brown said...

I would totally do that, too. It's just an honest reaction.

Mary Alice said...

See, the problem is that your kitchen is large enough to actually allow two people in at the same time. Get yourself a one butt kitchen like I have and whoever has jammed their butt in it has full control.

Beth Cotell said...

Doesn't your husband understand that women belong in the kitchen? He should be out mowing the grass!

blognut said...

Are we married to the same man? Does he flit back and forth between our two houses creating culinary delights and leaving us to clean up behind him?

MJ said...

How I wish my dh would be a great cook. He's proud of himself if he doesn't forget the meat in the bbq before it is charcoaled and completely unrecognizable.

Rima said...

It's like that at our house, too, although these days P-Dawg rarely has time to cook. The other day I was monitoring a pan of spaghetti sauce when the P-Dawg walked over, took the spoon from my hands, and began stirring it in my place. I mean, Come ON, man!!!! I can stir a pot of spaghetti sauce.

Anonymous said...

Oh I'd hand over spoon and apron and gladly wash up for any man willing to cook for me. But I'm weak like that.

matronslittlebrother said...

We just weren't raised to be able to cook meals. Writing, thinking, analyzing - yes. Cooking, no.