Since we have known each other my wife, Susan, has allowed me to do the majority of the cooking at our house.
It's simple why. I like to cook, while she didn't have much of a background in cooking as she was growing up.
She has often said that she didn't know that you could make mashed potatoes from potatoes until she was in her teens. She thought they came from a box.
In the past few years, her cooking has improved. There's still a bump in the road now and then, like the birthday cake she made for me using sesame oil instead of cooking oil. Then, there was the time she was making mac and cheese from a box. We were out of milk, so she used creamer.
Peppermint mocha creamer.
But overall, it's like night and day.
Years ago, she was watching television and saw a recipe for leek soup. To surprise me, she ran out to buy the ingredients and started to make it. Once she started, the recipe got complicated. In other words, it had more than two steps. So, she just tossed everything in the pot and cooked it.
We started to eat it, and after a few spoonfuls, even she had to stop.
That's nowhere near what one relative did. She was going to make an apple pie. The recipe called for “1 cup S.” She decided that was salt, not sugar. Instant high blood pressure.
I started cooking when I was 15. My folks would take off for a month in the summer, and they'd leave me with frozen dinners. I got tired of those and began using my mom’s 1948 Betty Crocker cookbook. I don't use those recipes anymore. It's hard to find lard.
I used to ask my mom how to make something. Susan really loved a salad that had a special dressing, so I asked mom how to make the dressing.
“Well, you take equal amounts of mayonnaise and sour cream.”
“A good amount. Then, you put in a dollop of dijon mustard.”
“A big spoonful. Then you add cider vinegar.”
“Not too much, but enough. Then, you add sugar.”
“Enough so that it tastes right.”
No problem. Believe it or not, I've got it down pat.
Today, my family likes most of my cooking. I enjoy experimenting. I've come up with my own recipes for pizza, fried rice and other things.
But not all have been successful. When Susan and I first started dating, I wanted to impress her. I had the day off while she was working, and I was going to make a shepherd's pie, the Irish dish. I found a recipe in one of her cookbooks and got the ingredients.
I needed ground beef, carrots, cooking spray and a bunch of other things. A quick scan of her pantry allowed me to make my shopping list.
First, I browned the beef and added various items to it. I quickly found her cooking spray and prepped the little containers. I made mashed potatoes – from potatoes.
They were in the oven when she came to her apartment. We sat down to eat.
They were horrible. The shepherd's pie tasted like a shepherd's soap dish. She was very nice, but we just couldn't eat them. So we went out to eat, and then off to the grocery.
While we were in the grocery, I said, “We need to get some Pam. I had to use Baker's Joy on the shepherd's pie.”
Her: “What's Baker's Joy?”
Me: “That stuff in your pantry.”
Her: “I don't know what you're talking about.”
We got our groceries and went to her apartment. To show her, I pulled out her can of Baker's Joy, and there in clear lettering: Potpourri Air Freshener.
Me: “What is that doing in your pantry?”
Her: “Well, I have light bulbs in there too. You didn't use those for eggs, did you?”
We survived. In fact, we celebrated 32 years of married bliss last Thursday.
Brian Love is a freelance writer in Cleveland.