My Day to Cook
for Beth and Manny
Saturday was my day to cook. In many households this would be no big deal, but I am what my wife calls “kitchen challenged,” and Kim does almost all the cooking. The exceptions are when I make the morning coffee and, some days, put the Cheerios on the table.
But Kim told me that all she really wanted for Christmas was “a day,” by which she meant a day when she did not have to plan, prepare and present three meals for her higher-maintenance-than-he-appears husband. She wanted to read, do stuff on her computer, and go out with a friend to take some photographs. Things that are part of my job description.
Three meals? No problem.
For breakfast I decided to serve my beloved wife a four-course meal: juice, cereal, coffee, and toast. Kim had briefly suggested oatmeal but thought better of it when she realized it involved cooking.
Lunch proved more ambitious, though it only involved one course: a fried egg sandwich. I remembered that Kim had told me that we had several frying pans with different surfaces suited to different cooking challenges. Now, I had cooked plenty of fried eggs in my bachelor days, but that was back when I only had my trusty (now rusty) cast iron pan. So I had to guess, and apparently I guessed wrong.
The eggs that I successfully cracked and dropped onto the pebbly surface worked their way down into the network of crevices in a way that made it impossible to slide the spatula under them. So when I attempted to turn them over, the result looked a lot like scrambled eggs that had been pressed by a hot iron. But hey – I’d gone the extra mile in serving the eggs between toast rather than bread. And besides, she would not be able to see the eggs in the sandwich unless she wanted to apply ketchup, which she did. I offered to do the dishes, and I managed to slip the frying pan, with its film of hardened egg white, into the dishwater before Kim could see it.
Outstanding as my breakfast and lunch had been, dinner was even better. On the menu was Chicken Caesar Salad. I had thoughtfully (Kim reminded me) removed the frozen meat from the freezer to thaw in the sink and washed the romaine lettuce. The challenge of the afternoon was to find the recipe for the dressing. After about twenty minutes I found it in the recipe file, in the section labeled “Salad Dressing.” I was proud of myself for knowing the difference between “T” and “t” (Kim reminded me). The only real problem was that I had neglected to check that I had all the ingredients, so I had to make a quick trip to the grocery store.
Sometimes cooking involves mysterious transformations of the food. I learned this when I opened my nearly thawed chicken and discovered that it had transformed itself into nearly thawed pork chops. Undeterred, I sliced it into strips, and dropped it into the frying pan with – just for the hell of it – two slices of bacon. My research on Chicken Caesar Salads had taught me that sometimes rosemary goes with chicken, and I recalled Simon and Garfunkel singing something about “rosemary and thyme,” so I splashed some of each of them on the pork and bacon. This, along with the bacon, was my creative flourish.
I got out the wooden salad bowls and noticed a problem: the bowls were too small to hold a salad-themed meal. I needed reinforcements. Fortunately Kim had baked some cornbread on Friday, so I served up some chunks of it on a nice plate. Still not enough. I found some leftover cranberry relish that Kim had made for Thanksgiving. Would this “go with” my Pork Chop Caesar Salad? Sure, I reasoned. Cranberry relish goes with turkey – duh! – and chicken is a lot like turkey. And chicken was what I had meant to serve in my salad. Works for me.
The finishing touch – a large glass of wine. Served before dinner, just to loosen things up. I was confident in the success of my meal. What were the chances that Kim, emerging from a session of photo-editing, would complain?
It was the perfect crime. One I would attempt to surpass the following Saturday. Unless Kim says she’d rather cook.