The Dinner Disaster
In response to an interview question regarding her simple cooking style, Ina Garten (my personal cooking guru – you will never, ever go wrong using one of her recipes) shared some marriage advice that she saw in a bridal magazine when she was first married. The article explained that if a wife were to spend all day preparing a meal for her husband, he couldn’t possibly appreciate it enough. Ina added that it would not be the fault of the husband, but of the wife. Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way…
I had cooked for Mr. B throughout our courtship. After we got married I thought I needed to up my game in the cooking department. I was a WIFE now and in order to be a good one there must be some new, elaborate level of cooking to be done, right? Wifely Cooking – not just girlfriend or fiancé cooking. I decided that was the level I now needed to operate on.
So, early on in our marriage I set out to make braciola. Braciola is an Italian-American dish that involves a large, thin piece of beef rolled around a stuffing consisting of sautéed onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, and fresh herbs, which is then braised in a tomato and wine sauce. he result is a very tender, flavorful dish that also looks beautiful when sliced and served. Or so I had heard.
I was giddy with anticipation at the prospect of Mr. B coming home and being blown away by the meal and my new wifely cooking skills. I have always been a decent cook, thanks to an Italian mother and grandmother, but this would be on a whole new level: the wifely level. Mr. B would swoon at first bite and declare his decision to marry me the best one any man had ever made. Instead, it went something like this…
The Moment of Truth
We sat down for dinner and I took my first bite. In an instant I knew the meal was a disaster. The meat was tough and dry and all of the flavor had cooked off hours before. I was so disappointed. I had spent six hours in the kitchen that day making what was supposed to be the pinnacle of all wifely meals. Maybe he wouldn’t notice. Panic set in. And off I went. I started firing questions at him – What do you think? Do you like it? Is it too dry? – as if he was eating a different meal than mine and his would be delicious. He told me it was good (he may as well have said fine), agreed it was a bit dry, but overall very nice and thanked me for making it for him. Well, that just set me off. Didn’t he realize I had spent all day preparing this meal and it was not supposed to taste like this? Didn’t he know that he was supposed to be jumping up and down with enthusiasm, declaring it the best meal ever and me the queen of domesticity? The poor guy couldn’t win. And neither could I.
Find Your Sweet Spot
No one wants to have to spend all day in the kitchen in order to turn out a good meal (or a bad one). Instead, every home chef wants to find her sweet spot: that perfect balance of time, effort, and skill that results in a delicious meal for her family and a happy – not haggard – cook.
In this series we will talk about where to invest time in the kitchen, where it is okay to take short cuts, and how to organize it all (both the time and the resources) to make the kitchen and dinner table the kind of place it should be – a relaxing, comforting, and nourishing one.