Thursday, November 13, 2003


I've loved to cook for as long as I can remember. My mom taught me the basics of cooking when I was very young -- I could make hamburgers, cookies, and cakes before I started kindergarten. By the time I was a teenager, I could easily outdo my mom (who was a pretty decent cook herself).

Then I married Mikey, and found myself cooking on a daily basis. This wasn't so great, because Mikey was one picky sonofabitch. No vegetables, no visible pieces of onion...

For the first couple of months I was married, I treated him to gourmet European food every day. He bitched a lot about various things, especially the fact that much of the food I make is rather rich (and therefore not low calorie). He was decidedly unappreciative of my efforts, which pissed me off quite a lot.

In fact, he told me he didn't really like eating much, and as far as he was concerned, he could live on scrambled eggs and sandwiches and be perfectly happy. Maybe you're thinking "sandwiches are good!" -- I'm sure Steve is. But I'll clarify -- Mikey's idea of "sandwich" was Wonderbread, cheapo chopped ham, and generic imitation mayo.

One day, I spent over three hours making a very special meal for him, which was to be his first experience with Russian cuisine. I made chicken Kiev, fresh from-scratch black rye bread, and kasha with wild mushrooms. Dessert, too, although I don't recall what it was. (I'm not enormously fond of sweets, so I tend to forget these things).

Mikey was supposed to be home at 6:00pm. I'd spent from 9:00 until 3:00 scrubbing the house, then 3:00 to 6:00 cooking, or thereabouts. At 6:00, the chicken was done perfectly -- I tested an extra piece to be sure, and the herb butter sprayed out like a geyser when I stabbed it with a fork. It was beautiful.

6:00 went by.. then 7:00.. then 8:00.. and finally, a little after 9:00pm, Mikey walked in the door, his hair still damp from showering. Oh, I knew where he'd been... suspected, anyway, but getting a confession out of him was literally impossible. Unless confronted with unmistakable evidence, in which case he'd swear his "other personality" did it.

That's another story, though.

Anyway, I cooked this elaborate Russian meal for Mikey, being careful to avoid any foods he wouldn't like (ie, nothing with cabbage, which certainly limits one's choices!). And he showed up three hours late, without calling me, and looking an awful lot like he'd just gotten himself a piece of ass.

Hmm. Chicken Kiev, for those who aren't familiar with it, must be served immediately, because if you wait more than half an hour or so, the butter leaks out and it's just not right. It's supposed to squirt out of the top when you cut into it.

So yeah, three hours late without calling, most likely been fucking around on me, and to add insult to injury, he's not hungry.

His excuse for being late was that he was arguing with some people about his paycheck. He was working at Radio Shack at the time. From what I could tell, there was nothing wrong with his check. And if that was the case, why couldn't he call me?

I asked, but he immediately redirected it at me. "You're so suspicious, blah blah". Actually, I wasn't suspicious until he came home with damp hair reeking of floral-scented shampoo. I was *worried*. I thought he might have been in an accident or something.

But since this was Mikey, who was an unrepentant liar, I didn't have many options except to just say, "Well, okay, I'd appreciate it if you called next time." At the time, I explained it away, thinking perhaps he'd got drunk or something and took a shower to sober up...

I wasn't yet aware that Mikey was a cheating sonofabitch.

Anyway, that was the last time I cooked him anything truly nice. From then on out, it was frozen foods and Rice-a-Roni.

My brother is a bitch to cook for as well, although I did it sometimes. Probably too often, truth be told. He hates mushrooms, and pieces of tomato. Mushrooms, according to him, taste like athlete's foot, and pieces of tomato "are like biting down on a mouse's brain".

Still, my brother isn't too bad, because aside from those little things, he's not so picky and generally manages a compliment towards the food. He also loves my untraditional fettucine alfredo, which is nice.

Anyway, after all that, I added a few requirements to my list of qualities a man must have before I'll get involved with him.

1 - He must enjoy European food, especially Italian.
2 - He can't bitch about the calorie content of food I cook, even if it involves rich cream sauces or a lot of cheese. This means I don't have much interest in thin guys.
3 - He can't be excessively picky.

Steve fits into this nicely, because he's a great fan of Italian food, and food in general. He's also not precisely what I would call thin -- I say he has a pretty average build, he says he's fat. Whatever. He likes to eat, though, which makes me happy, because my cooking skills would be wasted on someone who doesn't.

Also, since the Mikey debacle, and watching the interaction between my brother and his wife for over a year, I started placing serious restrictions on my cooking.

I think this is essential when one person in the household has a certain skill that the others lack, and want to take advantage of. I learned the hard way, that people, in general, will exploit you if they can... and the more exceptional your talent is in a particular area, the more they'll exploit you.

Listen up, ladies -- this applies to blowjobs as well.

Steve isn't really the exploiting type, however. On the other hand, he can be remarkably lazy, and the rules I set forth regarding my cooking serve a couple of purposes. For one, they make me feel better, because I know I'm protected from possible exploitation. For another, they're nice for both of us, because he knows exactly what I am willing and not willing to do.

Boundaries are your friend, and I think when it comes to specific talents, it's even more important.

I like to cook. In fact, I absolutely love to cook -- it's the process of creation, I think, and creativity. I write my own recipes, or look to other recipes for inspiration, but rarely do I follow a specific recipe or actually measure anything. Measuring cups are for wusses!

Unless you're making bread, or really anything that's leavened. Then I fully support the use of measuring cups and spoons, because I use them myself for this purpose.

Actually, I'm kidding -- while it's true I generally don't measure, most people should. Not everyone can "eyeball it".

But I digress (again). Back to the subject at hand...

The main reason I like cooking, I think, is because I'm very, very good at it. Cooking for new people is especially good -- it's fun to be impressive. It is, perhaps, the only thing I'm really good at. Give me a sack full of random ingredients, and I'll have a gourmet meal ready in an hour or two.

Until recently, I'd been on strike from cooking for a while. This is because Steve got really lazy about keeping the kitchen clean, and I refuse to cook in a dirty kitchen. It took a while to get him convinced that "clean the kitchen" doesn't mean "wash the specific dishes I will be using to make dinner".

Seriously. I'd ask him to clean the kitchen, and he'd ask which pots and pans I needed. Then he'd sorta wash those exact ones, and I'd go to cook... only to discover I'd forgotten to tell him I needed a spatula. Then I'd finish making dinner and there would be no clean plates or silverware. And the countertops would be filthy, which sucks because I use them for everything from chopping vegetables to kneading bread.

So the first rule on the list was that the kitchen needs to be completely clean by 5pm every day. Now, the kitchen was a disaster zone when I was making the rules, so I cleaned it myself over my weekend (Mon/Tues)... I figured as bad as it was, it'd be hard to get Steve motivated to clean up the mess.

I'm not a terribly messy cook... I usually clean as I go, so in the end, there's just a few pots & pans to wash, plus the dishes we ate out of, and wiping down the countertops. It's about 15 minutes worth of work a day. And setting a deadline for the kitchen cleaning makes it a bit easier, I think.

I eliminated a previous rule I had, which was that Steve should hang out in the kitchen and help me while I'm cooking. It was a nice idea, and he wanted to do it, but it just doesn't work out well. This is because I'm generally so involved in what I'm doing that I have a hard time paying any attention to him. I'm also a perfectionist when it comes to cooking, so I'd be watching over his shoulder to make sure the onions were chopped exactly right.

He never said so, but I'm sure it bugged him.

So now, he gets to sit on his butt and play on the computer while I cook dinner. I actually don't mind this, except in certain circumstances, which are covered by other rules on the list.

I also refuse to cook things that I won't eat, unless it's a pretty rare thing, and in these cases, I expect Steve to help out with it. I've also set certain limits on requests, because I've been through the whole "you're making me this, this, and this" too much. Not from Steve, though, he's always been considerate about that.

So, we started off on the new cooking setup this week. I cook six days a week, provided the kitchen is clean by 5:00. And when I say "cook", we're talking about full-blown gourmet dinners. Yay.

I'm happy now -- my fridge is stocked with fresh vegetables, herbs, blocks of cheeses (fontina, pecorino romano, parmesan, gruyere, mozarella, gorgonzola...) and some lovely cuts of meat. I've got meal plans for the week... today we had Glazed Topside with Mushrooms, and Penne Arrabiata, made from entirely fresh ingredients... mmm.

Tomorrow -- skewers of marinated chicken breast chunks, hot italian sausage, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms, along with miniature pizzas (Pizzette Semplici). All from scratch, of course... well... I admit I don't make my own sausage (normally). I'm not fucking Martha Stewart.

On an unrelated note, there's been less and less drama lately... maybe this relationship is finally stabilizing?

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