Friday, October 14, 2011

Cooking as a Couple - Part One

We've been asked several times how exactly we cook so much together or what it looks like when we are both busy in the kitchen. We've thought about doing a kitchen cam, but it is kinda crazy so I'll try to break down a typical couple cooking experience for you.

1. Someone has to be the (wo)man with the plan. In our kitchen, I am usually the one with the ideas. I spend more time cooking up ideas in my head long before I step foot near the stove. I also buy most of the cookbooks/search most of the blogs, but Rob likes to browse YouTube for specific dishes (usually Indian). One person needs to have the vision and the other needs to be happy to run with it. It is okay for the sidekick to comment or suggest, but this leads me to the other key point of cooking as a couple...
2. TRUST! Yes, trust, the key to any relationship, but it is never more evident for us than in the kitchen. We have a lot of trust after 15+ years of being together, but sometimes not so much in the kitchen and lack of trust always bites Rob in the buttum.*
*Couple months ago, Rob comes down from his office ready to reconnect with the family. Cooking together is a great way to catch up on each others' day, discuss what the rest of our week looks like, etc. If the kids are busy, it can also be some great alone adult time (get your mind out of the gutter). So, I was preparing Pad Thai. He doesn't want to just sit and watch me cook so I ask him to chop up some veggies while I prepare the sauce. He loves to be nosy and doesn't feel comfortable winging things himself. He saw me adding almond butter and a couple extras the go-to pad thai sauce from 1,000 Vegan Recipes doesn't call for. He started to get fussy, but in the end he had to eat his words. It was great and now I wish I'd paid more attention to the ingredients I threw in. The point is that even after all these years he has a little trouble trusting me in the kitchen. Now when he starts to say something, I mention, "Remember the Pad Thai..." and he instantly closes his mouth.

Another example, I usually cook a mean baked tofu. My baked tofu is one of those things that people just can't stop eating until it is gone. I don't measure anything or go by a timer, but it usually turns out very good and sometimes turns out awesome. Rob doesn't mess with baking tofu because I have it down. We were busy one weekend with a yard sale (something Rob really doesn't mess with) and Rob asked me to show him how to make baked tofu so he could make our favorite lunch. I showed him quickly with one batch and he made the second. I knew instantly as it came out of the oven that he'd used too much blackstrap molasses, the tofu was too dark. I didn't even try it before making my judgment...I should have, it was really good. Trust goes both ways.

3. Share. Sounds easy doesn't it? We learn to share pretty much as soon as we can grab, or at least we learn one-sided "sharing" (okay, we could call it taking). Then we spend the rest of our lives figuring out what the right balance of sharing vs. taking vs. keeping vs. letting go is for us. Sometimes I think it can be hardest for mothers, we are supposed to be the givers so we don't share as much as give and give and give, until we have nothing left if we aren't careful. What does this have to do with cooking? Share the tasks in the kitchen, but without keeping score. True sharing is not about tit for tat, but about wanting to give and receiving without guilt. The food needs to be purchased or grown/tended/picked from the garden, meals need to be prepared, dishes need to be cleaned, floors mopped, counters free of crumbs, the kitchenware put in its place, etc. I grew up watching my mom cook everything and my dad would usually do the dishes (no dishwasher). This was equality for their generation, but this model doesn't work well for Rob and me. My dad never learned to cook anything so nine years after my mom's death he is still pretty lost in the kitchen. We never wanted to model "women do the cooking and if the men are nice they might do some dishes" for our kids. It is still a work in progress, but the Rob and I feel equally at home in the kitchen (we have our specialities and I do the majority of the cooking since I don't have a paying job and am more available throughout the day, but Rob does a fair amount of cooking on his own or assisting). We both do shopping, gardening (if you can call our weed patch with a few herbs and tomatoes a garden this year), cleaning up, and putting things away. Some nights I do it all, some nights he does it all, sometimes whoever has a free hand does what needs to be done. It helps to communicate expectations. Rob is a morning person and is burnt out in the evenings so he didn't immediately understand my need to have the kitchen/dining room clean before going to bed. I find it really hard to start my day if there are still dishes in the sink or crumbs on the floor from the night before. Once he understood my point of view, we discussed what needed to be done (cleaning the kitchen to Rob used to just mean dishes were clean...nothing else), and we both let go of some things. We shared our expectations and found some middle ground for some things, thus allowing us to share the tasks in a way that (most of the time) doesn't lead to anyone feeling taken advantage of and no one feels over-loaded.

We'll be back tomorrow with some more cooking as a couple and cooking as a family tips.

1 comment:

Fanny said...

Cool! I enjoyed reading this a lot. IN my relationship, I do most of the cooking, and my bf do the dishes. It would be fun to cook together more!