There was a phase in my married life when I could not cook a damn thing. Unfortunately for my husband, that phase lasted for twenty three of our twenty five years of marriage. Sure, I can do the odd stew, I can whip up a decent mushroom omelette but generally, my cooking is not something about which to write home to the mother-in-law (or maybe my husband does and I’d rather not know the contents). When I do cook they just come in three variants—tasteless, salty and really salty.
But my husband will not be denied his dinner and has developed a way to work with that lump of food-looking thing I serve on the table.
My husband has more seasonings than I have items in my repertoire of dishes, to wit; lemon with butter, chili sauce, soy sauce, soy sauce with lemon, soy sauce with chili, fish sauce, fish sauce with lemon, soy sauce with garlic, ketchup and soy sauce, steak sauce, soy sauce with wasabi, vinegar, balsamic vinegar, hoisin sauce, and all sorts of combinations of the aforementioned liquids and semi-liquids. I ought to just ask him what seasoning he’s in the mood for so I can present the appropriate tasteless food to match.
As most things in an enduring marriage, what makes our meals work is loyalty and, when called upon, some imagination. You just need to conjure the image of the person you met all those years ago, in the glow of youth and vivacity and superimpose it over the present vision of your spouse with the additional forty pounds unevenly distributed in the wrong places. I guess that’s the same loyalty and imagination that carries him through meal times, and seasonings help him with this. There is no food on earth that will remain tasteless with generous helpings of soy sauce and lemon, packed as it is with tons of tongue-numbing salt. Seasonings and yes, television. Studies show that men are more visual, and those tv shows and movies showing people pummeling each other to bloody bits are worth the small amounts of brain damage they cause as they seem to hasten my spouse’s ingestion of my cooked fare.
But I am pleased to say that conditions have improved, my friends. Change has come to our household. I have come to understand a little of the science and mathematics of cooking. I would like to say that my steaks are more tender and flavorful now, my fish not raw in the middle, my vegetables not soggy. My children actually exclaim (occasionally), “this is good, Mom” without subtle prompting from me. Also, they can now look me in the eye while doing so. On second thought, my children might have just become better liars. Who knows?
My new challenge is this—my husband has to go on a doctor-ordered diet. When I was looking at the list of things that he shouldn’t eat, it seems most of the things I can cook are not allowed anymore. No more rice, pasta, bread and a lot of proteins. It was a long list. Daunting.
In the corner of the list are the things that he could eat. Beef, some fish, some vegetables. Quinoa which I don’t know how to cook. Rutabaga which I’ve always thought was an animal and not a vegetable. But at the bottom of the list, there it was.