I am the undisputed cook in my household, but the honest truth is I only do about thirty percent of the cooking. On nights when we have the kids, Guy gets home early and whips up one of the five or six dishes they are willing to eat (chicken, pasta with very little pasta sauce, some variation of the above). We eat our food-as-fuel and then get down to the serious business of bath-giving, homework-assisting, and Pictionary-playing. And on Sunday nights (when we never ever have the kids) Guy fixes us martinis and whips up his Julia Child special: pan-fried steak with garlic-butter-red wine sauce. I sip my martini and keep him company, but never touch a knife or spoon. And then, you know, we get takeout or go to Taqueria at least once a week.
So, um, when exactly do I do any cooking?
Maybe I should lower that percentage a little.
But! When I do cook, it’s as a cook. I invent dishes--sometimes successfully, sometimes…not so successfully. The cooked ceviche was a misstep. But the marinated tilapia topped with the grapefruit-shallot salsa is excellent! I look at a recipe and take from it what I will—to Guy’s constant dismay.
“Doesn’t that say coriander? Do we have coriander?”
“No, but I don’t really like coriander. I’m using turmeric instead. It’s good for you, and it’s such a cheery color.”
“But aren’t the flavors totally different? Nigella wrote this recipe and tested it carefully, it’s supposed to be with coriander! It’s right there on the printed page!”
Shrug. “I love Nigella, but turmeric will be fine. Trust me.”
And the couscous was delicious. Is. We have it every few weeks. I still haven’t purchased any coriander.
On the other hand, Guy never sits and knits while I do all the cooking—I put him to work. I’ll be stirring and tasting and fiddling, and he’ll be chopping or grating or whatever I tell him to do.
And like the prep cook extraordinaire that he is, he’s very proprietary. This weekend was so bitterly cold, I decided our arteries could probably withstand a little risotto. I set Guy to work chopping shallots and celery, but he paused halfway through to do some dishes. There wasn’t much I could do until the shallots and celery were cooked down, so I started chopping.
“What are you doing? I’ll be right there, let me just dry this knife.”
“I’m just chopping some celery.”
Guy stared at my handiwork, aghast.
“Didn’t you say they were supposed to be finely chopped? What do you call that?”
“Well, I was just doing some preliminary chopping, and then I’ll chop them all down smaller.”
I demonstrated, and the overloaded cutting board sent celery flying across the counter.
“I would have chopped a little at a time. This is impossible. You’re just going to have to live with coarsely chopped celery now.”
I bowed my head in shame, lowered the heat in the sauce pan, and began stirring the overly-large celery chunks in with the shallots and butter.
“Huh,” I said, craning my head at the recipe. “Jamie Oliver says we should add 4 ounces of pecorino and four ounces of parmesan. Plus the goat cheese. That’s a lot of cheese. Don’t bother grating the parmesan—just go with the pecorino.”
“But he says both—and you love cheese. Can there ever be too much cheese?”
My embarrassment over my poor chopping technique, coupled with my great love for cheese, was too much. I caved. The risotto had pecorino and parmesan and goat cheese. It was freaking cheesy.
Too cheesy. It was very rich and not particularly flavorful, as all that cheese overwhelmed any subtlety the dish might otherwise have had. My anti-recipe instincts were correct.
Who’s the cook now?