Over the past few months, I’ve learned that I make Patrick exceptionally nervous when I drive. It has something to do with talking to the other drivers as if they can hear me. And by “talking to,” I really mean “shouting at.”
To keep my husband’s blood pressure down, I typically assume the shotgun seat. With nothing to do but stare out the window, our drives usually consist of me talking and Patrick nodding and occasionally saying “uh huh.”
I frequently hear about how women talk more than men. Some say women talk three times more than men each day. I’ve seen other stats indicating women use 16,000 words compared to a man’s 7,000. Others note that it’s more like 20,000 words for women. Regardless, it’s clear women talk more. And I really didn’t need an in-depth study to tell me that.
Our relationship is no exception. P is a man of fewer words than I. Especially in the car. So, when he pipes up while on the road, I know it’s important.
On a recent drive out to his parent’s house, I had been yammering on for about 30 minutes straight. Work. A pair of shoes I wanted. Something about North Korea. Oh, a Snickers bar sounds good. Did you know there are 2:1 odds on Will and Kate naming their daughter Alexandra?
Then out of the blue…
Patrick: You know, I wouldn’t mind if sometimes you wanted to cook dinner.
Patrick: It would be ok with me if you planned and cooked dinner sometimes.
Patrick: Yeah, that would be kind of nice.
Patrick: It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just food.
Me: Oh, ok. I mean, sure. I could try that.
And, just like that, it was official. The charm of my ineptitude in the kitchen had worn off. I truly thought I’d get more than 8 months out of that one.
When he made his request, I had immediate flashbacks to the other three times I’ve tried to cook meals for P. They usually end with, “This is good, but I’d probably do this…” or “Maybe next time you can add this…” None of the experiences instilled much confidence.
However, I’ve learned sometimes it takes some guts to tell your spouse how you really feel. It’s ironic, isn’t it? They are the person who probably knows you the best and usually already has an idea of what you’re thinking or feeling. But they are also the person whose feelings you want to hurt the least. Not that you go around purposefully trying to hurt other people’s feelings. Unless you’re mean, and then maybe you do. This thinking usually leads to tip-toeing around each other in hopes that either ESP will kick in or your spouse will magically change their behavior without you having to say a word. I’d also like a pony and a few million dollars. Some things just aren’t gonna happen, folks.
Knowing that P doesn’t usually ask for much, I could tell this meant a lot to him. And I appreciated his directness. So, after additional discussion and several disclaimers and exclusions (no meatloaf being one), I agreed to attempt to cook dinner one night a week.
I picked a day the following week and started to brainstorm. What can I cook? Imagine a thought bubble with nothing in it. A blank Word document with a cursor blinking in the top left corner. An old Western town empty except for a single tumbleweed tumbling on by. That’s what comes to mind when I ask myself that question.
I should also mention that we are on a “health kick” at the moment. For us, a “health kick” means we are trying to minimize carb intake and limit ourselves to one thing of Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream per week. Unfortunately, the majority of dishes in my repertoire consist of carbs or cookie dough.
After much deliberation I decided to take a crack at garlic-lemon-peppered-Cod with zucchini, mushrooms and onions.
You may be thinking, “How ambitious!” “I’m so impressed.” “Gee, wow!”
Let’s be serious, it was pre-seasoned, frozen, Costco fish from a box.
And, yet, I still found it intimidating. I stood in the kitchen staring at the box on the counter and the pile of veggies I had scrounged up.
Where do I start? Pre-heat the oven. Wait, what do the directions say? Do I use the top oven or the lower oven? I remember P saying something about one of the ovens cooking more evenly. How many of these filets do I cook? What do I cook these on? I think P uses aluminum foil on this baking sheet. Aluminum foil doesn’t catch on fire, right? Right. That was waxed paper I set on fire in the oven. Which knife do I use to cut these veggies? Medium knife looks good. Watch the fingers. I know P does something where he washes the mushrooms and rubs off the gross film. Ew. How thick are these pieces of zucchini supposed to be? What seasoning do I use? Why are there so many unlabeled bags of spices in the cabinet? Salt and pepper will be good. I can’t see the salt coming out of the grinder. Hope that isn’t too much. I guess I’ll just put these veggies around the fish and cook them all together? I’ll just put some butter on the veggies. That will even out the salt. Ok, I think I’m done. Well, here goes nothing. 25 minutes to wait. What to do. Oh, look at that, a box of brownie mix.
I wonder if my inner monologue is included in my daily word count.
Shortly thereafter, I presented P with a plate of fish and vegetables. It looked edible. It smelled edible. Maybe it actually was edible. Moment of truth.
Ten minutes later, a pig flew by the window and P went back for seconds. After his second helping, he turned to me and said he wouldn’t have changed a thing. I’m not sure if I completely believe him, but I’ll take it. It’s good momentum for next week.
The following evening, P resumed his role as head (and only) chef in the kitchen. As he plated our dinner, he said, “Oh, I should have showed you what I did tonight!”
To which I quickly responded, “That’s ok. I’m still riding my high from yesterday. Let’s not get too carried away.”