Taylor Garcia’s understanding of cooking grew and changed in tandem with his marriage.
Renting in Pacific Beach, my wife and I had a great mealtime routine. After getting home from work, we would pick a meal from the menu we’d made earlier in the week, select the ingredients from our cupboard and vegetable bowl, and begin cooking. It was an evening ritual for a long stretch there. And we dazzled ourselves with our meals: dishes like Bombay potatoes, honey roasted eggplant pitas, spaghetti with spinach chiffonade, and adzuki bean burgers.
Whether we realized it or not, all those vegetarian meals helped our bodies stay thin and our bank accounts solvent to help pay for the biggest purchase of our lives: a townhouse eight miles inland. Inter-urban living would mean no more readily accessible beach, nor the miles of paths and parks to run our dog, but if we were ever going to escape the rent racket and get ahead in life, we had to buy. We had saved up the money, and had to get in before the market went bust.
I can’t say that moving inland to a townhouse in a sought after condo community in central San Diego was the exact catalyst for our recognizable shift in dining patterns, but I can say that’s when I noticed the changes. Work hours went later. Menu planning slacked. Cooking together fell precipitously.
Granted we were blessed with work promotions, which, for me, later turned into a new job. That meant more travel and longer, more sporadic hours, plus dinners out with customers. My wife’s hours accreted as her social services acumen grew for her large and needy base of clients. We gradually went from skinny vegetarians renting a duplex at the beach to double-income-no-children (DINK) professionals too busy and tired to make our own dinners. Restaurants walking distance away and a Costco across the street didn’t help either.
The spirit of cooking together, or at least cooking meals at home, didn’t wither completely, but with our move and socioeconomic shift came a day of reckoning for me, and a confession from my wife. She really didn’t like cooking at all, and that also meant she didn’t want to help out much with the chopping and slicing and prep that went into an elaborate meal just for two people. If we wanted to have home cooked meals, I would be the one to do it.
This didn’t bother me much. In our skinny days at the beach, I’d learned some stuff about cooking. I had commandeered the vegetarian cookbooks my wife brought to the marriage, and put twists on the recipes. I knew how to shop for certain foods and learned how to make almost anything from scratch. Cooking full course, gourmet quality meals, albeit vegetarian, came easy to me.
All this “whipping up” positioned me solidly in the kitchen from there on out, and with it came a chip on my shoulder. I didn’t want my wife’s help, and if I did, I wanted things done my way. Plus, it became well established that after a hard day at work, the most she was going to do in the kitchen was heat something up. This wouldn’t do for me.
What we both understood early on was our divergent philosophies on food itself and its preparation, which ultimately further defined our domestic roles. I’ve never been much for keeping the books, whereas she’s a master of it. Organizing bills and accounts? Her area. Consumer research, financial planning, decorating? All her. With my cooking, I upped even higher my output of cleaning, laundry, and animal care. The dog and cat, at one time under my wife’s management, have become my charges. All this from a guy, who, only seven years prior, barely knew how to use the George Foreman grill.
We’ve come a long way together as a couple, and now there’s no tension on who does what anymore. It’s defined and we do help the other person as necessary. Yes, maybe after a long day or being on the road, I may not want to slice and dice, and I might make it known with a sigh here or there, but the fact is, someone has to do it. If she wants to help me in the kitchen, great. If she wants to rest and wait for the dinner bell, that’s fine with me, too.
Photo credit: Flickr / janeyhenning