Mom wasn’t what I would call a fancy cook, but she was a marvelous baker. Usually my siblings and I would come streaming in from the afternoon school bus to find our mother and every kitchen surface covered with a fine dusting of flour. She baked weekly, so we seldom had a dessert that wasn’t made from scratch. Unfortunately, her culinary skills completely missed my gene pool.
When my husband and I started dating the first home-cooked dinner I served him made him ill. Here’s a little tip for new lovebirds: Don’t try to impress your date by cooking their ethnic favorites unless you share their ethnicity or know what you’re doing. To this day he claims the spaghetti sauce was “A tad to sweet.” I’m thinking maybe it was the copious amount of wine before, with, and after dinner.
Predictably, every few weeks I accidentally let the water evaporate while steaming broccoli. I have the scorched pans to prove it. We still eat the broccoli because my husband will eat just about anything, and I hate to waste food. There are only two things my husband won’t eat: liver and eggplant. I’ve never tried to slip liver by him because let’s face it, there’s no hiding the taste, texture or smell of liver. But I did manage to make some God-awful concoction that had chunks of eggplant in it. He ate that without ever knowing and seemed to like it too! He’s pretty easy to please. Besides, he eats so fast that half the time he couldn’t tell you what he ate five minutes ago. The second time I made it he casually asked if there was eggplant in it. “Of course not, dear!” I said. But I know I didn’t fool him and haven’t made it since. No sense pushing my luck.
I’m not a bad cook, I’m just not a fancy cook. I simply don’t care enough to fuss. Heck, I don’t even care much about eating. Yes, it’s a curse. I can’t understand why people get so excited about a special restaurant or meal. My view of food is admittedly odd, but competitive bodybuilding changed the way I think about food. Eating and cooking got reduced to a game of numbers and nutrients. Unfortunately, I ate that way for so long that it became a habit I just can’t seem to break. I admit, I think of food as fuel and little more. I suppose a great tasting meal can be nice, but it still ranks pretty low on my thrill meter. My motto is the simpler the better. I eat to live, not live to eat.
This genetic flaw drove my gourmet father nuts. Every time he came to visit my lack of cooking finesse became a focal point.
Dad: “Don’t you make a sauce for anything?”
Me: “Yeah. Nestle’s Chocolate sauce. We pour it over ice cream.”
Dad: (Makes face) “That’s drizzle. You drizzle it over ice cream!’
Me: “Right. That’s what I said … we pour it over ice cream.”
Dad: “Don’t you have anything to put on a potato?”
Me: “Yeah. Pepper.”
Dad: “Don’t you ever use any salt?”
Me: “Sure. On the sidewalk after it snows.”
Dad: “I see you’re making Honeymoon Salad.”
Me: “What’s that?”
Dad: “Lettuce alone”
I know he thought he failed as a parent. He was probably right.
I grew up on a small farm. We raised our own polled Herefords, which is steak minus the horns. Our family ate some form of beef at least twice a week and it was always excellent. So I know steak. No doubt about it, we were steak snobs. We’d go out to dinner and someone would always order beef, then mumble “I think ours is better, don’t you?” We tried not to be jerks about it, but it was usually true.
One thing I can tell you is that a prime cut of beef shouldn’t cost forty dollars. And it doesn’t take much skill to prepare. Apparently when you go to a good steakhouse you’re paying for the atmosphere and service. OK, so perhaps I should dim the lights, fix a cocktail, smile at my husband and say, “Hi! My name is Bambi and I’ll be your waitress tonight!” as I slap a steak in front of him. If I return in ten minutes (to see if he needs the Heimlich maneuver) do you think I’ll get a twenty dollar tip?
Not in your wildest dreams.