It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The story of how our marriage became the marriage of two cooks could begin like an infamous Dickens classic.
For years, I considered myself the chief cook and bottle washer. Eager to be a traditional wife and mother, I insisted upon doing the cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was spending all my time at home working second shift for Chez Medlock. Something had to give.
Thankfully, my beloved husband (and partner blogger) is incredibly helpful. Ever ready to lend a hand, he would always join in the process of whatever I was doing. Already a decent cook, he could successfully attempt any recipe I placed in front of him. He easily surpassed my humble attempts at traditional southern cooking as he could bake bread, fry chicken, and understood “drippings.” But I didn’t cook that way and nearly fainted when he proudly showed me his drippings crock. There was no room in my kitchen for drippings. This was about the time the bouncing baby boy arrived, so he suddenly had his hands full, while I resumed my fantasy of chief cook and bottle washer.
I learned to cook when my mother returned to the workplace, which was about the time my father had his second heart attack. In many ways, Mother and I learned to cook together. She had to relearn to cook using the American Heart Association’s method of of no salt, no butter, and no frying. Out went the cast iron, and according to my father, out went the taste. But it didn’t take her long to figure out how to cook a delicious, healthy meal using new methods. She taught me how to cook by broiling and steaming. I taught her how to use oregano.
Each morning Mother would organize the evening’s meal. When I got off the bus after school, my first duty was to call her at work and get instructions for what to do with the items left on the counter. Within a few months, I could easily get supper started and nearly finished by the time she got home. Dad went from saying that “a hungry man will eat anything” to pondering what I was concocting next. Mother seemed glad that I was willing to try out new dishes and encouraged me to experiment, even if the outcome landed over the fence for the cows to eat.
Meals limped along at Chez Medlock for years. Because we both had full-time jobs and full-time lives, I drifted into a pattern of making convenience meals. Boxes and canned processed foods were purchased and cooked. Making meals in 30 minutes or less became the goal. All I wanted to do was get home from work, make and eat dinner, and get the dishwasher started by 7 pm. Then I could finally sit down after a long day. During the week it seemed no meal was memorable, just functional. Sometimes, when there was little homework for the offspring, my beloved would thaw something out of the freezer. Nothing was more welcoming to me than finding him in the kitchen. Those nights were golden.
Weekends were different. On the weekends I had time to cook soups and stews. Something was always bubbling on the stove, unlike weeknights. I loved playing in my kitchen on the weekends. I had time to experiment, and I had an incredibly helpful sous chef.
When my beloved was laid off from his job, we decided to shift some of the work load at Chez Medlock. He would assume the position of chief cook and bottle washer. He would also become the primary grocery shopper. Remembering that the drippings crock was still lurking in the cabinet, I was hesitant to hand over control of my kitchen. It took a few months for him to learn how to put together a whole meal and have everything ready at the same time. It took a few months for him to let go of that drippings crock. On the other hand, it only took him a few months for him to surpass my cooking skills. He introduced new methods and new tools such as olive oil. And he introduced healthy cast iron cooking to our kitchen.
Now we’ve settled into a harmonious rhythm. As primary cook, my beloved makes nearly all the meals our family eats. I am the project cook, which means I still get to play in our kitchen on the weekends, developing new recipes. In the past couple of years, I have begun canning. I can whatever bounty I find at our local farmer’s market or grow in our garden. Gone are horrible processed foods that I cooked for convenience’s sake. Thankfully, they’ve been replaced with wholesome, local, and healthy unprocessed foods. But that is a blog for another time…