There are a few things to love about winter. Snow, for example. Hikes in a winter wonderland. The Narnia look of our neighborhood as flakes fall through trees lit by softly glowing streetlamps and a gently silvered moon. Chicken soup.
Now, I love chicken noodle soup. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. But it’s not a dish I know how to make very well. Mary Anne, on the other hand, makes a delicious chicken noodle soup. Homemade noodles, fresh vegetables, our own broth, a dash of freshly ground cumin, and I’m a happy fellow. Add cornbread, and things are just about perfect.
All of this is important because, a few days ago (on a cold gray day much like today), I realized that dinner time was approaching. Sadly, I didn’t have a clue what was on the menu. You see, I may do a lot of the cooking at our house, but I’m not great a “winging it.” Having had both my darling and the bouncing baby boy look at my dinners and say “Oh. You thought I might eat that?” I’ve learned to check the menu before starting to cook. A plan is essential — and I didn’t have one.
So I texted my darling (even though it was a weeknight and not really her job to come up with a meal) to ask if she had any preference for dinner. I got the following slightly grumpy reply.
You can just hear my reaction, can’t you? In about a half second, it went something like this:
“Wait! What did I do?”
“Ooh, that sounds good!”
“Wait! I don’t know how to make that.”
Fortunately, Mary Anne could hear it, too. So she just went ahead and texted me the recipe.
Being a guy, I consider a recipe to be a roadmap. You begin at the beginning and follow it to the end. Mary Anne, on the other hand, is what I call a creative cook. She never follows a recipe. Never. She sees a recipe as just a suggestion. A hint. A jumping-off point. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s not a language I speak well, but I could follow what she sent well enough to make soup. When she got home, she tweaked it using ingredients that weren’t included in her text (like points of interest that I somehow should have known to visit) while I made cornbread. It worked well.
And that’s one of the things I love about cooking together. About out life together. We understand each other’s shorthand. We get it.