My Live-in Chef

 

When I first married my husband, his idea of a meal was having half a Pepperidge Farm cake after a graveyard shift or going out for Mexican food. He knew better than to ask me if I wanted the other half of the cake (which he ate in his younger days), although I did enjoy having a piece at a time. But I digress.

I assumed as so many wives did of my, um, maturity, that cooking was my job. At least dinner. From the beginning, Jerry and I each fixed our own preferred breakfast and lunch, and I would plan the dinner menus. At first, I did all the prep for our simple “meat and potato” style dinners. To him, mushrooms were gross; broccoli was ruled disgusting (and it still is, to him). But gradually I learned the foods he liked or was willing to try, and I experimented with more complicated meals, as I enviously watched our gourmet friends cook the yummiest and most exotic meals.

Over time I asked my hubby to help me prep for meals. We eat lots of vegetables and he loves to chop. I couldn’t bear to watch him—his engineering nature would kick in and I would watch him precisely slice carrots and celery. Slowly. But he got the job done and it was one less task for me to do. We also discovered it was fun to chat while we worked, as long as I wasn’t in the middle of converting recipes to smaller amounts. Yes, I would often ask him to calculate, and he would insist on telling me how he came up with the amounts while I impatiently waited for the final sum so I could continue my work. I wasn’t really interested in how he arrived at the result!

At some point, he decided to make big batches of soup: split pea soup with smoked turkey, and a vegetable soup in tomato broth. He now does it all himself. He makes both big batches the same week, freezes them into portions for two, and every Monday we alternate having split pea or vegetable soup with French bread. It’s a great way to start the week and he makes a killer soup.

In the last five years or so, we started to share cooking duties. He enjoyed cooking certain dishes, like stir fry, and I liked to make the Caesar salads. The more we cooked together, the more prep I did and the more cooking he did. Suddenly I realized one day that he was not only doing the cooking, but he was prepping, too! (He’s very fussy about how he slices sweet peppers and sweet onions.) He gets nervous when I’m dicing things—I nearly sliced off my finger one day—so he began doing everything!

So nowadays, we have a very adept Chef. I still make out the menus for the week, but I always consult him first. When we have chicken, I encourage him to use whatever recipe he would like: chicken piccata, garlic chicken, Asian chicken, breakfast chicken (made with crushed corn flakes), and several other recipes. He follows a recipe for brisket with onions, potatoes, and carrots; taco bowls; and sausage lentil stew. Sometimes I go through the motions of asking if I can help, or he will ask me, if he didn’t allow enough prep time, but basically, he does it all. Am I lucky or what?!

I’m happy to pour the wine.

And we have a new live-in Chef!

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  1. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    Further proof that gradualism works! 

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The Cynthonian (View Comment):

    Further proof that gradualism works!

    And you know what? I had no idea we’d end up here! Although sometimes I wonder if I’m doing my fair share; he does the laundry, too!

    • #2
  3. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Susan Quinn: To him, mushrooms were gross;

    How sad.  Though I guess that leaves more mushrooms for me.  :)

    It is interesting to see how different people like different foods.  Foods that I find delicious, others find repulsive.

    It is also interesting to observe this at work in my own family.  My wife dislikes many foods that I like.  However, our kids — especially our two sons — have tastes almost identical to mine.  I’m not yet sure if this will be the case with our two daughters, as they are a bit younger, and may not have developed their adult tastes yet.

    • #3
  4. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    Susan,

    Wonderful post which was quite enjoyable to read.  Thank you for sharing.

    Having a live-in chef is all well and good, but what do you have to pay him?  Does he get holidays off and other benefits?  And remember to report his earnings to the IRS and pay social security so that you don’t end up in a nanny-gate (live-in chef-gate?) situation.

    Tim

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    How sad. Though I guess that leaves more mushrooms for me. :)

    He still rejects broccoli, but he has this odd relationship with mushrooms. He doesn’t like sauteed mushrooms, but he’s happy to cook them in recipes, such as pad Thai. Aren’t tastes funny? I eat just about anything–except lima beans!

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Some Call Me …Tim (View Comment):

    Susan,

    Wonderful post which was quite enjoyable to read. Thank you for sharing.

    Having a live-in chef is all well and good, but what do you have to pay him? Does he get holidays off and other benefits? And remember to report his earnings to the IRS and pay social security so that you don’t end up in a nanny-gate (live-in chef-gate?) situation.

    Tim

    Hahahaha!! His reward is that I always tell him how good the meal is. And back scratches do the job!

    • #6
  7. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    When I was first married I was the better cook of the two of us. Janet essentially booted me out of the kitchen after we moved to Texas and got a house. She became a magnificent cook. 

    Now that she is gone, I am doing the cooking again. I have gotten very good in three years. I am sometimes compared to Nero Wolfe. Not just for the cooking but for my profile, constant reading, and a live-in nephew.  (Some fans claim Archie Goodwin was Wolfe’s nephew.) I don’t claim genius, though.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    When I was first married I was the better cook of the two of us. Janet essentially booted me out of the kitchen after we moved to Texas and got a house. She became a magnificent cook.

    Now that she is gone, I am doing the cooking again. I have gotten very good in three years. I am sometimes compared to Nero Wolfe. Not just for the cooking but for my profile, constant reading, and a live-in nephew. (Some fans claim Archie Goodwin was Wolfe’s nephew.) I don’t claim genius, though.

    Good for you, @seawriter! I haven’t quite figured out Jerry’s reason for enjoying cooking–I think he sees it as a creative act–and I think he likes to do it for me. It’s very sweet. He may not be the cook you are, but he has aspirations!

    • #8
  9. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    When I was first married I was the better cook of the two of us. Janet essentially booted me out of the kitchen after we moved to Texas and got a house. She became a magnificent cook.

    Now that she is gone, I am doing the cooking again. I have gotten very good in three years. I am sometimes compared to Nero Wolfe. Not just for the cooking but for my profile, constant reading, and a live-in nephew. (Some fans claim Archie Goodwin was Wolfe’s nephew.) I don’t claim genius, though.

    Good for you, @ seawriter! I haven’t quite figured out Jerry’s reason for enjoying cooking–I think he sees it as a creative act–and I think he likes to do it for me. It’s very sweet. He may not be the cook you are, but he has aspirations!

    For me, it is a Greek thing (although I do little Greek cooking). One grandfather was a chef (among other things). My father cooked constantly, and ran a restaurant (unsuccessfully – a good cook, he was a lousy businessman). My younger brother does the cooking at his place and is a fine amateur chef. My two youngest sons are both excellent cooks (taught by Janet, not me). My oldest son and my older brother are hopeless – and both married to non-cooks. (Like attracts like, I suppose.) 

    • #9
  10. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

     I’m not letting Marie read your post. 

    • #10
  11. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    I discovered that I enjoyed cooking in my last year in college.  I was living in an off campus apartment, and as I was already engaged and we had already started to receive wedding presents, I unpacked the cooking ones and took them to my 3rd floor attic apartment and set about figuring things out. 

    Now due to the whole work / family balance business my wife has still had to do the majority of cooking, but she really does not like it, and never has (it’s telling that of the cookbooks her parents offered her when we were married, she snagged The I Hate To Cook Cookbook).  But on nights where the family is able to wait until 7 or 8 for dinner, that’s when I step in.  I also do the majority of the cooking for holiday gatherings, from Thanksgiving to birthdays (including my own).  I’m to the point where I’m usually not working off of recipes, but just grab various things out of the pantry and fridge set to work – once you know the basic ratios the rest is instinct.

    And this is how I’ve been trying to teach my girls to cook too – figure out a few basics, and why those work, and then get creative.  My eldest in college really hates the cafeteria food, and the crowds, but there is a kitchen elsewhere on campus that students can use.  She’ll haul her own cookware (bought by herself!) and ingredients, and make a meal for herself – just rituals of preparation alone help her relax.  She’s trying to teach her boyfriend now, and he’s coming along.  The other girls likewise experiment with meal prep at home when time permits.  As my wife doesn’t enjoy cooking so much, all this is a blessing to her.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    For me, it is a Greek thing (although I do little Greek cooking). One grandfather was a chef (among other things). My father cooked constantly, and ran a restaurant (unsuccessfully – a good cook, he was a lousy businessman). My younger brother does the cooking at his place and is a fine amateur chef. My two youngest sons are both excellent cooks (taught by Janet, not me). My oldest son and my older brother are hopeless – and both married to non-cooks. (Like attracts like, I suppose.) 

    Aha! It’s in the genes! My mom wasn’t much of a cook, and Jerry’s mom was a meat-and-potatoes person. But he does great!

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I’m not letting Marie read your post.

    That was a LOL, Kent! Thank you!

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    I discovered that I enjoyed cooking in my last year in college. I was living in an off campus apartment, and as I was already engaged and we had already started to receive wedding presents, I unpacked the cooking ones and took them to my 3rd floor attic apartment and set about figuring things out.

    Now due to the whole work / family balance business my wife has still had to do the majority of cooking, but she really does not like it, and never has (it’s telling that of the cookbooks her parents offered her when we were married, she snagged The I Hate To Cook Cookbook). But on nights where the family is able to wait until 7 or 8 for dinner, that’s when I step in. I also do the majority of the cooking for holiday gatherings, from Thanksgiving to birthdays (including my own). I’m to the point where I’m usually not working off of recipes, but just grab various things out of the pantry and fridge set to work – once you know the basic ratios the rest is instinct.

    And this is how I’ve been trying to teach my girls to cook too – figure out a few basics, and why those work, and then get creative. My eldest in college really hates the cafeteria food, and the crowds, but there is a kitchen elsewhere on campus that students can use. She’ll haul her own cookware (bought by herself!) and ingredients, and make a meal for herself – just rituals of preparation alone help her relax. She’s trying to teach her boyfriend now, and he’s coming along. The other girls likewise experiment with meal prep at home when time permits. As my wife doesn’t enjoy cooking so much, all this is a blessing to her.

    Cool! I never disliked cooking, didn’t mind it much, but was delighted when Jerry took over and has enjoyed it so much. He’s also doing a little experimenting–you’re right about the ratios–and they usually turn out great. And it sounds like you are a real Master Chef, @skipsul. I’m so glad you enjoy it and are passing it on.

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I just realized I mixed time frames. Jerry would eat half the Pepperidge Farm cake and tell me about it (although I seem to remember having a slice now and then), but I think he cut back on the cake once we got married. And let me tell, you those were big cakes!

    • #15
  16. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    My wife makes the big meals (Shabbos) and I try to keep her company. I used to make pies and things, but she would not hear of it.

    I make the meals during the week. The food is good, but pragmatically utilitarian.

    We both dislike making salads, and we now pay for interesting ones delivered daily by a local entrepreneurial woman.

    • #16
  17. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: I couldn’t bear to watch him—his engineering nature would kick in and I would watch him precisely slice carrots and celery.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    iWe (View Comment):

    My wife makes the big meals (Shabbos) and I try to keep her company. I used to make pies and things, but she would not hear of it.

    I make the meals during the week. The food is good, but pragmatically utilitarian.

    We both dislike making salads, and we now pay for interesting ones delivered daily by a local entrepreneurial woman.

    Aren’t you the one who makes the zucchini latkes? Yum!

    • #18
  19. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    My wife makes the big meals (Shabbos) and I try to keep her company. I used to make pies and things, but she would not hear of it.

    I make the meals during the week. The food is good, but pragmatically utilitarian.

    We both dislike making salads, and we now pay for interesting ones delivered daily by a local entrepreneurial woman.

    Aren’t you the one who makes the zucchini latkes? Yum!

    Well, Pesach cooking is different.

    • #19
  20. KCVolunteer Lincoln
    KCVolunteer
    @KCVolunteer

    Susan Quinn

    I’m happy to pour the wine.

    The wine is important. Are you a skilled sommelier?

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    KCVolunteer (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn

    I’m happy to pour the wine.

    The wine is important. Are you a skilled sommelier?

    I know what he likes.  I know what I like. Done! 

    • #21
  22. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    iWe (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    My wife makes the big meals (Shabbos) and I try to keep her company. I used to make pies and things, but she would not hear of it.

    I make the meals during the week. The food is good, but pragmatically utilitarian.

    We both dislike making salads, and we now pay for interesting ones delivered daily by a local entrepreneurial woman.

    Aren’t you the one who makes the zucchini latkes? Yum!

    Well, Pesach cooking is different.

    Isn’t that Biden’s press secretary?

    • #22
  23. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Although sometimes I wonder if I’m doing my fair share; he does the laundry, too!

    I do 99% of the cooking (I’m better at it and enjoy it more), while Mr. Charlotte is 100% in charge of cleaning the bathrooms. I win!

    And you are correct. Lima beans are truly Satan’s Favored Legume.

    • #23
  24. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Although sometimes I wonder if I’m doing my fair share; he does the laundry, too!

    I do 99% of the cooking (I’m better at it and enjoy it more), while Mr. Charlotte is 100% in charge of cleaning the bathrooms. I win!

    And you are correct. Lima beans are truly Satan’s Favored Legume.

    My ex-sister-in-law dubbed them “green gag pellets.”   That phrase has outlasted her in my family.  

    • #24
  25. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The Cynthonian (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Although sometimes I wonder if I’m doing my fair share; he does the laundry, too!

    I do 99% of the cooking (I’m better at it and enjoy it more), while Mr. Charlotte is 100% in charge of cleaning the bathrooms. I win!

    And you are correct. Lima beans are truly Satan’s Favored Legume.

    My ex-sister-in-law dubbed them “green gag pellets.” That phrase has outlasted her in my family.

    There’s cyanide in ’em.

    • #25
  26. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    You reversed roles – what a great idea!  My husband is similar in that he did not like veggies when I met him – especially mushrooms and onions. His Southern mother overcooked vegetables and put onions in everything – to this day, he still hates onions. I’ve seen him find a sliver of an onion that somehow fell onto a huge plain cheese pizza no bigger than a third of your baby finger nail.  It always lands on his plate too. He learned to like veggies when he had a roommate in his band days who cooked fresh veggies in a wok. He was the only one in the house that cooked and it was either that or starve. He still loves “beans”….. that Southern staple that gets rave reviews fixed 10 different ways to Sunday.

    We eat a lot of salads these days and feel better for it.  I love your husband’s soup pots – very healthy too! The role reversal hasn’t worked yet for me – but he sets the table and does the dishes so that works for me!  Bon Appetit!

    • #26
  27. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    I have gradually become the live-in chef over the past 50+ years and have reveled in the challenge. I like your collaboration in terms of setting a weekly menu however. Dinner is too important to be left to one half of the relationship.

    • #27
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    I have gradually become the live-in chef over the past 50+ years and have reveled in the challenge. I like your collaboration in terms of setting a weekly menu however. Dinner is too important to be left to one half of the relationship.

    For a while, I would ask if there was anything particular he’d like to make, and he’d often say there wasn’t. But more recently he’s made suggestions of things he likes to make or eat. And I’m in charge of making out the grocery shopping list. We make a good team.

    That’s wonderful that you love the cooking!

    • #28
  29. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Although sometimes I wonder if I’m doing my fair share; he does the laundry, too!

    I do 99% of the cooking (I’m better at it and enjoy it more), while Mr. Charlotte is 100% in charge of cleaning the bathrooms. I win!

    And you are correct. Lima beans are truly Satan’s Favored Legume.

    I like Lima beans.  They’re great with a bit of butter, but also pair well to ketchup.

    • #29
  30. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    You reversed roles – what a great idea! My husband is similar in that he did not like veggies when I met him – especially mushrooms and onions. His Southern mother overcooked vegetables and put onions in everything – to this day, he still hates onions.

    My father is that way about pumpkin and sweet potato, and anything else that has a similar flavor and smell profile.  About the only squash he will touch is acorn squash, and that has to be drowned in butter and brown sugar.

    I asked him why, and he thought about for a while, then said “Rutabagas.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “We didn’t have a lot of money, growing up, and rutabagas were cheap.  So my mother bought a lot of them.  And she boiled them to death.  They were horrible.  Pumpkin and sweet potato taste too close to rutabaga, and I can’t stand it.”

    It’s a shame too, because rutabagas are still cheap, they keep a long time, and they’re big and go a long way either on their own, or in stews.  I rather like them.  But then again, stories of my grandmother’s cooking live on in infamy.  Boiling or “roasting” (which to her meant throwing stuff into the oven in pan filled with water), with minimal use of salt and pepper, were about the extent of her skills and interest.

    My father, having us in stitches describing her food, once remembered coming into the kitchen and seeing a pan on the stove.  He lifted the lid and stirred the contents around, finding nothing solid.  “Mom?  What’s this?”  “It’s a roast, dear.”  My dad stirred again – she had boiled it to oblivion – nothing solid remained.

    • #30