One of the secrets to a good relationship is to know your role. At our house, my husband is the Executive Chef, and I’m the sous-chef. That means he makes the big, elaborate plans, executes them to perfection, and I help with prep work when called upon and clean up afterward. And, of course, I take the blame if things don’t turn out right. Hey- that’s just part of the job.
It’s almost time for a fairly new family tradition- Gourmet Valentine’s Dinner. Chef and I started doing this several years ago when we decided that standing in a long line with all of the other happy couples at a local restaurant was losing its romance. So, we take turns each year coming up with something extra special in our own kitchen. Hopefully, he doesn’t often recall the first Valentine’s meal I prepared, which included a heart-shaped cake that featured a crack patched with red-hot candies.
There’s a bit of irony here, because in the days when we had kids at home, I took a lot of ridicule for trying new things at the supper table. If I dared to stray off the familiar path, my dear spouse would build the kids up all day. “Don’t worry, we can always order pizza if it’s too awful.” By the time we sat down, I was doomed. So, I normally stuck with my limited repertoire of quick and easy, and lots of it.
Some of those meals have garnered compliments over the years, I guess. One newly married friend ate at our house and wouldn’t leave without my recipe. He paid his own sweet bride a back-handed compliment. “Honey, even you could fix this, I’m sure.”
Looking back, the failures stand out more than the successes. When one of our sons was in college, he told me he and his buddies had a conversation about whose Mom made the best banana pudding, and he bragged on mine. Clever way of getting me to fix some each time he came home, right? On one weekend trip, the result of my efforts was more like cold banana soup. I couldn’t let that become the topic of conversation on “The Hill” so I immediately went to the store, replaced the ingredients, and started over. After all, I had a reputation to uphold!
After the nest emptied, Hubby started enjoying cooking more, and we even went to New Orleans to become certified in Cajun and Creole cooking. No kidding- we have a framed certificate on the wall! He’s collected some really cool kitchen gadgets, and we spend many evenings tuned into to Food Network. Emeril taught him not to be afraid to add some “Bam”, and he also claims to have learned a lot from watching Rachel Ray. (She’s kind of cute, so I’m not sure it’s all about what she’s cooking).
So, since I’m in charge of the Valentine’s Day dinner this year, I’m mulling over possible entrees, trying to come up with some side dishes and then looking for a killer dessert, all for someone who is successfully controlling his carbs. Not an easy task. My fall-backs usually involve lots of pasta and sweets. This will take some research, and creativity!
I think that the old adage about the path to a person’s heart is true, though. There are many ways to “attract” someone. Holding on for the long haul is something totally different. There’s something about cooking for someone you care about that implies commitment. You put your best efforts out there, with the risk of failure and extreme embarrassment, because you sincerely care. Maybe that’s what is most impressive. Regardless of the ratio of succulent meals to total flops, it’s the fact that you consider that person worth the effort. In this particular case, the sous-chef is very glad to keep trying. This one particular Iron Chef will always be tops with me.