I am not good at cooking. I don’t particularly like doing it. It’s not really my thing.
Turns out, cooking should sort of be everybody’s thing, because everybody eats. If cooking isn’t your thing, you end up eating a lot of EZ-mac and Chipotle. I didn’t eat great when I lived alone – things certainly got repetitive and sometimes there was some emergency EZ-mac. Ok, there was a lot of canned soup.
Choosing, preparing, and eating food has always been sort of stressful, actually. In high school, my mom had what I would now call an undiagnosed eating disorder and there wasn’t a lot of edible food in the house. (Though there was always a lot of spoiled, slimy, or mold-covered food that she felt too guilty to throw away). So perhaps I did not have the sturdiest food-behavior foundation.
Then, when I lived alone, food choices always represented this three-way balancing act between cost, health, and time. If it was healthy, it took forever or cost too much. If it was cheap, it was full of processed sugars and simple carbohydrates and had never seen a vegetable. If it was quick, it cost too much and had never seen a vegetable. As a medical student, I was short on both time and money and felt like a hypocrite if I ignored my health.
One of the best things Benjamin did when he moved in was start cooking me dinner. I was trying to drag myself to the finish line of my semester fueled only on coffee and desperation, and he swooped in and steamed some broccoli. I thought he was a god.
And he still often does this. Last night, a girl friend came over and we hung out and Benjamin made turkey burgers and oven fried potatoes and mixed vegetables. It was amazing.
But I’m not really pressed for time so much these days. I have my internship and my thesis, but it is nothing like the end of the semester crunch. Or, you know, residency. So I feel like I should still contribute to the household eating by occasionally preparing a meal.
And it is still stressful. I still feel that juggling act between health, time, and cost (though I have both more time and money than I did before). But the new layer I have to deal with now is performance anxiety. I want Benjamin to actually want to eat what I cook, and I feel self-conscious about my lack of culinary talent. Perhaps it’s some internalized sexism that makes me feel that as the woman, I should be better at cooking than he is. Or maybe I’m just a competitive person. But in any case, I just want to be better at it than he is. And I am just not. The man has talent. And I have...a semi-edible track record. There was some artichoke pasta I made recently that he soldiered through but I just could not even stomach.
Tonight, I made this recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Mashed-Potatoes-with-Carrots-and-Leeks-109125. It’s really just mashed potatoes with leeks and carrots thrown in. It tastes like mashed potatoes with leeks and carrots thrown in (nothing magical happens with them really) but it was pretty tasty once I got enough salt in there.
I was feeling very flustered and hypoglycemic the whole time I was cooking. And I thought seriously about just asking Benjamin if we could divide up the food chores from here on out – I would shop and do dishes if he would cook all the dinners.
But I didn’t. Because I don’t think partnership is necessarily about specializing and not developing diverse skills. It’s about specializing in the moment – dividing and conquering everything that needs to get done that night and still being flexible enough to switch jobs the next night. Deconstructing rigid gender roles should mean something more and better than “I always mow the lawn and my husband always cooks dinner,” it should make men and women more competent and flexible.
So in the name of self-improvement and a flexible partnership, I will continue to struggle through preparing dinner once in a while. And Benjamin will continue to struggle through eating those dinners.
At least until July, when I fully anticipate everything to go to hell.