Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hairball of the week

I have to tweak the hairball meter. If everything is five hairballs, five loses meaning, right? But this article really pissed me off.

Look at that picture of Andrew Goldman, scowling at fiance Robin Henry. Robin, stupid girl, run! Run!

But first, bash his smirking face with that grater, will ya?

And how about Matthew Hranek's comment about his wife, Yolanda?

Yolanda wouldn’t know a corked bottle of wine if you put it in front of her.

Yolanda is an magazine editor. From this we may extrapolate she is a reasonably high-functioning adult. Who married an asshole. Hranek felt it perfectly fine to insult his wife publlicly. Evidently Yolanda had no problem with it, either.

Yolanda, meet Robin. Ladies, where is your self-esteem?

How about this gem:

"I can’t watch her cook,” Mr. LaVallee said. “I’d say things like, ‘I can’t believe you’re julienning the carrots that way!’ And then I’d think, ‘Did that really just come out of your mouth?’"

Next question: did you apologize?

Here is Alan Richman, discussing his alpha cooking style with former partner Lettie McTeague:

"Long-term problems are caused by money and things like that,” Mr. Richman said. “Fights over cooking only cause loathing between couples for two to four days."

I disagree. Long, long ago, before I knew how to boil water, I lived with a man who fancied himself a gourmet cook. He had a set of impossibly heavy, hard-to-scrub Calphalon pots he treated like frail children. He was utterly rigid in his tastes, cooking only five or six variants of overly spiced, meat-heavy dishes. He loathed vegetables, reducing me to buying small packages of frozen carrots or spinach. He would eat in few restaurants, and once in those he invariably ordered the same dishes. He loved sweet liqueuers. I detested them.

The idea that I might cook crossed neither of our minds. He had me cowed, though I did balk when he decided to get a layout of the supermarket aisles and computerize it to create a more efficient list. What for? He bought the same things every week!

Given Robin Henry's idea that Andrew's kitchen behavior is "part of his charm," one wonders what he's like outside the kitchen. Does that judgemental mein cross his face when she dresses? Gains five pounds? Cleans? Folds his shirts (and she does, trust me)? Richman is correct that couples break up over the big stuff. But show me a person who's nasty to their loved one in the kitchen and I'll show you a jerk elsewhere. My fellow's scrutiny of my Calphalon-cleaning skills and frozen veggies represented larger behaviors ranging from annoying to frighteningly abusive. Fortunately, I rapidly came to my senses. After seven months of hell, I called my parents and asked to come home.

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When Hockeyman and I moved in together years later, I was still a novice cook, but he was even more so. I could prepare a few basic dishes; he could make spaghetti sauce. Without any discussion I assumed all kitchen duties. We were both amazed to discover I could cook. A routine chore rapidly deepened into a serious interest. Meanwhile, Hockeyman took on the bills, the insurance, the mortgage, the 401K. He is very good with numbers. I am hopeless. He also handles the technical end: cell phones (I can barely operate mine. Basically, if it rings, I know he's looking for me and I need to call him), the new television, hooking up the stereo and computers.

Neither of us finds our arrangement inequitable.

Then, about two years ago, Hockeyman asked me to teach him to cook. I found myself groping for explanations: what did I mean by "some?" How much is a pinch of something? How should he chop the carrots?

Initally I was too fast. That is, we'd plan out some menu, delegate prep tasks, and I'd find myself standing around with a hot pan of olive oil and the chicken diced, waiting for him to painstakingly dice each bit of onion. And though in most of life I am an impatient person, I shut up and waited. Hockeyman is a measured, precise person. Knife skills would not make him any faster with a clove of garlic. Yelling would only ruin the evening; besides, the heat could be turned down. The chicken could wait five minutes.

H-man is now an accomplished sous chef with a broad palate. I still have the larger duties, but we're both okay with that. He, after all, is the engine behind this blog, the person who keeps me from spending every dime we take in, the guy who mercilessly edits my work and listens to me complain about writing.

We do not fight about "the larger issues."

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In Cooking for Mr. Latte, Amanda Hesser devotes an entire chapter to letting husband Tad Friend into the kitchen with her. She admits she is kitchen nazi, cringing at his dishwashing style:

"On the surface, it's a painfully trivial difference of opinion...But it's not about washing dishes. The real issue is trust...letting him more deeply into my life." (87)

Admitting her fears, and flaws, she resolves to change. Her marriage to Friend has a far better chance for survival than Henry's and Goldman's, or Edwards' and Hranek's. After all, if you cannot trust your loved one with a chef's knife, how can your trust them with your body? Your soul? Your children?

I think you get my point.

How many hairballs?

Four, sliced however Robin Henry wants them.

The Hesser quote comes from Cooking for Mr. Latte, Norton Books, 2003.

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