Play Together To Stay Together
In an age where so many relationships seem so fragile, my wife and I have found the ideal place in our home for bonding and building. It's a place where things can get really hot really fast. It's a place where both sugar and spice come into play. It's a place where we can be as wild and creative as we want to be. It's a place where we use special techniques and equipment to achieve ultimate satisfaction.
Hey, I don't know where your mind went, but mine is in the kitchen.
My wife and I love to – as she puts it – “play in the kitchen.” And that's really what it is. For us, cooking is not a chore or a task or a drudge. It's playtime, baby, and we do it almost every day.
For example, we sleep in on Sundays and then do a brunch. We take turns doing the heavy lifting from week to week. Sometimes I turn out bacon and eggs and hash browns while she makes fresh homemade biscuits. Sometimes we simplify and she makes pancakes while I cook up some bacon or sausage. On rare occasions we just do cereal and toast or English muffins. But even then, one of us preps the bread while the other gets the cereal. Simple or complex, we do it together. And we couldn't imagine any other way.
Weeknight suppers are the same. We usually decide the menu in advance and then go about preparing the courses together. I set up a mise en place for her, laying out all the ingredients and equipment she needs for whatever she's going to prepare and then I go about setting up and prepping my dishes. The other night, for instance, we banged out Pork Chops Forestière with herb roasted potatoes and garlic cheddar biscuits, served with a little fruit on the side and ice cream for dessert. Took us a little over a half-hour from start to finish. And since I'm an absolute fanatic about cleaning as I cook, the only dishes we had to do after the meal was done were the plates, flatware, and glasses from the meal itself. Everything else was cleaned up before we sat down to eat. Then we settled in for a relaxing evening of our favorite TV shows. And that's the way we always work – together.
I'm her sous chef and her dishwasher when she hits the kitchen for one of her big baking projects and she backs me up when I'm turning out sauces or soups or pasta dishes or whatever. We work together.
We've worked together cooking professionally, as well, in two restaurants and a small catering service. We sometimes talk about missing our professional kitchens. In one place, the kitchen was set up where she had her side and I had mine. We had our own ovens, our own cooktops, our own refrigerators, and our own prep areas. We worked on opposite sides of a big prep table that divided the room. Stuff that we both used – salt, pepper, sugar, olive oil, etc. – was lined up where we could both grab it. We'd spend eight or ten hours a day bouncing around each other without having to worry about bouncing into each other like we sometimes do in our small home kitchen. But when it happens, we lightheartedly bitch about it and move on. It's our playground and I haven't had a fight on a playground since the fifth grade.
I guess our secret is that ever since we met and married in 1998, we have never found anything we didn't enjoy doing together. She has worked in theater with me, where I've gotten her into some weird situations, believe me. And she has taken up hobbies that I would never have seen myself involved in, but I supported her and drove all over hell and half of Georgia (literally) with her and had a blast doing it. We've worked together professionally and we continue to work together at things we mutually enjoy. Simply put, not only do we love each other, we like each other, too, and find our greatest joy and fulfillment in being with each other in everything we do.
We're both artists of different sorts, but we both enjoy the creativity of the kitchen. Cooking is, after all, as much an art as it is a skill. But more than being just another creative outlet for us, cooking together affords us valuable time together during which we pool our talents and abilities in a common pursuit. Ideas flow, conversations are carried on, decisions are made. A lot of love goes into a well made meal and preparing that meal with someone you love makes the experience much richer and much more meaningful. Cooking together is the highest form of teamwork. And the results are always worth the effort.
I've recently discovered that we're trendy. That which we have been doing naturally for these many years is actually being marketed as a form of relationship therapy. It's called “couples cooking.” There are several websites devoted to the concept and couples cooking classes are springing up all over the country. Many of these classes are aimed at young couples and newlyweds just getting started in their relationships. Others are designed with older couples in mind as a way of adding a new element to an established partnership. Still others are planned to provide a unique dating experience.
Amazon offers numerous cookbook titles for couples interested in cooking together; “Dinner Dates: A Cookbook for Couples Cooking Together,” “Table For Two: The Cookbook For Couples,” and “The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking Together” to name just a few.
According to a survey sponsored by relationship expert John Gray and appliance manufacturer Kenmore, and quoted on a pertinent website, www.couplescooking.org, “A recent survey of 1,500 couples found that couples who cook together view their relationship more positively than those who said they did not spend time together in the kitchen.....The survey showed these couples also were more satisfied in every aspect of their lives, from family relationships to sex.”
The site goes on to quote a chef who teaches couples cooking classes, “Cooking together works as a relationship-builder because it excites all of the senses.”
Other sources note that couples cooking classes provide a social outlet for those seeking the company of like-minded people. And, of course, a lot of folks take the courses just to improve their cooking skills. In one instance, the wife was a cook of, shall we say “limited ability,” while the husband was quite proficient in the kitchen, having learned to cook at an early age. Couples cooking classes brought her skill level up to equal his, giving her increased confidence in the kitchen and a greater sense of equality in the relationship.
These classes are great if you can find them in your area. Otherwise, just start from scratch. All it takes is willing enthusiasm, especially if you both have at least a little kitchen experience. If not, the partner who is more adept can bring the other member of the team along by teaching him or her how to prepare a favorite meal. Then proceed from there, venturing into more advanced recipes and culinary challenges as abilities develop.
There's an old proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The same can be said of cooking with your life partner. You can satisfy an immediate hunger with a meal you cooked yourself or you can feed your relationship for a lifetime by living, loving, learning, growing, planning, cooking, and “playing” together in the kitchen.
Vita bella, buon amore, e buon appetito!