Thanksgiving is Coming
Thanksgiving is coming. Regular readers know I am a big fan of Thanksgiving because I enjoy camaraderie and boxed stuffing mix. This year we are hosting dinner at our house, which is always a little stressful because my wife’s preferred method of cooking is screaming at me. I’m not sure why yelling at me produces such excellent food but it seems to work every year. The other thing that seems to help is screaming at the kids. For dessert she sometimes screams at the dog, but my brother is making a pumpkin pie so that might not be necessary this year.
My wife really is an excellent cook. She claims not to be, but that is just her Minnesota humility/Catholic guilt/lying and thieving nature doing the talking. She takes a genuine interest in the food we consume, which is a real gift but can also cause me tremendous stress because it sets the bar pretty high at our house. The other night she invented some sort of delicious lamb chop recipe, which she served with brussells sprouts gratin and some other fabulous thing. All well and good for her, but then when it’s my turn to make dinner I feel horrible pressure to meet or exceed her efforts. But I cannot.
It’s not that I can’t follow a recipe. I can, but my problem is that I lack the requisite foresight to make a yummy dinner. I don’t possess that special talent that good cooks have to project themselves into the future, where they are somehow able to envision themselves and their loved ones sitting around a table eating their future dinner. I cannot think that far ahead. To me, if it’s not dinner time I cannot think about dinner. I think about breakfast in the morning, lunch at lunchtime, and dinner sometime after that. Dinner never even crosses my mind until my children are wondering why I have once again put them to bed hungry.
The other problem with cooking is how time-consuming it is for something so ephemeral. With writing, I spend a lot of time on it, post it to the internet, and then it’s there forever or until one of my corporate masters asks me to remove whatever offensive thing I have just said about them. But when I cook, my efforts are consumed within minutes. If the goal is to live forever, which it obviously is, then I just don’t think cooking is the best way to get there. Even the most famous, best-loved cooks in history are known more for their books or television shows than for their actual food. We all know Julia Childs but how many of us actually tried food she prepared? Very few. I would guess more people read my Twitter post in which I define “hula-pooping” than ate an actual meal prepared by Julia Childs.
To ameliorate this problem, I sometimes eat food more slowly than I want, which is good for digestion and certainly makes my efforts feel more worthwhile but it creates unintended consequences, which is that it forces my wife and I to talk to each other. We’ve been married eleven years; there is nothing left to say.
Then there’s the clean-up, which feels interminable. I probably spend more time cleaning up our kitchen than I do on any other single activity in my life, including sleeping. When I add up the time I spend on those two activities, it leaves me precious little time for what I really want to be doing, which is loathing myself. Yes, I can hate myself while doing the dishes but I am not a good multi-tasker, which is also an essential quality to become a good cook.
When Thanksgiving comes this year, I will assume my assigned place in the kitchen, right beside my wife. I will know that I have done my job when she tells me to “get out of her fucking way.” Her saying that is the equivalent of the plastic turkey popper going off, and it is then that I know everything is going to be delicious.