There are two types of people; those who cook and those who do not cook. I am one who cooks; my wife, Karen, is one who does not. I blame my wife’s lack of culinary skills on the most likely transgressor; her mother. My Mother-in-law never learned how to cook so she never passed the basic skills on to Karen. I learned to cook from watching my mom. She taught me to stop watching her and to start watching Italians.
Growing up, my neighborhood rang with the warm sounds of my Italian neighbors saying “fuggetaboutit” as they nonchalantly threw herbs and spices into pots and pans whipping together delicious dishes with what seemed to be amazing ease. The Cippolas, Randazzos and Politos were far better cooks than the Irish McGuires, and they certainly didn’t treat meat as if you first had to boil the sin out of it before you could eat it. While I was picking up cooking tips from my neighbors, my wife was watching her little brothers.
Karen’s mother was a single mom who worked long hours, which often left my wife in charge of caring for herself and her two younger brothers. This led to lunches and dinners consisting primarily of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and big glasses of chocolate milk. Sometimes Karen would change things up a little and throw some Fluff into the mix. For those not acquainted with Fluff, it’s a wholesome treat consisting entirely of whipped marshmallows in a jar. Basically, my wife and her brothers grew up eating marshmallow sandwiches. Now you might think that growing up eating this all the time would have created a deep desire for some variety, maybe a little spice, something different, but no. It’s like a captive falling in love with her kidnapper.
I call it the Skippy syndrome. My wife would gladly pass up a beautiful steak or some Italian food to get her mitts on a Fluffernutter sandwich. When you go to one of her family functions, that’s basically what people are eating. Instead of wine and cheese you get Fluffernutters, PB&J’s and chocolate milk. If I ask for a beer they look at me as if I just shot Elsie the Cow. To this day, Karen insists that Smores are one of the five food groups and my sink is often littered with my tall Pilsner glasses, all with telltale chocolate milk stains. “I married a child,” I say to myself as I search for a proper utensil to clean the long and narrow glasses. What keeps her locked in this childish food bubble? Why after all these years has she never branched out and tried her hand at cooking? One simple word: Fear.
My wife is afraid that she doesn’t know what to do. She’s afraid she would be a bad cook. She’s afraid of serving undercooked food and afraid of serving overcooked food. Karen submits to the Yoda School of cooking with its ridged tenet, “Do, or do not. There is no try,” and you simply cannot learn to cook if you aren’t willing to botch the job and commit culinary atrocities from time to time. My lovely wife is not willing. The fear is strong within her.
On top of these fears, she is afraid of food in general. We have gone to the same breakfast place in my town at least once a week for the last three years and every time she orders the same exact meal; Eggs Benedict, hold the Canadian bacon with regular bacon on the side and a fruit cup instead of home fries. We walk in the door and the waitress already has it on the check. With this sort of eater there is no getting them to branch out. There is no point in pushing her to try new things. After twenty four years together I have to accept the fact that she can’t cook, she won’t cook, she won’t try new foods and she will never, ever, make me a hot meal. She will never surprise me with a Brisket or a rack of lamb in bed. After years of my prodding, pushing and mocking her tastes, I have reached the final stage of grief; acceptance. I have accepted her kindergarten-like diet and have come to terms with my tri-weekly runs to the store to buy more milk. There are much more important things in life besides food. There is love, companionship and humor and if I ever have a hankering for a Fluffernutter and a big glass of chocolate milk, I’ve got the right woman. Here’s praying that day will never come.
Gerry McGuire took his love of history, trivia, comedy, literature, music and film and turned himself into a pop culture quoting, chat machine. He is like Cliff Claven from Cheers if Cliff Claven was stunningly handsome, awesomely funny and unbelievably humble. He fancies himself what the French would describe as a raconteur or what Americans call, a loud mouth. Gerry writes for Milford Living Magazine, sings in the Celtic rock band The Butcher Boys and is a stay at home dad.