Thursday, February 7, 2013

Men in the Kitchen and the Mysteries of Marriage

My hubby may not be a chef, but he is an awesome cook, almost as good as my brotheril who is a chef.  As a result, the Lubbin' Hubbin' does most of the cooking in our house.

Trust me, this is for the best!  I think it is because I have skewed, fluctuating perceptions of time, getting so bored I cannot stand to watch, yet if I walk away for any reason, There Will Be A Disaster.  I can barely boil water for tea (trick: set microwave's timer to 15 minutes, and pay attention when it goes off!)  Quesadillas are about the best I can do, and I doubt if I have ever flipped anything in a skillet perfectly.  Unevenly-cooked omelettes and pancakes that look like amoebas with tentacles don't always 'taste fine anyway', not when parts are scorched and parts are still mushy.  Quesadillas are great because the cheese and veggies that slip out when I flip one do a bit of fryin' on their own, which I just scrape on top of the finished product before the sour cream and salsa go on.

Still, the angelic man I married 18 years ago is not always around when I am hungry.  My favorite snack is a plate of Flipside pretzel-crackers, slices of cheese, and fruit, but you can eat that only so many days in a row without boredom.  I have four types of cheese and five types of fruit in my kitchen at this moment, but needed some real protein this morning so decided on eggs.  Since the Awesome Man's over-easy eggs could be featured in culinary magazines, and even my dogs turn up their noses at mine, I dared to make an omelette.

Lining up the peppers and onions, I got out a knife, and it was dull.  This aggravated me for a number of reasons.  My Beloved is usually great about keeping them sharp.  He even has a holiday ritual: whenever we go to my parents' house, he brings his 'sharpening kit' (an old Army ammo canister) and spends a couple of hours sharpening all their knives with two or three types of stone and oils, including my dad's pocket knives.

I've asked him to show me how to sharpen knives many times before.  "Okay," he says, distracted by some show on TV; he works hard so I hate to disturb him when he's relaxing.  Naturally, if he's around he cooks, so I only usually remember to ask him when I tried to use a knife earlier in the day.  If he's cooking, I'm usually writing, editing, submitting, or trying to find ways to promote my books, so I forget to ask.  I have also wondered if there's a little bit of subconscious apprehension, given that I have suffered depression these many years; perhaps he fears I might do myself harm?  Then again, we both brought guns into our marriage, and I haven't shot myself yet, so why would teaching me to sharpen a knife give him cause for concern?

I've looked up knife-sharpening online and decided he should really teach me.  I understand the physics involved, but he was taught by his mother at a young age; his sister is a professional butcher who mocks the fact that their store doesn't have some of the good old-fashioned equipment that holds up forever.  There's just nothing like one-on-one, hands-on teaching and learning.  Plus, I can be pretty clumsy and always plan emergency procedures before I do anything even remotely dangerous.

Example:  I only own one ashtray for anyone/everyone, guests included, which can only be used in the living room and only gets dumped in the 10-gallon crock-trashcan.  If it were to go up in flames, it would be taken to the outside door only 3 feet away and promptly get the doggies' broad 1-gallon watering dish dumped upon it, and not only for water -- it is one of those heavy, flattish metal tubs I think they use in surgeries, and it covers the crock perfectly so it would also smother the flames.  For me and knives, the procedures would be grab paper towels, hold in place for several minutes, check to see if blood is still flowing if shallow, then medicate and wrap as needed unless cut is severe, in which case clamp with paper towels and call the hubby for transport for stitches.  Trust me, I have as many EMT supplies as my paramedic nephew; we get things for each other all the time.

Still, at 5:00 in the morning, starving for protein, ready to make an omelette, I could either check all the knives in the drawer, or go wake up the precious husband an hour before his alarm... or I could try to sharpen the damn knife myself!  The last time I noticed my angel sharpening a knife, he was using that iron stick-thingie, and it looked pretty easy though I was on an important phone call at the time and couldn't ask.  I found his sharpener and began swishing the edge of the knife at about a 15° angle a dozen times or so.  And by all that's good and holy, it worked!

Omelette eventually scraped onto the plate and eaten, I finished working on my scene until he woke up and started his morning routine.  When he made it to the kitchen to fix himself some breakfast, I told him about my amazing triumph.  "Oh, yeah."  He poured milk on his cereal.  "It's pretty easy."

"Why did you never show me before, then?"

A shrug.  "It's just so easy."  I plagued him with questions until he took the knife and sharpener and showed me, explaining a few techniques.  I thanked him and let him get back to his cereal.

Why, why, why?  Eighteen years of asking my hubby to sharpen the knives, when all he had to do was take thirty seconds to show me?  All those years of saying he would show me and never did, what was the point of that?  Was it that he felt he was the Master of the Kitchen, doing mysterious things to make his culinary results seem magical?  Did he secretly laugh at all my kitchen blunderings, wondering whether to keep me out as much as possible just so I couldn't harm myself or poison anyone accidentally?

I am a life-long learner, always doing online research to flesh out my novels, so I try to impress him with interesting things I've studied of a day.  He's a practical guy, fix-it-all genius, knows when to call in the professionals, builds his own computers, and always helps me if I ask.  But is there something going on in men's brains that tells them, 'Don't give up any advantage you have over a woman'?  Or perhaps, 'Don't show them anything unless they ask you'?  Or even, 'Don't let her think she can get along without me'?

As a former teacher, I can appreciate that knowledge is best learned when the student has a real desire to achieve it, so I do not mind if he doesn't drag me around to show me everything he fixes.  Yet I love learning how things work, I love knowing I could rely on myself if I have to, and I love knowing enough about something to decide whether to let a professional handle it.  And the Lubbin' Hubbin' knows all that.  Why would he not occasionally say, "Darlin', I'll be out changing that headlight... do you want to watch?"  Why doesn't he invite me to help him on occasion?

Maybe it's because I pestered him to teach me how to cook bacon.  I am dead serious when I say my bacon breaks temporary crowns.  So there we were, hovering over the stove, me pestering him with a thousand questions about how he figures out when the bacon is done.  He finally shakes his head.  "You just have to do it enough to notice the right colors."

I groan; I'm terrible with colors.  "I agree that practice makes perfect, but you have to give me some kind of guidelines, here!  How can you figure out the right colors?"

Phlegmatic Man shrugs.  "I've never really thought about it.  I just cook it until it looks right.  You just get a feel for it."

My beloved, incredible, awesome, magnificent, brilliant, logical, long-suffering angelic husband is an INTUITIVE!  My heart bursts with wonder and joy.  He's a pantster, so good at everything it has all gone subconscious, like driving.  He just fixes things.  He has no deep-seated reason for not showing me how to do something; he just doesn't analyze it to death, like his wife asking questions and making bullet-lists of procedures in her brain.

Lesson learned:  next time Magnificent Man goes to fix something, follow him, ask questions, and try to figure out his genius.  I'll be learning more than whatever task is at hand; I'll be learning about my mysterious husband, with whom I spend so little time as it is.  You  may be certain I will be mindful of his every word and move, and loving the fact that this incredible being chose to share his life with me.




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