I do all the cooking in our house. It’s just worked out that way. Sure, Bill can cook. He’s a great cook, but a Bill meal is ready about 9:00 p.m. after he’s properly marinated things, simmered things and run out to the store several times to get a few more things. “Oh, this would be so great with leeks!” And then Bill disappears while the kids and I collapse on the ground weak from starvation. A Holly meal, on the other hand, might not have a bouquet of herbs or a wine sauce, but a Holly meal is ready at six o’clock. I wouldn’t say I’m a great cook, but I would proudly take the title of reliable cook, with meal favorites like “Noodles with a side of apple slices” or “Trader Joe’s Frozen Orange Chicken and some carrot sticks”. My cook book would have recipes like, “Cereal for dinner. It’s easier than you think!”
I’ve gotten used to the kitchen being my domain, a place where people stop by and visit, but never linger. That is, until our recent trip to Florida where Buck discovered the Cooking Channel. He was particularly inspired by a show called Man vs. Child where kids compete against professional chefs to see who can make a better meal.
And now I have a constant kitchen buddy… and unlike me, my buddy doesn’t want to make a meal just to get it over with, my buddy wants to create the greatest meal that has ever been eaten. It’s like we’re starring in a bad chef buddy movie — Buck plays the rookie chef ready to take the culinary world by storm and I play the jaded, grumpy chef two weeks away from retirement.
Our afternoons start with Buck rooting through the cabinet to find unusual flavor combinations. I’ve given Buck the job of “Appetizer Chef” because it’s seems like the safest course of the meal. You don’t have to eat the appetizer. Plus, appetizer portions are usually small and therefore, so is the amount of diarrhea you’re going to have.
While I’m cooking the rest of the meal, Buck wanders over with a dripping spoon and says, “Hey Mom, taste this.” I brace myself as the food gets shoved in my mouth, the bile already rising in my throat. As I work my way through the bite and try to nod encouragingly, Buck explains what I’m eating as if presenting his dish to a judge on a cooking show.
“What you’re tasting is a marshmallow-encrusted arugula salad with a baked bean dressing and dry dog food croutons.”
“What I’ve prepared for you this evening is a whole stick of butter rolled inside salami and covered with allspice.”
“For your eating pleasure, I’ve created a soup made of oatmeal and whipped cream topped with vegetable bouillon cubes I’ve shaped into President Obama’s face.”
In Buck’s defense, he has made some really delicious things. He’s wowed me with a bundt cake, made some awesome savory rice and a great dipping sauce for apples.
But still, when the dripping spoon approaches me, I find myself tensing all over, wondering if the mothers of famous chefs felt the same way I do… wishing I could once again be alone in the kitchen.
Last night as I was cleaning a pan of hot dogs stuffed with coffee grounds and maraschino cherries, Emerson and August approached me and said, “Mom, we want to cook too. Can we make breakfast in the morning?”
And all I could think was, I am definitely sleeping in tomorrow, covers over my face, pretending I didn’t just hear that…