When my wife and I first got together, we came back from the shops starving and I offered to make her a stir-fry. I wanted to really impress her with something “cheffy” and so while she had a quick shower (expecting dinner to be ready soon afterwards), I spent an inordinate amount of time watching YouTube videos with titles such as “How to elevate your stir-fry and blow away your guests”. I was desperate to learn how to do this, despite the fact that if a guest claimed to be blown away by a stir-fry dinner, I would excuse myself to take a long hard look in the bathroom mirror for inviting such a rarefied prick round in the first place.
When dinner was finally ready, I called my wife to the table, at which point she proceeded to eat it in a manner best described as “rage-filled”. Having finished, she told me that stir-fry was supposed to be quick, that any minor improvement in taste did not justify the “beef wellington” lengths of time I took to prepare it, and that the number of pans and plates I’d used in the process of making it was “unacceptable” – a fair assessment, considering the dish is named after the single pan it is supposed to be prepared in.
Since then, my wife has done most of the cooking, at her insistence. On occasion I am allowed to cook, but she has to prepare herself mentally, and I am required to sign a waiver confirming that I will not attempt to make a meal again for at least 12 months.
The result is twofold: our friends accuse me of being a patriarchy-reinforcing chauvinist, and our children have grown up thinking that my wife’s way of doing things is the best. She is a very good cook, don’t get me wrong, but there are some things we disagree on. Take gravy. She likes hers to be like a savoury custard; it basically doesn’t pour. You have to spoon it on, and spread it over the food with a knife. She used to live up north and she likes her gravy thick, even by northern standards. I find this absolutely disgusting – so much so that we have two batches of gravy – one for me, who enjoys his gravy like other humans do, and a bigger one for her and the children, who have been raised to believe that gravy should double up as bathroom sealant.
Two weeks ago, I told my wife that I wanted to start doing more cooking, mainly so the kids could see that men are allowed to cook too. She agreed to give me a chance, and I decided to make bangers, mash and veg as a simple crowd-pleasing supper. I believed I could win the family over with a quality mash, so I made something more akin to an apple puree. My intention was to deliver a knockout supper, so that the boys might prefer my cooking, make my wife doubt herself and ultimately undermine her self-esteem – the ingredients of any great marriage.
I sat back waiting for the plaudits for my much smoother, richer mash to come rolling in. They never did. Instead came a series of complaints about how my potatoes were too creamy, and how they preferred them a bit rougher and lumpier. My children have been radicalised. I sat there fuming as my family struggled to eat the silkiest mashed potatoes ever served, before my wife asked the boys to give me a patronising round of applause for my efforts. When she was looking particularly smug later that evening, I resisted the urge to tell her that I thought she had trained the kids to have less sophisticated palates. There’s only one thing for it: I’m going to start insisting on two batches of mash.