I often think my husband and I owe our 35-year relationship to the “opposites attract” theory.
He’s the strong, silent type. I’ll yap on and on about anything, no matter what the topic.
He was raised in a small rural town; me, in the suburbs of the big city.
He’s focused; I’m scattered.
He’s always prompt; I’m often late.
He’ll get up in the morning and make his side of the bed with me still in it; I could go days without straightening the sheets.
As a first-born child, I thrive on attention. As the youngest of three kids, he’s perfectly happy in the background.
On a day off, I could loll around on the couch for hours; he’s miserable unless he’s got a project to tackle.
I tend to be a tad dramatic; he gives new meaning to the word “understated.”
He rolls the toothpaste up from the bottom: I squeeze randomly, somewhere in the middle.
He drinks beer; I’m a smart cocktail kind of gal.
Somehow, we make it work. That is, until we try to share the kitchen.
There are two kinds of cooks in this world: The people who clean up as they go, and culinary mavericks: genius, whirling dervishes who leave a trail of destruction in their wake.
I am solidly in the second camp. My husband, naturally, is a devout member of the first.
To say that this causes a few “issues” in our marriage would be a gross understatement.
What the man doesn’t seem to understand is that stopping to wipe down a countertop or to throw five empty tomato sauce cans into the trash fatally interrupts the creative flow, a flow I desperately need to produce the taste bud-tantalizing fare my family enjoys every night.
(OK, not every night. We do eat out an awful lot. How much is an “awful lot”? You don’t want to know. OK, enough to be on a first-name basis with a couple dozen local food servers. But I digress …)
When I’m in the cooking zone, I must maintain forward momentum to get the job done and stave off an acute attack of ADHD. If I pause to, say, rinse out a pan or fill the dishwasher, it throws me totally off my game. I’m liable to forget what I’m preparing or where I am in the process.
If there’s not a mess of mixing bowls, colanders, measuring cups, half a dozen utensils, spices, crumbs and melted butter strewn about, honey, it ain’t cookin’!
“If you clean as you go, you’ll have a much smaller mess at the end of the meal,” he suggests.
“What’s the difference between cleaning up now or doing it after dinner?” I protest. “It takes the same amount of effort. And afterward, there’s no deadline. Timing is everything in cooking.”
“Because after dinner, the marinara sauce has hardened onto the countertop, and you forget the grated carrots that fell into the silverware drawer!” he says. “Do you enjoy picking orange stuff out of the fork tines?!?”
“Inspiration must not be impeded by mundane chores,” I argue. “Do you think Emeril or Paula Deen stop to tidy up as they’re creating a masterpiece? No. Why? Because they have people to do that for them.”
“Fine,” he replies. “Then, I’ll be your people.”
Lately, he’s started following me around the kitchen with a dishrag, cleaning up after my every task. I chop the vegetables. He immediately cleans up the cutting board, wipes down the counter and puts the knife in the dishwasher. I stir-fry the chicken. He promptly collects the oil and spices and puts them neatly back in the cupboard.
You’d think this would be the perfect solution, a stellar example of marital teamwork. Think again.
“Where’d the paring knife go?” I ask, when I want to add just a few more scallions.
“I put it in the dishwasher,” he’ll answer. “Why?”
“Because I need it! And the curry powder and sesame oil, too! Did you put the almonds away before or after I toasted them? And, for God’s sake, stop wiping down the stove. I haven’t even started the rice! Who ARE we, Felix and Oscar?!”
Sometimes, I worry the “opposites attract” theory won’t hold up much longer unless drastic measures are taken, like getting out of the kitchen when we can’t stand the heat.
What are we making for dinner tonight?
— Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com.