I can take the heat, but I’ll leave anyway, by Deb Katie

Our topic this week is “in the kitchen,” but to be honest, my best relationship with the kitchen is one where I wander through to get the portable phone to place a delivery order for Chinese food. Or I dash in, pour myself a glass of wine, and dash out before the kitchen knows I’m there.

For someone with such a healthy interest in eating, I have an underdeveloped interest in the culinary arts. I’ve heard that, traditionally, chefs were men, and when you think of all the chopping, mashing, and setting things on fire that are involved, it kind of makes sense. It’s certainly how things work in my house, anyway. The husb is the cooker, and I am the cleaner.

(Of course, on those rare occasions I do cook something—which only happens when a specific recipe catches my fancy—I somehow also find myself being the cleaner.)

It’s not that I don’t have a fairly solid foundation. As a child, I had to cook dinner for my family once a week. My mother and stepmother are both talented cooks (and my father can barbecue like a champ). When my friends and I moved to California, we had weekly “family dinners,” and it wasn’t unusual to spend a whole Sunday in the kitchen, preparing your dish—often basically from scratch. And, like I said, I am a big proponent of good cooking when I’m on the consuming side of things.

So why has cookery become a lost art in my life?

If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because I’ve found so many other arts to occupy my time. If I’m not writing, I’m quilting. If I’m not quilting, I’m reading a book, or blogging, or working on my website. If I’m not doing that, it’s laundry, or working out, or tidying up, or spending quality time with TiVo.

At some point, you start to feel like one of those kids whose parents force them to take piano lessons, ballet, soccer, basketball, pottery, karate, and ballroom dance. And something’s gotta give.

So in my life, my relationship with the pots and pans and sea salt and extra virgin olive oil was the first thing to go.

If I weren’t married to a man with significant skills in the culinary realm, I might have had to make time for cooking. But as it is, I read debut novels, not cookbooks, and I slice and dice and chop and mash words instead of vegetables.

I think one of the hardest things about writing is finding that you have to juggle your priorities a little. And often, giving themselves permission to underperform in one area makes people uncomfortable. But for me (and a lot of us, I suspect), balance is a crucial ingredient of the writing life.

Speaking of that, I’m smack in the middle of cooking up a work in progress, so I’d better get going before it reduces to nothing!

~ Katie Alender

PS – Have you seen the Bad Girls Don’t Die book trailer yet?

15 Replies to “I can take the heat, but I’ll leave anyway, by Deb Katie”

  1. I love a man who can cook, too–but more about that tomorrow.

    You’re right, Katie–there are only so many hobbies/jobs a woman can have. There’s a reason Martha Stewart looks so stressed out all the time–and she’s got employees!

  2. This used to be me, Katie. Though, I’m not a very good cook and I don’t like to do it, except what I call “glamour cooking,” i.e. cooking a fun and delicious appetizer for a party. Maybe. But the drudgery of everyday cooking and the MEAL PLANNING? Oh, the meal planning. Not so bad for a couple but for a family of four when you toss in a couple of food allergies and the fact that youngest babe doesn’t have enough teeth to crunch anything…

    Oh, I’m sorry, where were we? Yes, my husband is a better cook than I am by far, but the logistics of his job vs. the fact that I’m home in the late afternoon plus feeding the youngsters at a reasonable time means I’ve had to step back into the kitchen.

    Not that I want to. I’d rather have that wine and laugh at the Picasso Turkey.

  3. Meredith, I once worked with a girl who had worked for Martha Stewart. Now this girl was planning her own wedding, and she was a neurotic mess, because she could only picture weddings as being completely perfect. When she came back from her honeymoon and I asked her how it went, she said, “The cake was the wrong shade of yellow!” and I was like, “Really? That’s all you remember?”

    Kristina, I suppose at some point if I have children, I will have to feed them. And I’m enough of a foodie to want to feed them well–good ingredients, instill a love of cooking–so at that point, I’ll have to find something to compromise on. But we won’t worry about that just yet! As for Picasso Turkey and wine, could anything be finer?

  4. Oh you ladies are breaking my heart! Cooking doesn’t have to be an elaborate pain in the neck. I know it’s hard sometimes when things get really hectic, but you can make a good dinner in fifteen minutes! I think so many people have forgotten how to cook. You really CAN cook and do other things, too! But you don’t have to. Cheers.

  5. It’s a lucky woman who has a husband who can cook. St. John cooks, just not terrifically well. But on the other hand, he is the most unfinicky eater on the planet. So maybe I ought to say it’s a lucky woman who has a husband who will happily eat anything – and consider myself lucky!

  6. Katie, try this.

    Take 5 or 6 plum tomatoes and some chopped garlic. Throw it all in a roasting pan lined with foil and coat everything with some olive oil, salt and pepper and some oregano, if you want. Broil the tomatoes on low until their skins are cracked and they’re kind of charred. Usually around 5-10 minutes.

    Toss them in a pot and mash them up with a potato masher or a fork. Throw in some chopped basil or parsley. Add a scoop of creme fraiche and mix. Toss the sauce with some pasta, add a salad (pre-washed to make it easier), and there’s dinner! If you want, you could add an antipasta platter of pickles, olives, meats like mortadella, and some mozzarella for a more elaborate supper for friends. Even my kids eat this!

  7. Thank you, Tiffany, for proving how easy cooking can be. Katie, all your interests produce relatively “permanent” results and cooking is consumed and gone much too soon for you to bother…do you think? 😉

  8. Eve, we are a pair of lucky women, no doubt! It could be far worse… I could have a picky husband who doesn’t cook. Then we’d both starve!

    Tiffany, that sounds pretty good. I might try it. The especially silly part is that I usually walk to the grocery store every day for lunch, so it’s certainly not like I never have a chance to buy fresh groceries!

    Larramie, ooh, that might be it. All that work (okay, well, Tiffany’s style maybe isn’t all that much work), but then it’s gone. A quilt does have a comforting staying power. Thanks for that little insight!

  9. Tiffany, I bought tomatoes! But they’re the wrong kind. And I forgot the creme fraiche. I have a lot of sour cream, though… creme not-so-fraiche?

    Maybe I’ll try it tonight–the husb will pass out.

  10. Creme Fraiche. It’s like sour cream, but not as tangy. It’s lovely. Sour cream would work, I think. And it really doesn’t matter what kind of tomatoes. Just char them up. Oh, and sometimes I put a spoonful of lemon juice in at the end, but if you use sour cream, I wouldn’t. You’ll have that acid taste already. Good luck! You guys are funny!

  11. Oh the phases of cooking! Married with a full time job, 3 kids, and a husband who didn’t know what a can opener was? Pure hell.
    Single with 3 kids who never liked the same thing? Not quite as bad.
    Single with all the kids gone? No empty nest syndrome here.
    Single yet part of a twosome and one part of the twosome will eat anything I put in front of him with the huge exemption of pickles?
    Pure heaven!!!!

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