By Janey Womeldorf
Is it that I love to cook? Or love to eat? Sometimes, I wake up thinking about dinner. That used to shame me but now I embrace the fact that food and eating is such a powerful and magical force in life. It is not just about swooning taste buds; it is more precious than that. Whether talking about it, cooking it or sharing it with those you love, nothing unites families, forges memories, and in some cases, helps you get a job.
My husband’s interview for the managerial position was progressing well when the questions became more probing.
“What are your greatest strengths?” inquired the interviewer.
My husband eloquently gushed terms like strong leader, effective time manager, and dependable, impressing on the interviewer that he could without question, handle any challenge.
“Okay, so now tell me your greatest weakness,” continued the interviewer.
My husband stopped for a second, pondered the revealing question, and then replied confidently and honestly, “Chocolate chip cookies.”
Momentary surprise gave way to a burst of laughter prompting the interviewer to reveal that he too shared that weakness. With two chocolate chip cookie confessions exposed, the tension melted, the mood lifted and thirty minutes later, he offered my husband the job. Of course, I daresay my beloved’s experience and qualifications may have had something to do with it but even still, it just proves the magical power of food.
Grocery stores know this. That’s why they infuse their entranceways with the aroma of cinnamon. It reportedly makes people hungry so they buy more. This confuses me because I remember reading in a USA Today article years ago that researchers discovered men are turned on by the aroma of cinnamon rolls. So, the smell of cinnamon makes women shop and men want sex. (Of course, some might argue, what doesn’t?) I’d rather food shop; I love to cook, and I love to eat, so satisfaction is guaranteed; besides, cooking calms me. My kitchen is my oasis, and it’s where I feel most at home. When I need to discuss something with my husband, I invite him to step into my “office.” Of course, he knows to sit at the bar on the living-room side of the kitchen. It’s not that I’m territorial, (“Oh yes she is,” my husband hollers); it’s my territory, my sandbox, my kitchen.
When people are over for dinner and offer to help, rarely do I let them; I’m too anal. I asked my husband to cut tomatoes once. “Bite size,” I instructed. His mouth must be huge because when I looked at his oversized, red chunks, I cringed and asked him to re-cut them. Insulted and unappreciated, he never offered to help me cook again. Secretly, I was relieved; it proved to be one more notch of success on the learning curve called marriage.
Looking back, it’s amazing how many other changes have evolved in 25 years of eating together. Now that we are older, the most significant is how much more appealing eating in versus eating out has become. I could lie and say it’s due to my love of cooking but the truth is, I know how much a pack of spaghetti costs. For a fraction of the menu price, I’ll create my own never-ending pasta bowl right here in my own never-charging kitchen. The other reason (or confession) is that cooking and eating, bra free, in slippers, with a glass of wine and no driving worries, beats any restaurant experience – apart from one.
I recently sat down to write my bucket list. Item number four states: Eat at the restaurant of a famous chef. My only problem is that paying for the experience is not on the bucket list. Nothing dampens an evening like a bill that stops the conversation dead as you both scramble to silently justify that you just dropped your monthly mortgage on a fancy-sounding, artfully-presented entrée that was so small you thought it was the appetizer. (Some friends of mine once celebrated their anniversary in the fanciest of gourmet – read small-portion – restaurants. They paid the bill, left, then pulled into McDonalds on the way home for a burger.)
If I ever got to eat at a celebrity restaurant, I’d have to be selective though. I’d love to eat at Emeril’s in New Orleans but I’d want him to appear from around the corner and shout “Bam;” otherwise it wouldn’t feel truly authentic. If she was still alive, I’d love to eat Julia Child’s famous Beef Bourguignon and have her wish me, “Bon Appetit” in that musical way that only she can. (Maybe Meryl Streep could stand in for her? I love that Julie and Julia movie!) I’d consider Rachel Ray, but do I really want a meal that she whipped up in thirty minutes? Come to think of it, I also wouldn’t want any meal that was semi-homemade, under ten dollars, cooked on a grill, in a sandwich, out of a truck, loaded with butter, from a diner or dive or cooked by a ridiculously-beautiful Italian hottie. And I definitely would not want one of the creations conjured up on those stressful reality shows – there’s too much dripping sweat for my liking. I wonder if Ina Garten has her own restaurant? Of course, I’d rather go to her house, she epitomizes welcoming; plus, her husband seems adorable. What about Mario Batali’s Italian restaurant? Hmmm – even if it is a bucket-list item, how delicious would forty-dollar spaghetti really taste? I’m not sure I could ever truly enjoy something that appeases my taste buds but not my conscience.
Note to self: Delete celebrity restaurant from bucket list – too risky. Maybe instead, I’ll just spend a romantic evening with my husband; it would be so much less complicated. I already know what I would wear for guaranteed comfort, what I would never-ending cook for guaranteed fullness, and for the grand finale, what dessert I would bake my husband for guaranteed satisfaction: Chocolate chip cookies.
Who needs cinnamon rolls?
About this writer
- Janey Womeldorf is a freelance writer who thrives on writing about the humorous, the poignant, and the continually-surprising sides of everyday life. She drinks too much coffee and scribbles away in Memphis, Tennessee.