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February 2005 Issue
Cooking Together
by Ronda L. Halpin
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I like to think of myself as a warm and loving person and, generally, most people I meet tend to agree with that assessment. However, upon becoming part of a "couple" so many years ago, I was surprised to discover how difficult I was in the kitchen. I'd gotten so used to being "in charge" that my husband found it nearly impossible to rise to my high standards there.

Since then, I've softened my stance on the subject. I've discovered that there is more than one way to chop an onion, there is value in stepping back and letting someone else take the reigns, and there is a lot of fun to be had in the kitchen if you relax and enjoy cooking with someone you love.

Since Valentine's Day finds its home in this month, I thought it would nice to focus on the value of cooking together. It's one thing to go off to a fancy restaurant and order off the menu (and that has its place too), but it's quite another to join forces with your significant other and put together a meal that you can both enjoy. It's not too difficult, but I have learned a few tips along the way that have helped me immensely and I offer them now to you:

  • I find it's best to give "ownership" of a menu to one person and have the other act as an aid in the process. If I'm in charge of one meal, I might ask that my husband chop vegetables for alongside a roast and prepare a salad. If my husband's the one calling the shots, he might want me to grate cheese or make a sauce. It's not about what your "job" is when cooking together ... it's about helping each other make a meal that you will both enjoy.

  • If someone has a special knack for a certain kind of meal or menu, let that be the one he or she "owns". For example, I like to call my husband my "Breakfast Man" because early in our relationship, he took it upon himself to learn to cook eggs and make pancakes. Since then, he's gone much further and is an expert at omelets and crepes and more. I'm thrilled to let him take charge and, instead, busy myself with ingredient preparation, making toast or putting together some fresh muffins. And, of course, I'm always in charge of making coffee or tea!

  • Remember that the process is meant to bring you closer together. If presentation isn't perfect or an ingredient didn't make it in, don't worry. One of my fondest memories was of a time that the dinner I plan didn't work out and my husband, ever faithful onion-chopper and silver-lining-finder, smiled and recommended that we opt to munch Chinese take-out in front of the fireplace instead. It ended up being just fine and making us both closer in the end!
In the end, what you make isn't that important. Sometimes teamwork means deciding that it's time to preheat the oven and toss in a frozen pizza. At other times, it means starting the day by going fishing and ending it by roasting your catch. Either way, the time you spend together looking out for each other's needs and wants will help you grow as a couple ... and hopefully have a good meal as well!
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