Too many cooks spoil the broth

Yoo hoo! Something I wrote for Tuesday’s The Age Good Food section. 


You and your partner have decided to cook together. Bookmarking a recipe for slow-roasted pork belly with Vietnamese slaw, you saunter to the market, envisaging the wonderful evening ahead. Clutching fat wine glasses, you’ll playfully flick each other with tea towels and grate vegetables in perfect harmony.

The evening begins cockily, with a fist bump and a triumphant “Team work!”. Territory is clearly marked: you’re on meat, he’s salads and sauces. Sorted.

Then the kitchen pas de deux commences. You pirouette for the fridge; he’s there. You jete for the pantry; he’s there. Hold on – he’s hogging the best Furi knife and the good chopping board while you’re left with a butter knife and a wobbling plate. As you hack at the pork with your feeble blade and inevitably stab your pinky, you glance at your partner for sympathy. None.

“Gee, I wish I had a better knife…” you sigh, embracing victimhood.

“Yes,” he says slicing a garlic clove with all the urgency of a laid back sloth. “Let’s get one.” Your eyeballs roll.

“What?” he says.

“Nothing,” you huff and pointedly sweep around his feet.

Suddenly everything is getting on your nerves. His sniffing and weird knee caps. The fact he’s managed to use every utensil available. Your clashing clean-as-you-go versus clean-at-the-end ideologies.

Finally, you get some bench space, and as you attend to the pork, you sense humid breath on the back of your neck.

“Is that how you’re doing it?” he asks.

Excusing yourself, you take a toilet (sulking) break and go back to the winter of 2001, when he burnt dinner (kind of), or May 23, 2009, when he described your roast beef as “a bit dry”.

Perched on the porcelain philosopher’s chair, it occurs to you how the vocabulary of cooking is marbled with menace. Beating (eggs), whipping (cream), punching (dough) and bruising (lemongrass) suddenly sound very enticing. When you re-enter the kitchen, seething with hatred, you see it.

Your man. Is manhandling. The meat.

That’s it. You see red: beetroot juice, bleeding steaks and that Italian tomato-throwing festival. There will be blood. You unleash a warrior prayer to your spirit guide, George Foreman, asking not for a healthy lifestyle grill, but for a lethal right hook. In the thundering tones of an exorcist commanding a demon be gone, you cry, “I’m on meat, you’re salads and sauces! Unhand the bloody pork!”.

Scanning the bench for weapons, you see knives and scissors, but opt for a more unconventional attack. You fling a handful of spelt flour at your partner, who, stunned, topples backwards. Finally, clenching two lime cheeks, you spray him with juice and lunge for the pig. Scooping it up, you run into the lounge room shouting “my baby!”, only to skid on a Sichuan peppercorn, sending dinner flying.

Oh dear. Pigs don’t fly.

Sprawled on the carpet beside the fluff-encrusted pork, rational thought makes a belated return.

What a boob you’ve been. What happened to the counsellor’s advice? Compliment, don’t criticise. Why didn’t you say “That cereal looks really on point!” or “You’ve toasted that toast to absolute perfection”. And what about embracing differences? If he wants feta with his pad thai, so be it.

Instead, you tried to kidnap the pig. You poor, hungry fool. Pork not pride.

Surveying the damage it can result in, it’s safe to conclude that cooking with a loved one is as risky as opening a joint bank account, discussing who does more housework or trying to assemble IKEA’s Svalnas wall-mounted workspace together.

If you do decide to collaborate in the kitchen, agreeing to something like a prenup is prudent. Not romantic, no, but putting one in place will help you fairly divide up your assets and could be of great comfort when he kidnaps your Kenwood and goes back to mother.

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