My husband had me at "Chinese food."
The first time we met, we discovered that we grew up just blocks away from each other on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. When I asked him if his family liked to order takeout from China Fun, he recited the phone number. I swooned. Clearly, I thought, food was going to play an important role in our relationship. And it did — just not in the way that I expected it to.
As it turns out, China Fun takeout was basically the only food my husband and I had in common. From early on in our relationship, it was apparent we were not going to reenact the infamous spaghetti scene from Lady and The Tramp. He likes lamb chops; I love quinoa and kale. But our divergent culinary preferences were never an issue — that is, until we moved in together.
My husband, I discovered, was a backseat chef.
Moving into our first place together in Los Angeles, I remember unpacking all the goodies from our registry: All-Clad pans, Wüsthof knives, beautiful Kate Spade dishes, and gadgets galore. I finally had everything I needed to really cook the way I wanted to — not to mention a dream kitchen.
Sure, my bachelorette pad had a kitchen, but the range leaked gas more adequately than it cooked food. By comparison, our new apartment's kitchen had granite countertops, modern stainless steel appliances — the works! It was even smoke-alarm snafu-proof, thanks to cathedral-height ceilings in the living room and French doors leading out to the terrace.
Realistically, I knew I was no Nigella — but still, I was so excited to finally be able to really cook!
There was just one problem: My husband, I discovered, was a backseat chef.
It wasn't as if my husband hated my cooking; there were several dishes that he really enjoyed, but there were others he felt could use improvement. For example, while he noted my salmon was always cooked to a perfect temperature, he didn't think preparing it with salt, pepper and lemon was very flavorful.
I wasn't deterred: I found a great marinade recipe. I was all in for salmon 2.0.
Then there were the foods he vetoed completely, such as my favorite California salad staple, kale. He would rather sit on the 405 in traffic than eat it. Fair enough: Arugula became our house salad.
He wasn't trying to steal my domestic goddess crown; he was just trying to improve our pork.
Finally, one night, when I was cooking pork chops, he came into the kitchen and started making suggestions. After briefly considering throwing a spatula at him, I said if he wanted his food cooked a certain way, he was more than welcome to take the pan.
To my surprise, he did. Gripping the chop with tongs, he rendered the fat in a way that might make Anthony Bourdain blush.
At first, I wasn't happy about this kitchen power shift. I felt I hadn't lived up to my own expectations of what a wife should be. But then I realized, my husband wasn't trying to steal my domestic goddess crown; he was just trying to improve our pork. I began to see the positives of not being completely in charge of every meal.
These days, dinner is a more collaborative effort. On most nights, I'm not standing alone in the kitchen; my husband is right there beside me. Much of the time, he prepares the main dish and I make the sides and salad, although chicken Parmesan and salmon are my meals entirely.
It's not always smooth sailing — he has a tendency to go overboard on the spices, whereas I don't always season quite enough — but we're not afraid to be honest with each other. As a result, we're both becoming better at cooking, and we're becoming more open about our feelings, too.
Moving in together didn't simply change dinner — it changed our relationship. As newlyweds, I know we will face a lot of challenges and won't always agree on everything. But every night gives us the gift of creating something delicious together.
Do you like to cook with your significant other? Share in the comments!