The sole contents of my husband's fridge when we met were peanut butter, ketchup, and a loaf of bread. There were no half-used jars of curry paste or even crusted-over bottles of Newman's Own salad dressing. It struck me, even as a person who hadn't yet learned to cook much beyond making stir-fries and boiling water, as odd.
I, too, was a single young person who took more meals at happy hour than at the couch and TV tray that served as my kitchen table at the time. But at least my fridge had nubbins of cheese, the dying carcasses of romaine lettuce, and other assorted detritus of a person capable of feeding herself.
As Brett and I prodded at the basics of adulthood together, household tasks landed in the lap of the person best suited for them. He did most of the cleaning, since my tolerance for mess would rival that of Oscar the Grouch, and I did the cooking, because I did not believe that beer and popcorn constituted dinner.
For the first nine years of our relationship, the division of labor stuck. Until I got pregnant.
While 22-year-old me believed dinner should include more than a single, bland food, pregnant me felt that white rice was the only acceptable food, all day, every day. Roles shifted. Brett learned that if he wanted to eat lunch (while any aroma stronger than neutral made me lose my own), he'd have to make it himself.
At first, the meals were simple, capitalizing on his few culinary skills: frying an egg and making bacon. But soon, he wanted more and would ask for suggestions. I quickly learned that my own slapdash, toss-some-things-in-a-pan and season-to-taste style didn't appeal to his engineer side. He liked times and weights and measurements. He wanted to know when the broccoli was done sautéing and my "when it smells done" wasn't helping.
I was pregnant in summer, so many meals came off our barbecue, because, while my husband does nearly all the dishes and cleaning, some gender stereotypes stick around. But by fall, when Jordana was born and I was stuck on the couch with a baby glued to my chest, he had to take the next steps.
At first, he had taken to project dinners like making fresh pasta, but by the time Jordana could eat, the countdown clock between when he got home and when she fell apart without food shrank and he learned to churn out the type of meals I do: quick, easy, subbing in and out vegetables as needed. I shouted instructions from the couch, teaching my husband to cook while I tried to teach my daughter to eat. While I had been struggling through the early days of Jordana's life, my husband struggled to catch up on the cooking skills usually developed over many years.
As she got older and I could put her down or pass her off, dinner duty shifted back to me. I love cooking and I'd missed chopping out the frustrations of my day, dialing dishes into my particular desires, and most of all, providing sustenance for my family. I suspect Brett felt that the food tasted better when I cooked it — and not just how it was flavored.
But when our second daughter was born last fall, nothing made my life easier than relaxing with the new baby as I heard my husband teaching Jordana how to make macaroni and cheese. Sure, we eat fish sticks a little more often than would be my choice (read: at all) if I weren't trapped under a 2-month-old, but a little frozen food more than makes up for not having to shout recipe instructions down the hall this time around.