Unlike many households, cooking is very popular at our house. This is because the standing arrangement states he or she who cooks does not have to wash dishes. This is a powerful impetus to get the skillet out and call dibs on cooking. I think this is how the dinner hour came to be four o’clock in Florida. Masses of retirees, trying to avoid doing dishes, grabbed an apron earlier and earlier. Someday soon, dinner will be for breakfast.
Fortunately, Steve is a great cook. One of his specialties is cube steak with brown gravy. This is always welcome because I, to quote Erma Bombeck, come from a family that treated gravy like a beverage. Me, I like to try new things. For instance, one of my specialties is cube steak with mushroom gravy. I also like to marinate foods to give them a different flavor. This has the tripartite benefit of (1) not having the same thing over and over (2) being a part of cooking you can do while you are, technically, sitting on the deck with a drink and (3) delaying the cooking process so you can have a second drink.
We enjoy watching Food Network to see a variety of cooks in action even though this is probably not a good idea. No one in real life should pretend things they see on the Food Network actually happen. Take the Barefoot Contessa cooking show featuring Ina Garten. We especially like watching Ina. She makes the best-looking stuff and serves it on the best-looking table and agrees a “table-scape” (featured by another cook on the Food Network) is not a real thing. I don’t know why Ina calls herself the Barefoot Contessa. This is the name of an old movie starring Ava Gardner and a very tight sweater. Ina (not wearing a tight sweater) gives endless dinners and lunches for her endless list of friends in her endlessly charming East Hampton house which has an endless supply of herbs and flowers in the back yard which fronts an endless beach. Her husband Jeffrey visits on the weekend. None is these is the unbelievable part.
What is unbelievable is that Ina always has room in her refrigerator for things. Four trays of hors d’ oeuvres? No problem. (Spelling hors d’ oeuvres? Big problem.) Ten gallons of fish stock for soup? No problem. Smelling up the whole house in the process of boiling fish carcasses all day? Apparently no problem if you are the Barefoot Contessa.
If you are Marla Boone, not only does the fish smell linger for a week, you have to cram the container of left-over soup onto a shelf that is already crammed with left-over cube steak and gravy. Our refrigerator is over-flowing with seven kinds of pickles, all of which Steve deems necessary to civilized life, diet tonic water, which I deem necessary to civilized life, and two loaves of bread which will be, in no time at all, turning a suspicious color and sprouting penicillin spores. (I know you are not supposed to keep bread in the fridge. If we don’t, it turns into penicillin even faster.)
Another unbelievable thing is that when she wants to make something chocolate, she simply goes to her spacious, organized pantry and pulls a packet of good chocolate off the shelf. Who has chocolate just sitting around? At our house, chocolate has the life expectancy of a May fly. Oh, and whenever Ina drives into town for something which, also unbelievably, she doesn’t have in her spacious, organized pantry, there is always a convenient parking space.
But the very top unbelievable thing is that there is never a dirty dish in Ina’s kitchen. It’s as though the dish fairy is lurking somewhere nearby, perhaps behind the basil, ready to pounce on any measuring cup, cutting board, or stock pot Ina gets dirty. And Ina racks up a lot of dirty cooking items. She apparently owns more baking sheets than we do pickle jars and isn’t afraid to use them (the baking sheets, not the pickle jars although I strongly suspect Ina makes her own pickles, including the harvesting the dill and drying out the sea salt from her endless beach). What Steve or I decide to cook is often based entirely on how many dirty dishes creating that culinary masterpiece will generate. Even though the person doing the cooking is not obligated to wash the dishes, he or she knows that some day he or she will not be quick enough with the sauté pan and will end up doing the dishes from another meal. Pay-backs are heck and our basil plant is not big enough to accommodate a dish fairy.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.