Tag Archives: Mother-in-law

Cooking is for the birds

Did you read my last post about cooking my first turkey? The sub-text, which I skipped over when I realized how much I had to say about the turkey experience itself, is that I don’t like to cook. I blame my mother.

I love my mom. I think she did a great job, considering what she had to work with. When friends talk about how lacking their own mothers are, I offer to lend them mine so they can get whatever it is they didn’t get from theirs. I feel very lucky in the mom department. But when it came to cooking, she fell down on the job. Mind you, we weren’t starving. She knew how to cook and she did feed us, but from my perspective she wasn’t enjoying it. (She may, of course, have a different take on the subject and she’s welcome to comment if she feels the need.) Having observed that cooking was a thankless task, I had no compelling desire to learn how to do it. Then I met Andrew.

On our third date, he made dinner for me at his apartment. I remember sitting in his kitchen in Somerville, drinking the wine I’d brought and eating the goat cheese he’d put out for me to munch on while he bustled about. The meal started with tomato soup, and he served roasted tomatoes with the entrée. I don’t like tomatoes, but I was impressed with his culinary skills. I congratulated myself on having found a man who was not only handsome, smart, and funny, but could cook. When he found out that I was a take-out kind of gal, he was disappointed. I decided to step up my cooking.

Then I met my future mother-in-law and I began to feel like I was living inside a bad joke with the punch line, “not as good as his mother makes it.” My MIL is an outstanding cook. I was intrigued, and a little annoyed. Particularly because, after committing to the long-term relationship, I discovered that Andrew didn’t actually do much cooking. He had cleverly dangled the possibility that he would cook as bait and I had swallowed the hook.

During our double-income-no-kid years, cooking never posed much of a problem. Between Andrew’s penchant for pizza and my love of Chinese food we could go for weeks without turning on the oven. Then we had Hannah and we had to confront the subject all over again. Although Andrew argued that pizza provided a balanced meal, Hannah never developed a taste for it, and before she had teeth who could blame her?

I managed to perfect half a dozen suitable dinners and before long my loving daughter learned to say, “That again?” When I picked her up after school, she would ask what we were having for dinner and then express her dismay. I started sticking my fingers in my ears when I saw her coming. While my repertoire has increased, and Hannah’s taste buds (and manners) have developed, dinner remains somewhat problematical at our house and frankly, I don’t expect it will ever get any better. I just don’t enjoy cooking.

If after reading this you’re feeling bad for my mom, don’t. One day Hannah will write about what an abysmal model she had for cooking and my mom will have the last laugh.

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5-pound bag of peanuts

I don’t do a lot of entertaining. Having friends over usually means serving dinner and I’m not much of a cook. So when I do invite people over I try to set reasonably low expectations. I may ask something like, “Do you have a Cheez-Whiz allergy?”

Sometimes the gods will be smiling on me when I invite my in-laws over for dinner. My mother-in-law will say, “That’s wonderful. I’ll bring dinner.” There’s nothing like having a dinner guest who brings the meal. She is a fantastic cook. She can whip up a meal for 30 people with a half hour’s notice and it will taste like she’s been slaving away for hours.

I also don’t watch sports (if you don’t count the opening ceremonies for the Olympics; I like the parade of nations). So imagine my husband’s surprise when I told him we were hosting a Super Bowl party this year. “To watch the game?” he asked, with a horrified look on his face. “And the commercials,” I reassured him.

There were going to be seventeen of us in all. I wanted to have enough appetizers so that everyone would be able to find something they liked. I believe what you lack in quality can be made up in quantity. I envisioned people spread out all over the house, some watching the game in the family room, some lounging in the living room, others gathered around the dining room table sharing stories while the appetizers magically floated from room to room.

The guests, however, stayed glued to the TV in the family room, where the chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, and Spanakopita from Costco were on the coffee table. The appetizers that were strategically placed in other rooms were largely untouched; a fig and olive tapenade with goat cheese, a veggie platter with low-fat dip, a bowl of kim-chee and a plate of California rolls.

We did empty a few bottles of wine and lots of bottles of beer, and everyone seemed to have a good time. So I guess it doesn’t matter that the 5-pound bag of peanuts is still a 5-pound bag of peanuts. There’s always next year.