I don’t get compliments on my cooking.
Not, for instance, on my pasta (no need to heat the jar of sauce when the noodles warm it fine). Or for my nachos (lay slices of American cheese on chips and nuke!).
Because, it turns out, I was made to feed a 5-year-old. I have finally found a culinary equal in my son, someone who offers “a hundred thumbs up” on my signature dishes, such as Insides of Burrito with Ketchup, or Eggs Without Yellows.
This is significant for a person whose cooking inspiration is based mainly on how few dishes I can dirty (no more than two).
Born of a mother whose cooking inspiration was based mainly on healthy choices — no butter, no oil — I grew to appreciate simplicity. And my style, or lack thereof, naturally followed.
I generally don’t have patience to make multiple-step dishes (because, see above, multiple dishes to clean), but, luckily, my palate supports that.
It's not that I don't appreciate sophisticated cooking. It's just that I am happy to eat popcorn for dinner or gnaw on an unpeeled carrot for a snack. I would put peanut butter and jelly on a hot dog roll because, what’s the difference? The lasagna frozen dinner doesn’t really need to be heated up. And dropping a can of tuna in a bowl (no stirring) and scooping out bites with some crackers (only one dish!) is a favorite of mine.
When I got married, my husband respected the way I cooked — what he eventually called Cuisine Catrine — because I didn’t feign interest or feel pressure to try. Besides, he loved to cook.
So it went that he made the dinners, planned the holiday menus, got all the kudos. And he fantasized that the baby coming would devour his homemade spinach puree.
Even I, pre-bambino, pictured finally learning cooking skills on my maternity leave. I figured my child would need a mother who knew what to do with a chicken.
So ... neither of those things happened.
Instead, after my son eventually graduated from the toddler phase of nearly everything served is eaten to nearly everything served is scorned, Cuisine Catrine became my son’s preferred menu.
In fact, ours has become a symbiotic relationship. When I make sunny-side-up eggs, I eat the yolks plucked from their holes, and he eats the remaining whites, with burned edges. (That was born of my inability to gauge cooking time, but it turns out the crispy brown parts are his favorite.) He loves Annie’s brand bean-and-cheese burritos, but only the insides with mixed-in ketchup and extra cheese melted on top. I am happy to eat the wrap, which, once peeled off, has the slightest hint of beans on it. Perfect!
Last week, upon serving him a smoothie and a cheese dog (that’s a grilled hot dog wrapped in a slice of melted provolone), he took one look at the charred cheese and said, “I know this is going to be good.” With some avocado slices on the side, it rounded out our dinner.
Not traditional. Not complex. But I got all the food groups in him.
People have told me they like cooking because it’s creative. I’d rather draw or sew. Or that they find it an interesting challenge. I solve enough problems before 9 a.m. I asked an ex-boyfriend once what he liked about his new girlfriend, and he told me, “We like the same kind of foods.”
No, the happiness I’ve discovered by cooking for my kid is something different.
It’s the privilege of understanding someone’s quirks when others scoff.
On weeknights, we will sit next to each other at the kitchen island, sharing details about our days. His of school, mine of work.
His, the whites. Mine, the yellows.
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