Kitchen power struggles
An article in this week’s Dining section discusses the phenomenon of the alpha cook. Do most people have one of these at home, and is it problematic? It’s hard for me to imagine marriages “running aground” over a fight in the kitchen, but like in all other areas of home management, someone has to step up and learn his way around, and the other person can be left in the cold.
When Nathan and I first started dating, he did all of the cooking because it was his kitchen and because I had never really cooked anything in an adult way. I took a serious interest in it in France, and now I cook 99 percent of the time. It’s not because I’m better; it’s because I’m home an hour earlier, I genuinely enjoy being in the kitchen, and he has a ton of computer work to do. Now he doesn’t really like to do any cooking if I’m around, because even if I don’t make any comments, he can feel my eyes. He also doesn’t know where a lot of things are. When I showed him how the measuring cups are stored in the wine rack, he replied, “Are you serious?” I’ve since moved them to the shelf that holds the vitamins and kitchen utensils, above the coffee station. The kitchen is a complicated puzzle that the main cook is taking apart and putting together and changing constantly.
I know how Nathan feels, because when I’m at home in Pittsburgh and in the kitchen with Mom, my palms sweat. It’s her domain, she knows where everything is, and she knows how to do everything. I want to learn, but at the same time I’m afraid of doing things wrong. I cooked her a birthday dinner on Sunday (she’ll eventually post about it), and the only way I was able to turn out that meal was that I was alone in the kitchen all afternoon, free to explore and experiment, to get lost and mess up.
I don’t know any couples that have serious power struggles in the kitchen. Billy and Mom are both great cooks, and I suppose I’ve seen them disagree, but they manage to stay out of each other’s way while cooking. The problem must come when couples try to cook together. That seems like a minefield for hurt feelings and misunderstandings. My recommendation? Stay out of your lover’s way, compliment the meal, and save your relationship.