Cooking is a big part of my relationship with Nick. Early on in our dating relationship, Nick offered to pick up groceries on his way over to my apartment and cook dinner. He showed up with two overflowing bags from Whole Foods. He threw together some fancy snacks to munch on while we (he) cooked – bread, smoked gouda, mustard, a balsamic dipping sauce he made, and fresh basil. Honestly that was filling enough that I don’t remember what he fixed along with the main course of London broil. I do know there was supposed to be a soup course (black bean) but our stomachs were full before we got that far.
This was 3 ½ years ago. Since then, there have been many meals we’ve prepared together, or for each other. But even though we both love to cook, our approaches are about as opposite as they can be, and it’s taken a long time for us to use that to our advantage instead of a point of contention.
Pretty typical- Nick doing the work, me watching to make sure he is doing it right:
Nick is a musician, and he cooks like, well, a rock star. It’s bold and excessive and indulgent. There is a lot of butter. And sometimes duck fat. And in true rock star fashion, Nick’s cooking is rather nonconformist. The only recipe I’ve ever seen him follow is for Wolfgang Puck’s pizza dough. I once caught him putting maraschino cherries in chili. (And by “caught”, I mean, “found a sticky red spot on the counter the next day and used some deductive reasoning”.) His intuitive approach almost always pays off. Even though he promised me years ago that if he ever cooked something inedible, he’d buy dinner, so far, that hasn’t been necessary.
In contrast, I come to the kitchen with the mindset of a researcher. I follow precise methodology until I know enough to start coming up with my own innovations. Much like a good experimental design builds on theory and previous research, I check the existing literature before testing my culinary ideas to make sure they’re worth while. (In particular I love The Flavor Bible.) But I’d like to think there is also artistry in my cooking- I make deliberate choices about balancing meals and selecting flavors that compliment and contrast. And the visual presentation is important- on more than one occasion I’ve added fresh basil to a tomato sauce not because it enhances the flavor but because the bright green looks so pretty sitting on top of the red sauce.
So there have been a number of times we’ve clashed in the kitchen. My tendencies towards control freak don’t always allow me to work well with others. For a while it seemed to work better for us to take turns cooking. Nick can appreciate the subtleties in my cooking even if he couldn’t execute it himself, and I can enjoy his dinners as long as I turn a blind eye to the amount of butter he throws into the pan.
But as I’ve learned to trust Nick’s instincts and he has learned to listen to some of my suggestions (and my request that not every meal include red meat), we’ve come up with some pretty awesome collaborations recently. We successfully conjured up a grilled Mexican pizza last summer, and our first stab at making lasagna turned out amazingly well. Perhaps the biggest collaboration to date is our plan to cook our own wedding menu. Well, I’ll be helping to prepare in the days leading up to the wedding; once my nails are done, I’m out. Nick’s sister and brother-in-law will be the main culinary talent. And I’m sure I’ll be sharing some recipes and experiences as we move forward with the preparations!