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Are you an Alpha or A Beta in the kitchen?

  • Quine Feb 14, 2007 11:19 AM
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I just read the delightful article by Katherine Wheelock in today's New York Times : "He Cooks. She Stews. It’s Love." And I have to admit, I am an Alpha. While I do not browbeat (I hope!) my mate when he helps, I have been known to gently take over a task because watching him do it is too painful. And I also gracefully and with much appeciation,eat lopsided, slightly burnt breakfast pancakes on weekends.

So CHers which are you? And how does it work for you, or are you still in negotiations in the kitchen?

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  1. Alpha at home. DH is pretty clueless in cooking so his main job in the kitchen is to clean up which is fine with both of us. He reheats food I've already cooked, and does fairly simple prep jobs usually when I'm not home yet. He's quite happy to have me take over. I ask his opinion about what to make, he tastes for me when I ask but other than that he cleans up and eats.

    I'm a Beta in anyone else's home. Hate cooking in strange kitchens with knives that don't suit me, stoves with different heating rates, pots that don't work etc. So I'm happy to peel carrots and take orders.

    7 Replies
    1. re: cheryl_h

      I actually like the challenge of cooking in other peoples homes, forces me to be creative and in the moment.

      1. re: tigerbitesman

        Some are more challenging than others. The pasta fritatta I tried to make in a cousin's home comes to mind. No one told me that all the eggs in the carton had been previously hard-boiled. Silly me.

      2. re: cheryl_h

        Cheryl H, you and I are kitchen twins separated at birth -- and our husbands are as well. I don't like cooking in other people's kitchens either. In fact, I'm one of the few people who doesn't particularly enjoying hanging out in other people's kitchens, standing in the way while they try to put the last touches on a meal.

        I also am the increasingly rare species who doesn't care for open floor plans. I think the kitchen and the dining room should have a wall between them. While lifestyle magazines often show beautiful guests lounging at the counter, sipping wine and munching beautiful hors d'oeuvres while the gorgeous hostess does a few neat things in the immaculate kitchen, that's not reality. When cooking, I clean up as well as I can as a go along, but at the end, there are dirty pots and pans, mixing bowls and assorted used implements in my kitchen. I don't think they are attractive, and I don't think other people's are either.

        1. re: ClaireWalter

          Agree totally. I don't like people in my way when I'm working and I don't like standing around trying to make conversation when someone's obviously preoccupied.

          1. re: ClaireWalter

            Well I'm with you - stay out of my kitchen and let me be!

            I do have an open floor plan, but I also have the the opening to my kitchen from living and dining room equiped with pocket doors.

            When I have people over they are closed when I'm getting things ready, and when done. Don't need to see the mess while eating.

            I have a small kitchen with a prep island in the center, and I hate having to move people around it out my way while trying to get things done.

            But I have no problem helping out in other's kitchens, but always ask first if they mind.

            1. re: ClaireWalter

              Claire, there's at least one other person who doesn't like open floor plans -- ME! get that kitchen behind closed doors, or call it a bar but not both.

              1. re: ClaireWalter

                Ditto this. I do not like helping other people when they're preparing dinner and I do NOT want help when preparing mine. All those articles that suggest "have your dinner guests help prepare the meal..." BAH! I don't want their help! I want them to walk in, have a cocktail, relax and enjoy themselves. Likewise, I don't want help cleaning up. Our kitchen is tiny and extra folks in there are just in the way of everything I need to get to. But I'd rather have it that way than have an open floor plan - I want the kitchen separated from the dining and living area.

            2. Mrs Jfood finally told me to let he cook without hovering many years ago. Now my big mouth is used only to eat her wonderful cooking. When I cook she is usually doing her own thing as well.

              This mutual "leave me to cook" plan has created a wonderful atmosphere, allowed each of us to develop our mutual cooking skills at our own respective pace, and has led to wonderful meals. We have totally different views on cooking and boy has this worked over the last 26 years.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jfood

                My girlfriend loves to cook but is less experienced, after a few attempts at sharing the kitchen I was banned. Now shes able to learn from experience and by making mistakes and we're able to share the kitchen better when need be. We kind of review the food at the table together regardless of who cooked, we learn from each other and feel less and less guilty about the inevitable dinner flops.

              2. Alpha with one day off a week. Dh cooks on Thurs. We negotiated the kitchen detail a long, long time ago. Typically, I cook and dh sets the table, opens the wine, selects the music and gathers the kids. Now that I have an alpha teen :o) he handles dinner on Wed.

                I'm a Beta when dining elsewhere (including restaurants) or when a personal chef is hired to cook in our home (special occasions).

                1. Alpha. My boyfriend always stands by and offers to help, but I prefer to do it all on my own.

                  1. I'm an Alpha. I come from a long line of bossy Italian women. In the kitchen (and just about everywhere else), we rule as benevolent dictators. Though I have abdicated authority of the grill to my husband. He's the best sous chef a girl could ask for....and he's a rock star when it comes to cleaning up the kitchen (I'm not allowed to touch the dishwasher - apparently I do it wrong). I'd like to think we're a pretty good fit.

                    The only time I run in to problems is when the Italian side of my family gets together - talk about a power struggle!!! We're all getting together soon to teach the next generation the family recipes - it should be great entertainment for the crazy fools who married in to our family.

                    1. A total Alpha... because I'm a chef.
                      Reading the article made me stop and think though.. my wife used to enjoy cooking (she thought she was pretty good at it) and my constant hovering and snide remarks completely ruined it for her. She won't even make a grilled cheese for herself anymore.

                      So, now that I am aware of what a jerk I've been I will try to ease her back into it and be supportive. >>>sigh<<<< even if that means I've got to eat the results.

                      1. Hmmm. Jackp and I cook an equal amount. For years he knew much more about cooking than I did but I am catching up. I will now tell him to back off when I'm doing something and also - because I have a more acute sense of smell - warn him when something is approaching done. It works out fairly well.

                        1. OMG, total alpha. My other half is the best sous chef and will chop and prep and clean as I go. But when he cooks or bakes, I have to leave the kitchen because I can't stand watching the techniques and the mess! :o)

                          1. Definitely an alpha. I am incapable of cooking with anyone else, including my husband. I just have my own way of doing things. Even if I consciously try NOT to take over, I always end up doing so anyway.

                            One of the problems is that my husband is also an alpha cook. He used to work in kitchens and he thinks my way of doing things is all wrong. I used to offer to "help" when he cooked (naively thinking it would be romantic), but after watching me slowly take over I am now banned from the kitchen whenever he cooks.

                            1. I'm a definite alpha but at least one day/week, I gladly relinquish the reins and sit at the kitchen bar/counter with a glass of wine while he does the cooking. While my Alpha tendencies are certainly a function of my type-A personality, some credit needs to be given to the fact that I admittedly have better kitchen skills than my husband so he frequently calls upon me for 'help'. Great article though-thoroughly enjoyed it.

                              1. Alpha. It's difficult to get dinner together in 20 minutes if my husband cooks. I am also the menu planner, grocery shopper and kitchen cleaner. He does most of the other household work though.

                                1. Alpha for dinner; beta for breakfast (that's my husband's specialty).

                                  1. I don't mind other people in the kitchen when I'm cooking. They just have to stay THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY, and DO WHAT I TELL THEM!
                                    My GF loves to cook, just not much for me anymore. I need to learn to chill a bit.
                                    And I'm tryin Ringo. I'm tryin real hard....

                                    1. I used to be a hard core Alpha. I would woo my lovers by cooking for them, and alienate my family of cooks by intimidating them.

                                      But then I met my partner, also a professional chef. I'm a pastry chef, and it's perfect that we speak "kitchen" but have different specialties. We've been together for several years and have learned each others styles. Cooking for one another is sort of how we express our love for each other. When my mashed potatoes have a few shavings of truffle hiding in them, I know it's a whispered "I love you." And I always make sure one slice tart tatin gets extra whipped cream with a fresh grate of nutmeg.

                                      Maybe that's when you know it's Love--you are both Alphas, the food is twice as good, and everyone is happy.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Non Cognomina

                                        A perfect V-day post! Thank you. :-)

                                      2. Alpha, guilty as charged- I'm a professional chef, too...
                                        Like Non Cognomina was saying, Two chefs can complement each other- I had a jerk of a roommate who worked the line with me- We couldn't sit in the same room for more than 10 minutes, but the two of us could make some great meals in the kitchen. We knew how to step forward and step back and trusted each other's prep work.

                                        After two years of having my kitchen all to myself, I now live with my sister. She's definitely a great cook- she's adventurous, has a great palete, and has been developing recipes as long as I have. When she steps into MY kitchen, though, I have to clench my teeth and turn away- I'm much better off watching TV while she cooks- I always enjoy eating what she prepares, but I am such a pain her butt while she's cooking. Sorry!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: lunchbox

                                          Lunchbox, I am a definite alpha when I cook at home, but I don't have a problem being a beta in a professional setting when I knew I was working with someone who has more experience or formal training.

                                          I don't give up my alpha status easily, but I will acknowledge someone else's experience. The best chefs I have worked with don't have a problem with others and understand that everyones ego need to be held in check for the best results and working harmony.

                                        2. Alpha. I really try to keep my mouth shut though because my husband enjoyed cooking and baking a lot, before we moved in together. So I have resolved for example to not get into any yeast baking, because that's his thing and I want it to stay his thing.

                                          But I have my limits. He came home with some lovely T-bones for V-day last night and mentionned broiling 6 min/side. NOOOOOOOOO! So I politely requested 4 min/side for mine. I just couldn't let that go!

                                          1. yech, I am glad not to be married to anyone so rude - alpha or beta

                                            When I saw the headline - "he cooks, she stews", I though "hey, how'd they know?"

                                            I have the patience to do the long-cooking things like roasting the onions for two hours to make french onion soup but when putting it all together, he gets called in for the final tasting, seasoning and balancing. I'll do the first 6 hours of chili work, he does the final taste, season, serve.

                                            If it's a cook-eat meal like a stirfry or pasta, then his faster cooking reflexes are on deck and I'll do the app.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: orangewasabi

                                              That's really interesting, I'm like your beau, I like fast action throw it together cooking, it's hard for me to be patient and to plan ahead.

                                            2. Yeah, I have to admit I am an alpha in the kitchen. My SO is a good cook her own self, and she has some alpha tendencies too, so we can clash if we try to cook together. We do things differently, and it's really hard for me to keep my mouth shut or not act like there is a better way. When I try it becomes passive aggressive, as in "So, you're gonna cook those that way eh?" (Ugh.) Aside from a few specific tasks, we pretty much let one or the other do the whole meal.

                                              1. Interesting that a CHOW blog article was posted on this topic, well after this thread was started. Original content, people.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: julesrules

                                                  Wow and it looks suprisingly like this topic I posted. Well I guess some folks create and others er...use.

                                                  1. re: Quine

                                                    It's been stated several times and in several places that web content becomes the property (and many times the inspiration) of CHOWhound.com.

                                                    I've seen "cross pollination" throughout the CH webpages.

                                                2. Alpha when it comes to baking, part time alpha otherwise. Spouse has come to realize over the years that he is a very fine cook, with some outstanding specialties. Our mantra is divison of labor. Some things I do better, some things he does better and we each know which is which. My definition of marital harmony is our "kitchen dance." Both of us otherwise klutzes can prepare different parts of the same meal in our cramped kitchen, gliding by each other wordlessly, in perfect synch, no crashes or splats, handing each other ingredients and tools without even thinking. And somehow a pretty good meal ends up on the table.

                                                  1. I'm an Alpha, but my husband doesn't care, because he doesn't enjoy cooking anyway. We prepare our own breakfasts and lunches, but dinner is all mine. He sits in a chair in the doorway of the kitchen and reads to me while I cook dinner, and then we clean up afterwards together. Works fine for us. Occasionally, he'll want to cook something and I do butt out, but he'll usually ask me for step-by-step on whatever he's preparing.

                                                    1. Alpha, alpha, alpha....that would be me.

                                                      I wouldn't trust my husband in the kitchen. He is admittedly, very bad in the kitchen. He is the only person I know that needed to go get stitches after trying to open a can of ravioli.

                                                      At other people's home, I'm perfectly happy with someone else in charge of the kitchen. I tend to not offer help in cooking but, I do offer to help clean. I probably do this sub-consciously because, I don't want people in my way when I'm cooking.

                                                      1. It's alpha against alpha at my household - whomever came up with the entree/snack whatever wants complete charge over making it and tends to sous chef the other person around. We usually have a lot of fun and end up loving whatever it is we are making!

                                                        1. Other than cleaning up, the kitchen is mine, period! I don't let people help because I don't want their mistakes to impact my meal.

                                                          1. Alpha by default. He doesn't cook so I do everything!

                                                            1. Definitely an alpha. I consider the kitchen MY domain, and only begrudgingly tolerate others. When Mrs. ricepad wants to cook, I'm either hovering-stirring-tasting-kibbutzing or I'm in another room, fighting the urge to go into my kitchen to hover-stir-taste-kibbutz. All too often, when I'm *supposed* to be helping the kids cook or teaching them to cook, I end up taking over.

                                                              I especially hate it when Mrs. ricepad comes into my kitchen to 'help' and starts washing stuff or putting stuff away THAT I'M STILL USING! "Hey, what happened to that spoon?" "Hey, did you toss the celery tops??" "HEY, that dried up piece of tangerine peel was the last piece I had!" All my way of saying, "Sweetie, I love that you want to help, but please make sure that what you intend to do is actually helpful!"

                                                              1. I'm a Beta all the way. I'm very slow in the kitchen and it drives me nuts. My fiance is much better at cooking and quicker, so I usually defer to him to cook food. I'm coming into my own, but it's taking forever. I can, however, bake like no one's business. It's just the stove top that really gets my goose.