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Can You "Play Nicely" With Someone Else In Your Kitchen?

I hate to admit it, but I am definitely one of those people who does not like to share kitchen space and/or chores with anyone else. I am always nice, but I hate to have to answer questions like,"Do you have a lid for this pot?" "Don't you think this needs more salt?" When it comes to cleaning up, it's even worse. I have a dishwasher that I need to use as dedicated space for pots and pan storage, so it's a "hands-on" deal, and I want to do it myself. I don't want to have to tell where every item goes after bring dried. It's been a long while since I've cooked with my Mom, but she was famous for sneaking stuff into your recipes, and that drove me nuts. I don't know where it came from - I played well with others in the sandbox, on the playground, etc., but I want my kitchen to be my sole domain.

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  1. I agree, but I love to have my SO prep for me. Chop an onion, mince some garlic, peel the shrimp (or whatever) and then leave! It's fine if he wants to do the dishes, later, too.

    1. My fiancee and I really enjoy cooking together. We're both decent cooks and do enjoy our food, from shopping to prep to eating. Since we're looking for a place one of her provisos (which I agree with) is that there be "room for two butts in the kitchen".

      Of course, when one of us is cooking for the other no meddling is tolerated.

      1. No.
        I'd love to elaborate, but there's no point to it. Simply, no.

        1 Reply
        1. Depends. My mother has gotten good at asking me "what can I do?" and I will ask her to set the table, get the serving dishes out, etc., if it's needed. Otherwise, I tell her to park her butt in a kitchen chair and talk with me. :-) She knows my kitchen is my domain, and she knows I'm usually in the midst of organizing my brain to make sure everything comes out at the same time (something she taught me), so she usually leaves well enough alone.

          My sister and I usually play nicely in the kitchen as well - she's abdicated certain holiday tasks to me, as she just can't make perfect gravy/mashed potatoes/organize things so they all come out at the same time. But there can be a bit of friction, depending on the stress of the holiday, and what needs to be done.

          Most friends know me to have everything under control unless I ask them to specifically do/make something, so they usually hang around to chat or just wait until I ask.

          And I have no problem whatsoever having a friend/family member help stack the dishwasher. My BIL is a champion dish washer if something can't go into the dishwasher, and just automatically "assumes the position" at the sink to rinse and stack.

          1. I sometimes have a hard time cooking with people in the kitchen - if I'm really having to juggle cooking times and processes I'll just ask them (nicely) to leave - but if they're trying to help it's often much worse. Our friend Jerry and his nephew are the only exceptions to that; not only are they highly skilled cooks, a good bit better than I am, they're also used to cooking in unfamiliar places with lots of other people. This makes it not only comfortable, but actually MORE fun than cooking by myself. And now we've moved away from Nashville and my cooking buddies, though Jerry did come out for a visit last year and we cooked a great reunion!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Will Owen

              I was making pasta carbonara for a lunch party one day, and one of the guests insisted on standing right by my elbow in our small, narrow kitchen, so he could see how I made the pasta. I'm not as nice as you are, Will -- I ended up getting annoyed and snapping at him, for which I then had to apologize profusely later. Ugh. I'd much rather be alone in the kitchen.

              1. re: onebite

                I've been a real a**hole with people under those circumstances, and regretted it very much, so nowadays I ask them to leave well before I lose my temper. I've also learned a lot about kitchen manners from those cooking buddies - John, Jerry's nephew, is a chef with a lot of command experience, and it's wonderful to see how he manages to organize the effort without even overtly taking charge.

            2. I am thrilled by the concept of a "sous chef" that simply does my bidding as I bark orders...(sigh, if only you could train them to move really fast and respond "Yes, Chef!). Unfortunately the reality of friends and family,"helping out" is not like that.

              Having said that, my hubby is a great kitchen partner and doesn't expect me to be polite to him in the heat of the perfect polenta or that precisely plated Pavlova...and that really is the key, isn't it? Its just difficult to be nice while orchestrating the elements of a truly great meal.

              Got my comeuppance a couple of weeks ago-I tried to understudy my daughter, a fine, fine creative cook in her very own first kitchen-man, I was lame...had to keep biting my tongue...and I knew I was bugging her. But the meal was great and it was a kick when her mother-in-law-to-be said: "Well, Kate, we had no idea you are an even better cook than your Mom!"

              1. No. Get out mine and I'll happily get out of yours.

                1. No, but it's mostly because I am a terribly self-concious cook. I gladly hand over my kitchen to anyone who wants to come in and take over COMPLETELY, but again, I don't like an audience.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ArikaDawn

                    No, I don't like anyone in my kitchen because I'm anal retentiave and I'm a control freak and I don't like anyone getting in my way or trying to talk to me when I'm in my cooking zone. The one exception is my mom, who has learned to remain quiet and follow me around and wash all of my prep dishes, keep the knives clean etc. It works well. My husband can stay in the kictehn if an only if he DOESN'T SAMPLE. That drives me nuts!

                    1. re: ArikaDawn

                      I don't mind the audience. In fact I kinda like an audience. I just don't want them helping.

                      1. I had the most wonderful experience cooking with a friend of mine a few months ago when she stayed at my home during a visit. I handed her several cookbooks and my recipe box, told her which meals we would be eating in and then told her to design her own menus. After spending time together working on the menus we went grocery shopping (several stores). Then throughout her visit we cooked together, making decisions about following or changing recipes, about chopping or dicing, about the quality of the ingredients we found and of course non-cooking topics as well. It was so much fun that I can’t wait for her to come back so we can do it again.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bonmann

                          Wow - I loved reading your post! I would love to have an experience like this with somebody - totally bonding over food. What terrific memories you both have now too.

                        2. I don't share my kitchen partly because I plan my menus ahead and when we have guests, almost everything is done from a cooking perspective, but also because my kitchen is tiny, and it's hard enough for my husband and I to dance around each other, and we know where everything is. My MIL always comes over here to make the rolls for Thanksgiving, but she does the rest of her share in her own kitchen and brings it later. There's simply not room. Same goes for cleanup. I don't accept help from my guests because a.) they're my guests and I want them to relax and b.) It's faster and easier for me to just do that when they're gone since we know where everything goes and the kitchen is too small for everyone to cram in there and try to wash dishes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Andiereid

                            I'm with you - tiny kitchen, no room for another person to hang out, let alone help. But, even when I had a bigger kitchen, I preferred to be in there myself. I'm a terribly messy cook, and somewhat self conscious about it, and prefer not to have worry about what people think of the messiness while I'm cooking - or while I'm cleaning up.

                            And - I'm learning, after 11 years, to leave my husband alone in the kitchen to cook up his creations, without the "benefit" (smile) of my commentary!

                          2. I don't mind if someone "hangs out" in the kitchen while I work. But if they try to "help" often it just means they are underfoot and in the way. In addition, it drives me nuts when guests want to clear things up and stack them in my kitchen. I know they think they are being polite/helpful/whatever, but I have a small nyc kitchen -- i.e. limited counter space and no dishwasher. That means clean up and doing the dishes is a precise science. Please don't "help"!!

                            1. Yes, as long as they remember it's my kitchen, which means I'm the boss.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: QueenB

                                I agree with QueenB. My kitchen, my rules. I don't care if you don't approve of composting, the veg scraps go in the compost bowl. And definitely no sneakily adding things! That would drive me crazy.

                              2. I love cooking w/friends, it's one of my favorite things. But never in my own kitchen - it's small, and my friends all have homes more conducive to entertaining. So I don't know how I'd be in that instance. I have a couple of friends w/whom I cook very well.....I remember churning out a huge Thanksgiving-type turkey dinner for a large group (and we served in 2 seatings besides, a tableful of young kids, then a tableful of grownups) and we worked like a well-oiled machine. Surprised us both as we have never cooked together before.

                                1. For large meals where I am decidedly chef, I make up index cards with easy tasks on them (mince garlic or wash and dry parsley) and gleefully hand them out to anyone who walks in and asks "what can I do?" Giving out simple tasks helps with prep and makes family members feel like they've contributed.

                                  However, gravy at Thanksgiving? There's usually a battle between the generations, and I don't always win.

                                  But for a dinner party and such? Don't help. Don't even clear the plates. I have husband for that!

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: julietg

                                    I don't work and play well with others in my kitchen. I can share like mad - and willingly and without interference - in someone else's (most of the people I know are decidedly not like me in my own kitchen space).

                                    Simple tasks for those set on helping do help, however, provided the tasks are ones the cook can not hover over! (I need to prep all my ingredients myself.)

                                    My solution is really about building a wall. Literally. On one side of my kitchen island I build a wall of plates, silverware, glassware, napkins, condiment dishes, etc. when I am having a group of guests that usually wants to "help." The help I can then request is with table setting. Gets the helpers involved, but away from my usually tightly orchestrated prep and cooking. By the time the helpers have discussed the table settings and laid them, I have most of the work done.

                                    Works like a charm with some groups, and I get my kitchen to myself. Well, behind the wall of dishes.

                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                      Many years ago, my late husband had a fantastic idea to keep his buttinsky mother out of my kitchen (where she bugged the pants off me at every turn). He built a box underneath a far counter to house two 4 ft long pasta poles AKA closet hanging rods (after cutting out holes on one side of the wood for them to enter and exit). Notice 4 ft poles -- they completely closed off the 3 ft. doorway! They worked like a cattleguard, or what Canadians call a Texas Gate. Every visit, I made fresh pasta of some sort and was able to cook the rest of the meal in peace. She could talk so she didn't feel exiled but was no longer underfoot. Highest recommendation!

                                    2. re: julietg

                                      Explain "gravy at Thanksgiving". I'm interested because the Thanksgiving giblet gravy is responsible for one of the funniest incidents in our family memoirs.

                                      1. re: PhoebeB

                                        Ok, ok, I'm inserting myself here, but I'd guess "gravy at Thanksgiving" refers to some differing and *very firmly* held beliefs by various family members as to it's *proper style* of preparation.

                                        1. re: PhoebeB

                                          Mine, too, but they're all centered around disagreements- wine, no wine, drain the fat, how long to cook the roux, etc. Or just, mine is better than yours.

                                          There is usually a fight between the women who did not host that year to make the gravy. I guess if you don't get to make the turkey or the stuffing, then the only other coveted or respectable contribution is their sauce.

                                          The first T-Day with my now in-laws, I offered to make it as a time saving gesture. Nearly got my head ripped off by an aunt.

                                          Now that I am in the family...watch out!!

                                        2. re: julietg

                                          Love the index card idea for big family meals...going to give that a try!

                                          1. re: LJS

                                            Be verbose, so you don't have to do anything else but hand over the card. If you want a dice, draw a picture showing how fine you want the pieces, etc. It takes less time to write down how to do a chiffonade than it does to explain to someone.

                                        3. DH is my best help in the kitchen. He chops, he washes, and he tastes as asked. My daughters are good to work with in the kitchen, because I taught them, and we're on the same wave length. Everyone else, stay out.

                                          1. I'm with PaniniGuy. No. Just no. And I don't want to help others in their kitchen either.

                                            1. I have a big, open kitchen that spills into a big, open "great room" and it's *STILL* crowded when we have parties. People just like to gather around the island and get in my way, try to stir and flip things, repeat "what can I do to help" and drop ice on my floor. And I love it. It's how I grew up- the kitchen is the heart of the house. I prolly don't even have to clean the rest of the place- everyone ends up in the kitchen anyway... but they woudn't DARE salt anything- I have knives!!!

                                              1. We luckily have a large kitchen where 3-4 people can easily work on different tasks without bumping into one another. I enjoy cooking with others, and teaching, and learning things as we go. Perhaps this stems from being a former line cook, and working in many professional kitchens that I am able to share my space with others.

                                                With the above said I would prefer my guests just come over, and enjoy themselves & eat and drink, without putting them to work, but if they want to help, or are interested in cooking its ok.

                                                1. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve the kitchen filled with Taiwanese moms and "aunties," all amazing cooks, and preparing incredible feasts together while laughing and talking up a storm. I enjoy cooking together with others and learning from them - the only time I don't is when people who are not very good at cooking want to take over, but that is rare.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: 2m8ohed

                                                    How funny... the other day I walked into my cousin's kitchen asked, "Do you need help?" and them promptly added, "umm, I don't actually know how to cook!" It's just that so many people come over to my house and ask, but I rarely do it and figured I had been ill-mannered all this time. I think I'm going back to not asking. :-)

                                                    1. re: boltnut55

                                                      That's so funny! I am ALWAYS so afraid to ask because I feel so inadequate compared to people with more experience. Fortunately most diners I go to are so casual everything is done when I get there and I just try to do the less involved more obvious things I can't mess up such as scraping off plates, helping getting people drinks, or even tasks unrelated to dinner like playing with the kids if mom is busy cooking etc.

                                                      1. re: boltnut55

                                                        Just wanted to clarify - I meant I don't enjoy it when folks who can't cook want to "take over," not when they offer to help! The latter is more than welcome and I always appreciate it when people ask! I don't mind "training" people, either - in fact, I very much enjoy having my 6 year old son as a sous-chef. What's not so cool in my book is when folks who greatly overestimate their expertise/skills want to take charge of everything.

                                                    2. I don't like anyone else in my kitchen.

                                                      A few years back, this fact came up in a conversation with a co-worker who was from Shanghai. He laughed and told me, "In China we say 'There is only one tiger to a mountain'".

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: lingmao

                                                        I think I'll get a plaque with that on it, and hang it over my stove.

                                                      2. Not a problem for me. Someone happens through the kitchen, I give them a job to do. Mike's grandson just left after 2 weeks here in which he and I cooked many nights. We don't even get in one another's way all that often, and some of my best memories from last summer and this involve him on one side of the prep cart and me on the other, each chopping or stirring or something. We put together carne asada tacos like a well-oiled machine!

                                                        I grew up in one of those families where everyone's in the kitchen, cooking or fixing a drink or chatting or whatever. Even in my mom's kitchen, which is very, very tiny, this is how it is. Everyone has a job to do, and no one is offended if someone has to be moved out of the way.

                                                        1. I can cook with my husband, and one other male friend who's a great cook, but that's it. There simply is not enough room for me and any other woman in my kitchen. When my MIL asks, "What can I do, besides get in the way?" I ask her to set the table or put ice in the glasses. If I don't give her some kind of job, she will stand and STARE at me while I'm cooking, which drives me nuts. If friends want to sit and chat, that's OK, but stay away from my stove. Sounds awful, doesn't it?

                                                          Now I don't object when anyone wants to do the dishes! But for the love of God, get that steel wool away from my All-Clad!!

                                                          1. another resounding no. it makes me crazy, actually. i prefer to get into cooking mode and just do my thing, no questions asked...

                                                            1. I'm so glad you posted this. My ex-boyfriend used to slam me for this and I thought I was so mean for being a bear in the kitchen (he *thought* he could cook). Now I know I'm not that abnormal! I'm much better than I was, but I prefer to fly solo. I have learned to save a few 'jobs' for those who want to help.

                                                              1. No. And I don't tend to offer help in the kitchens of others except for slepping and cleanup but, you know what, I wish I felt differently - I think it would be positive to mellow out about the whole thing ....someday...?

                                                                1. It depends on who is in the kitchen. If it's my mom, dad or mother-in-law, I have no problem with them doing certain things. Only a few of the female friends of my husband cook, so they generally don't offer. A few of my friends will stand in the kitchen and talk to me when I cook, and that doesn't bother me unless they're critiquing my methods.

                                                                  I absolutely do not want my husband in the kitchen when I'm cooking. He can barely make spaghetti from a box and a jar. When we first started dating, he broke one of my favorite pots trying to make spaghetti for me. After that, he was given "chicken nugget and heating canned beans" duty.

                                                                  1. I've gotten better at this now that I'm cohabitating. The Boy enjoys cooking nearly as much as I do, so I'm trying my best not to hog the kitchen .. mind you, it also helps that it's actually big enough for both of us to work at the same time, as compared to my previous tiny galley kitchen with one square foot of counter space.

                                                                    However, I do have to admit to moments of silent rage when things aren't put away where they belong. I may be a right slob when it comes to just about everything else, but god forbid something in the kitchen not be in its designated home when I go looking for it next.

                                                                    The Boy is being trained on where things should be put away. It's for his own good. :)

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: tartiflette

                                                                      Oddly enough, when the present Mrs. O and I began cohabiting, her condo's kitchen was a narrow dead-end galley, with sink and dishwasher on one side and range and fridge on the other. We could cook together pretty well in there, partly because it was so well laid out, partly because we were still at the stage where bumping into each other was almost too much fun. But none of our other kitchens has been arranged so efficiently, especially the current one - though when we can afford it I intend to change that.

                                                                    2. Unpopular as it appears, I LOVE a busy kitchen--the more the merrier.
                                                                      I take no credit or all the criticism for any dish that comes out of the kitchen and the meal is always about having a blast, eating food we all prepared and learning from each other.

                                                                      Of course, if we all get in the act...dinner can take hours LOL!

                                                                      13 Replies
                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                        I'm with you. I do have a large kitchen it is where every one congregates. There are plenty of places to put people to work. No matter how hard I try I can rarely get folks to the screened porch, just off the kitchen or into the living room or family room. Then we migrate en masse to the dining room when the food is ready. Dogs and all. I've had 20 people in there with my girls of course too. In nice weather some will wander out the back door on to the terrace or the porch, usually the men. It is someting I have come to accept and am good at delegating tasks too.



                                                                        1. re: Candy

                                                                          Great pics, Candy. Your kitchen is adorable and so well organized (or it that camera ready, lol)...I'm not sure I mentioned organized (wink) but I'll take the compliment!
                                                                          Glad I'm not the only girl with a bend towards making meals a group activity.

                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                            Thanks it is homey and cozy and is where everyone wants to be. It is a bit messy ar the moment. The camera is a great new toy I am still learning to play with. It has so many whistles and bells. It has cuisine settings for discreet restaurant photos, candle light setting, even the ability to phorograph in the dark. It is tiny and corrects for hand shake. Under water is possible, videos with sound and it fits in the palm of my hand and weighs 1/4 lb. I just got it so lots to learn. I just took those a few minures ago. I guess I should get the room cleaned up and shining but I just wanted to illustrate the ease of cooking and sharing in "my room".

                                                                          2. re: Candy

                                                                            it's interesting to me that alot of people are willing to delegate prep work to other people, because I think that's one of the areas I'm most controlling. I usually have a really clear idea of how finely I want those onions chopped, if the peppers are dice or long strips and also, more importantly, what knife to use! My boyfriend, who is actually a good cook, but has absolutely no technique, is kind of afraid of knives and frequently tries to chop onions with a butter knife and other inappropriate food-utensil combinations. I love having people sit and chat with me while I'm cooking but for the most part, I don't really want "help" because it actually ends up being more work for me.

                                                                            1. re: Candy

                                                                              Ok, so part of why I don't play nicely is that my kitchen is the size of the space to the left of the door in Candy's first photo, moving out to about where the chair is on the left. It is an open kitchen (which I hate), but I think that explains a lot!

                                                                              1. re: Candy

                                                                                Oh Candy I love your kitchen! It is so homey and warm. It reminds me of the kitchen in the house I grew up in. I'm afraid my own kitchen, as are many in these newer construction generic FL gated community homes, is rather sterile in comparison =(

                                                                                1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                  I should have said that too - it's a lovely kitchen - but I was so jealous of the space that I didn't say anything about it.

                                                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                    No need to be jealous, I'm wiling to share. Y'all just come over and cook. As for delegating when I am askiing someoneto do someting for me I start the task and give them an example to aim for. It is not haute cuisine or Thos. Keller's kitchen. If some of the minced pieces are not the same size as others or the brunoise is not even the world is not going to end. It is food and friends and sharing

                                                                                    1. re: Candy

                                                                                      Really, I am willing to share. If you find yourself in the area, child interviewing at Indiana U. or one of the festivals in Indy, we're just an hour south, maybe you want to explore Louisvile etc. I love getting together and cooking and sharing. Indy peeps and other locals maybe we can organize a cook off, not in the contest manner but a bunch getting together, orgamizing a menu and chowing down. I am always up for it.

                                                                              2. re: HillJ

                                                                                Me too. My mother didn't like us kids underfoot when she was cooking and as a result I didn't know how to cook when I got married. (I could make cookies.)

                                                                                But as I related on another thread, I spent some of every summer on the Oklahoma farms of relatives, and the fun all those women had in the kitchen fixing meals together made me want that kind of kitchen for my own family.

                                                                                The one thing I've always insisted on in a house is a great big kitchen, and the best times I've ever had with my kids were when we were talking/cooking/talking/ together.

                                                                                Four of the five children have exactly this kind of kitchen life in their homes; the exception being the son-in-law who's a professional chef and wants no help and no distraction. (We almost never have our family get-togethers there because it's great food but no fun. We just let him bring his finished culinary masterpieces to whichever house we're cavorting in.)

                                                                                With anyone but the family or very close friends, it's a different matter. The family members know each other's kitchens and how we all operate, and we never get in each other's way. Other people distract me.

                                                                                1. re: PhoebeB

                                                                                  I have a cousin who's a chef, and he's taken over our family Christmas dinner here lately. Well, he's taken over whatever the main dish is, and some of the stuff that goes with it; but the rest of us still bring sides and salads and rolls and stuff. He does his thing, and others are in and out of the kitchen making drinks, or popping stuff in and out of the oven. He pretty much takes it in his stride. (Actually I think we could be having a gunfight in the kitchen while he's cooking and he wouldn't get rattled.)

                                                                                  1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                    My SIL is fine if we all stay on the other side of the kitchen island and don't talk to him.
                                                                                    He's a one-man show, which is hard on the rest of us because every adult in the family w/the exception of his wife LOVES to cook and feels left out.

                                                                                    We console ourselves with Mimosas.

                                                                                  2. re: PhoebeB

                                                                                    PB: I agree about the difference between your kids and "others."

                                                                                    I can instruct my son on gravy-making at Thanksgiving (does a great job, BTW) and my 14 yr old daughter turns a mean omelet. I can work with "those I have trained" but as you say: "Other people distract me."

                                                                                2. funny this is a topic.

                                                                                  i currently want to lynch my SIL in an episode of soupkitten's life called "how dare you let your 10-month-old loose in my restaurant kitchen, cross-contamination--hello!?!, and today of all days, you stupid f*&^ing *&$@-- and no, strangely, baby-proofing a commercial kitchen never came up with any of the state inspectors, and stacked #10 cans and stainless mandoline blades have been known to cause 'boo-boos,' donchyaknow, and those calibrated scales aren't a toy and no you did not just set him down on his butt on my immaculate stainless prep table and then lean over and say 'does someone have a stinky diaper,'-- oh no you did NOT!" however i don't think that's what everyone else is talking about, so don't mind me. . .

                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                    SK: Your kitchen, your rules, as others have said; in addition you get to cite health inspectors.

                                                                                    I didn't mention this in my earlier post on "helpers in th kitchen", but I've had nieces and nephews being diaper-changed ON MY KITCHEN FLOOR, while moms were "helping." During my food prep. Em, I have a bathrom for that, thank you.

                                                                                    Those that eschew any sense of kitchen hygiene protocol are NOT welcome in my cooking space.

                                                                                    I think that is one of the things we're talking about - people who invade your kitchen in ways that you don't want them to.

                                                                                    Must we always spell it out to others?

                                                                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                      you know, i'm still in shock at how quickly the whole thing happened (i don't have any kids, so i'm clueless sometimes at how little time it can take a toddler to coat everything within his reach with olive oil and honey). what got me though was not the kid's behavior, it was Mommy's attitude-- "oh i let him play in the pantry at home, so it's totally fine here." i don't know, i'm respectful of others' work spaces when i visit, but i've seen so many people just wander into commercial kitchens and act like complete doofuses-- a total lack of understanding that there are different rules here than in their home kitchens.

                                                                                      i love that she saw how busy i was (i was pretty much solo prepping veggies that had to be cooked and brought somewhere in less than 2 hours), ignored her kid banging on the calibrated scale next to the stainless mandoline, and said "oh-- what can i do?" (yeah right--she's NOT a competent cook by any stretch) then she acted put out when my voice rose an octave and i replied "you can watch your KID, so he doesn't get hurt in here!" less than ten minutes later, when i was elbow deep in 40 lbs of ground beef, she asked me to watch the baby while she ran out to her car. i told her i couldn't-- if he got into trouble i wouldn't have time to de-glove and wash the raw meat off my hands before grabbing him to keep him out of danger. that made her really ticked off. what isn't there to get? unfortunately i think i'm going to have to be the b*&^% on this one, dh isn't touching it.

                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                        "what got me though was not the kid's behavior, it was Mommy's attitude-- "oh i let him play in the pantry at home, so it's totally fine here."
                                                                                        Your SIL did *not* say it this way, did she? That's a complete disregard for what you were doing or respecting other people's property!

                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                          I can't quite figure out what took you so long to tell her firmly to take the baby OUT.

                                                                                          1. re: JaneRI

                                                                                            to LindaWhit: her exact words: "i let him play in the pantry at home, it's his favorite thing"-- the "totally fine" thing--my words, my interpretation of her attitude. i did immediately tell her i was concerned for safety reasons and listed several dangerous things in the child's immediate vicinity. she chirped "i don't even know what a mandoline is" as if that would keep him from losing a finger on one!

                                                                                            to JaneRI-- this was a surprise visit and as i said everything happened very quickly. dh had promised to sell his sister a quantity of meat that was left over from a catering event at below our wholesale price (her family is having hard times right now, which makes it more awkward). he had forgotten to tell me she was coming at this time. it apparently never entered his mind that she'd be bringing her baby boy in tow, or that she wouldn't be safely holding him the whole time in the kitchen (dh is the boy's godfather, so i am sure that sil thought we'd be happy to see the kid). so, although i am by no means a passive person, during this visit my natural assertiveness failed me-- i feared offending her. when dh showed up shortly after she arrived i hoped that he'd recognize what was happening and deal with her, but that didn't end up happening-- he just came off grumpy. sil got him to carry her meat out to her car for her, put money on the stainless table, and left. i went about sanitizing like mad when i should have been cooking. :(

                                                                                            i am mainly frustrated that i should have to tell an adult relative how to act in a pro kitchen-- shouldn't people just get it?

                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                              Yes, you'd think adults WOULD get it, but when it's an "all about me" mentality, getting it doesn't even enter the picture. Her reply re: her son playing in the pantry at home is evidence of that - if he does it there, it's OK to do it at your house. "It's All About Me and Mine."

                                                                                              Perhaps a separate conversation with her at another time, explaing that your kitchen isn't baby/childproofed, and the items you have stored at baby/child level can hurt your nephew. Badly. Show her the mandoline and let her feel the blade(s). Hopefully, she'll get the picture that *she* has to be more responsible in watching her own child at your house. Otherwise, perhaps invest in a baby-gate and install it whenever her child is over. In a doorway far enough enough away from your kitchen work area so the child can't enter the kitchen.

                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                well, that's the thing-- the kitchen is not my home kitchen, it's a commercial, restaurant kitchen. she brought her baby and visited me while i was at work, cooking. i can't possibly baby-proof the restaurant kitchen-- and it's much much more dangerous than a home kitchen for a small child to be loose in a pro kitchen than a regular house kitchen.

                                                                                                i agree with you about the "all about me" personality issue-- she has it big time & is a difficult person. thanks for your kind advice, i think i just have to try figure out a way to tell her her child is *unsanitary* w/o saying he is *dirty* and that he is *rambunctious* w/o saying he is a *catastrophe*! ;)

                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                  OMG, I wasn't getting your "pro kitchen" comment earlier - this was a restaurant kitchen? Holy S***!!!!!!

                                                                                                  I completely agree with you - no baby-proofing there - and she is just a moron (sorry!) for even bringing the baby into the kitchen!

                                                                                                  I think all you have to say that from an insurance/liability issue, the child is NOT allowed in the actual kitchen. Ever.

                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                    you know i feel so much better getting this off my chest here on a cute little chow board instead of yelling at a member of my family whom i love. okay i am not being a huge jerk in agreeing that my sil is at the same time dumb as a post & clueless! i will remember the liability shpiel next time--duh! i think i was just so dismayed at the time (couldn't believe it was happening, and needless to say i totally lost where i was in my recipe) that all i could do was flap my arms uselessly and point to one-after-another baby hazards in the path of the toddler whirlwind! i will now go practice my liability speech.

                                                                                                    thanks for letting me vent! :)

                                                                                    2. Is is just me or do others cooking in the kitchen with you seem to always BE where you need to BE at the exact same moment? Or am I the only cursed one?

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: ktcolt

                                                                                        No, ktcolt, that's a great point...being in the kitchen is about motion, time and space...if I run into you (or you into me) that's not good...if you can do the dance, then you can stay...there are sharp knives and heat involved and it's not always a social scene...I can be quite social when I'm allowed to do it on my own, but one must (!) establish that space...

                                                                                      2. Absolutely!
                                                                                        We can discuss the menu beforehand, and then work like the wind preparing an awesome meal. I recently did this when we went to Tahoe for a few days, my good friend took on the salad and the sides while I tackled the appetizers, entree and dessert. It was such a tremendous help, and what an awesome cook she is!
                                                                                        Love to eat someone else's cooking at times, a real treat! Bonus was that we got to chat and giggle, drink champagne while prepping the meal, it was a huge success!

                                                                                        1. Several years ago, one of my best friends died. She was my mother's age, and had been a serious cooking mentor during my teen years. In particular, she instructed me in the ways of Lebanese cuisine. Her three daughters and I spent many hours under her watchful tutelage chopping parsley for tabbouli and pounding lamb into kibbee. When I left home to stay with her family and attend the funeral, I packed all of the ingredients for a Lebanese feast into a cooler and hauled it 1,000 miles on a plane. When I showed up, my friend's daughters and I spent the entire night in the kitchen, chopping, cooking, and talking about old times. It was one of the best nights of my life. If you can't share a kitchen with the people you love, you need to stand back and re-evaluate what's important. Life's short, folks.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                              pikawicca, your post brought back great memories of my great-grandmothers kitchen and her generosity with food. If for no other reason than to pass on family recipes, personal techniques and fond memories--it's reason enough to share your kitchen and your love of sharing food and entertaining with people you care about. My kitchen isn't the largest room in the house and the size of my prep space doesn't determine what comes out of the oven or off the stove. My great-grandmother turned out three meals a day for a house of six with a kitchen the size of most bedroom closets. What I appreciate is how welcome I felt there.

                                                                                            2. I am only willing to share culinary duties with someone who is as good a cook or better than I am. I have worked in professional kitchens and I love working with someone who understand the process, is organized and can challenge me. I am fanatical about proper prep and sanitation and cannot tolerate haphazard cooks who mess around when I am cooking.

                                                                                              My mom and M-grandmother are/were very good cooks but my sisters are hopeless. My Ex gladly let me have all the cooking chores ,except for grilling and shopping. I am currently teaching my daughter and her Chinese roommate to cook, and they are slowly catching on to organization and the culinary process.

                                                                                              1. depends - usually no, but i do try to tame my inner control freak when i'm cooking with friends or my partner because i know they want to help. but honestly i'd prefer to just do my own thing.

                                                                                                  1. I don't mind, as long as they are just watching, not trying to change what I am doing. Just stand there quietly, admire the handiwork, keep my wine glass full, and I promise to feed you a good meal at the end.

                                                                                                    1. Planning meals, grocery shopping, and cooking are all things I really enjoy so I'm jealous of sharing them. Also, I'm a flaming control freak, so the best way to make sure that stuff is done correctly - read 'my way' - is to do them myself. I appreciate the offer to help, but other than setting and clearing the table, I'd prefer that they sit out of the way, drink a glass of wine and visit.

                                                                                                      Soupkitten, you have my sympathies. Please do not feel guilty, we all need to vent sometimes. And your SIL? Clueville: population zero.

                                                                                                      1. It took jfood some time to get up the nerve to read this, afraid of what he would see. He guesses he was about 85-90% accurate in guessing where some of his regulars would come out on this question. Some jfood would have bet a lot of money on and been wrong.

                                                                                                        But jfood LOVES sharing the kitchen with Mrs jfood. It's like poetry in motion when the two of them are cranking out dinners, both for family and for friends. They have complete and total trust in each other's abilities, take no offense to helpful advice and are constantly asking each other "what cha think?" as a spoon is shoved in the others mouth. And yes they have been married over 26 years.

                                                                                                        Now that little jfoods are of age, jfood LOVES when one, or both, of them are in the kitchen. The knife skills are way down the learning curve and jfood smiles as he teaches them all sorts of tricks. Sitting on the beach a few weeks ago and jfood was "in" the kitchen with little jfood as she prepared dinner for her BF. After all the time they spent together in person discussing how-to's the phone-directions were equally easy. Heck older little jfood started baking with Mom when she was 1 year old (younger if you count her in the front pouch).

                                                                                                        So add jfood to the minority of responders that LOVE the challenge of duets in the kitchen.

                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                          Ahhh, but jfood, your dance in the kitchen is someone with whom you've been dancing for 26 years....so you know each other's moves. A lot easier and definitely different from sharing a kitchen with someone you don't cook with on a regular basis (friends) or teaching the little jfoods, which would also be enjoyable to me, if I had little Whits in my kitchen. :-)

                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                            absolutely correct LW. mrs jfood also convinced a favorite chef of jfood's to come to the house to cook together for a B'day present. He started out with "this is a knife" and within 2 hours we were raiding every nook and craney in the kitchen looking for new ingredients to try on the run ideas.

                                                                                                            Having friends over it is amazing how little people do know how to move in the kitchen. Here is where 20 seasons of coaching kids' sports comes into play. speak slwoly and lots of encouragement. what the worst that can happen (other than a cut or burn) some food gets a little incorrect. still lots of laughs with friends.

                                                                                                          2. re: jfood

                                                                                                            It's fun to watch my mom and dad doing their dance in the kitchen. When I was growing up my dad wouldn't set foot in there, other than those occasional Sunday morning fried-egg-fests, and we had a much bigger kitchen then. Now they have this tiny little space, and they're in their together every chance they get. One at teh stove and one at the counter, almost back-to-back, and it's like a well-oiled machine. I would never have thought it would work, but I have been in that kitchen with my mom now and then and somehow it does.

                                                                                                            1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                              ooh i love working in the kitchen with my dh too. don't have to speak in any particular language most of the time. and i am a good enough teacher, i've trained people with no kitchen exp how to work in commercial kitchens, and can work with & around family members. i am just sometimes shocked that people don't know basic sanitation, how to pass others a sharp knife, how to let others know where they are (with a pot of boiling water), etc. i have to say that working with unfamiliar people around just becomes dangerous after a while. i welcome competent help, i just wish that others would settle for taking the trash out, setting the table, pouring drinks, or otherwise staying out of the work zone.

                                                                                                          3. I am trying to learn to play nicely. I just moved into my grandparents old home, where my mother grew up and I have tons of memories of learning to cook the family's Greek & Italian recipes in the very large family kitchen (although there is very little counter space) and I am realizing that the old ways of everyone out of the kitchen while I cook just isn't going to fly.

                                                                                                            Right now I am working on hosting bbq's with very little inside prep work that keeps people outside but trying to deal when people come in. This is all in anticipation of the upcoming holidays where I will be hosting my family and the boy's family for the first time and I am fairly certain that I will not be able to keep anyone out of the kitchen.

                                                                                                            I hope that I am soon able relax and play more nicely in the kitchen so more fun memories are made with both family and friends.

                                                                                                            1. Whenever I have dinner parties or cocktail parties with snacks, the first arrivers invariably offer to help me in the kitchen. They want to be useful and involved, but I don't want them touching my masterpieces. I get around this by leaving some small and simple task to occupy them until the rest of the guests show up - slicing veggies for crudite, arranging a cheese plate with my pre-selected cheese and crackers, etc. So far it's worked pretty well, but it wouldn't stop a determined meddler.

                                                                                                              1. Ah, you're missing so much of the fun of cooking! Jackp and I cook together all the time (he's my primary food mentor) and it's so much fun. Some of my happiest memories are of doing stuff in the kitchen with him.

                                                                                                                Cooking with other people teaches you as much about them as eating with other people does. It's not about control, it's about sharing.

                                                                                                                1. Wow, this read a little bit like therapy! I am not alone! Here's the thing: I wish I knew more people who loved to cook, but I am a woman in the corporate world, and sorry if this sounds like an generalization, but basically, I don't have any friends who cook/like to cook/cook well. While I do not like help in the kitchen (my carefully planned agenda counts on one worker) I will sometimes enjoy prep help. Also, because of my feeling that if I invited you over for dinner, then you did not come to work (I do prep, cooking, and cleanup) I have to remember to ask others if they need help - cause I know others can feel differently.

                                                                                                                  Once I had some friends over, and a young woman (25ish), again, big banking career type, wanted to help with dinner. We were making homemade pasta (together) and I just spoke to her while she made the bechamel sauce by herself - I will never forget this - she was so proud of herself and it made me feel so good! I will always welcome those kind of dinner parties/friends in the kitchen!

                                                                                                                  1. Ugg! I completely agree! When I'm in someone else's house there is a rule: do not touch there kitchen! I have had guests come and just start cooking! Everything got moved around, misplaced, things are in different places! Food I had plans for being used up! I thought I was the only one! When I cook it's my masterpiece! You would just start painting on someone else's canvas would you?

                                                                                                                    1. It really depends in the meal and the people involved.

                                                                                                                      Big holidays? You are welcome to keep me company or do the odd side job but that's about it. Same with sit down dinner parties.

                                                                                                                      Friday night dinner with good friends? The more the merrier.

                                                                                                                      I have a few friends who are a dream to cook with. These are the ones I "feed the freezer" with, do holiday baking with and the ones I have no qualms asking to bring something to a party.

                                                                                                                      1. With some people, yes, other people, no. But then, it also depends on my mood and the kitchen.

                                                                                                                        My Singapore kitchen is so tiny that only one person can use it at a time. Anyone else gets in there and I can't do anything. It's four feet of counter space which also holds the sink, microwave, and stovetop, so...

                                                                                                                        Then there's my mother in law, who is known for taking over kitchens everywhere she goes. Most of the time, I'm okay with that - I'm chronically ill and in chronic pain, and she knows that, so she tries to help out when she can, which I usually don't mind. Except when I've decided I want to do something at a specific time or on a specific schedule and she gets in my way (not intentionally on her side) and I get irritable.

                                                                                                                        But we're moving within the week and our new place has a much much larger kitchen, bigger than our Sri Lankan kitchen (where we frequently work together quite well), so it won't be a problem anymore.

                                                                                                                        My mother in law, when she's in the kitchen, is usually the boss. Which, again, is fine. She's a fantastic cook and does Sri Lankan curries way better than me, which is only natural given that she has decades of experience over me. I'm the assistant in that case who chops and slices and dices to her very specific instructions. But like I said, when we have a decent sized kitchen to work with, it works out very very well.

                                                                                                                        The only real complaint I have about my mother in law cooking in my kitchen is that she's ruined a few of my pots. Cheapo stainless steel, so not a huge loss. In cooking curries, she heats the pots up so much that they start to outgas and pit and the finish is ruined. Good stainless steel doesn't do that, so, meh. I'll just have to get some other, better stainless steel. :)

                                                                                                                        But other than my mother in law, I haven't come across many other people who I can stand having in my kitchen at the same time. If my husband enters the kitchen, it's inevitable that he'll be in my way. He always manages it. Not intentionally, of course, but there it is. :)

                                                                                                                        1. I appreciate 'help' - and I ask questions if i don't know you. If I do - I'll either ask for help that fits you or ask you to sit and chat.

                                                                                                                          have you ever worked in a restaurant or other kitchen
                                                                                                                          (church, school etc) what did you do? If I say 'prep' what does that mean? can you break down a chicken? peel and prep butternut squash? make a roux for gumbo?

                                                                                                                          how much/often do you cook - from scratch? from assembling ingredients (cans are fine)?

                                                                                                                          what do you know how to make - from scratch and how often ?

                                                                                                                          knife skills? tell me about them (your knives and what you know how to do);

                                                                                                                          here's a medium onion, pick out a knife here and give me 1/2 in fine dice and 1/2 in thin slice in 1 minute (I expect them to find cutting board and small prep bowls) in 30 seconds prepped and station cleaned wins a glass of wine.

                                                                                                                          do you know how to move in a kitchen? carrying something very hot?

                                                                                                                          what are you good at - a dish or item (chicken curry or biscuits or iced tea)?

                                                                                                                          I like to cook w/friends - but the ship has one captain. I'll give tasks that fit your skill/interest level and expect that you do them as the captain prefers. In your kitchen i'll do exactly the same - no questions arguments or 'sniffs'. If i have a suggestion I'll ask if its ok to contribute before adding anything - if not I'm fine with that.

                                                                                                                          I learned from restaurant cooks and skilled home cooks. No task is menial. if I'm on your team i am a team player.

                                                                                                                          And sitting on the stool, out of the way, telling me stories, jokes and keeping my glass full (ice water only usually) is as important as anything.

                                                                                                                          just don't bs me about what you can actually do well, without supervision and fast. that i don't excuse.