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How do you break a spouse of a bad cooking habit? [moved from Home Cooking]

My DW is definitely my better half in many ways but not so much in the kitchen. It took me years to get her to appreciate a medium rare steak rather than one cooked until the last remnant of juice and taste flees. But steak was easy compared to my current challenge: Fish.

There are many reasons I eat a lot of fish now. Taste, health, variety, quickness in preparation and the fact I was allergic as a kid so I'm making up for lost time. My wife share my enthusiasm, but not my philosophy to cook fish until it is just done so it remains tender, juicy and full of flavor.

So when I come home from work (I get home a couple hours later than my DW, who also works) it is too often to the smell of fish cooking long after it's been counted out, and let e tell you, while the smell of fish cooking is a nice one, the smell of fish overcooking is not.

This evening she began to bake fillets of trout so I volunteered to look after them so she could relax, and took the out just as they were barely done. They were just cooked through, perfect to my taste, but when she took a bite, she feigned a smile and her eyes screamed out for another 15 minutes in a 385 oven.

There is a fine line between being a foodie and being a food snob and there are many ways t enjoy any ingredient. But in my book there are no pages for overcooked fish. How do I make my wife a convert?

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  1. You were allergic to fish when little?
    Is there hope for my SO? He's afraid to try it and we always carry benadryl around with us incase he's in an establishment that serves it or is around fish.

    If I may ask, what kinds of fish were you allergic to?
    My SO can eat tuna and the doctors said that's because it's a "deep fish" but I believe his fish reaction came from Sole as a kid and things like fish sticks cooking caused his eyes to puff up so he'd get away before it got more serious.

    What you described with your wife was a similar situation I dealt with my SO's mother,. she always cooked the fish until it was so hard. Other than volunteer to help and maybe take your piece out first to your taste letting her eat hers the way she likes it you risk being labelled a "snob" just as I feared myself.

    3 Replies
    1. re: BamiaWruz

      As a kid I had moderately severe reactions twice to tuna. My parents didn't get me tested but our doctor advised them to not let me eat fish or shellfish or any type.

      As an adult I got myself tested (skin prick test) and had no reaction to any fish or shellfish. It's an easy test to take and in fact I took it because one of my children developed food allergies too (though not to fish). I've since eaten many dozens of types of fish and shellfish. The only one that affects me at all is Salmon, which I avoid.

      Has your SO been tested? Besides a skin prick test, which would be a first step, he can give a blood sample to test for allergen-specific antibodies.

      You are right about being careful not to offend family. My mother-in-law is the same way. But with my wife I had hoped she'd be as open about fish as she was, eventually, about steak -- she won't eat steak beyond medium these days.

      1. re: SouthernHoo

        Thank you for that info! I will see if I can get my SO to take the test, it sounds pretty easy and I think it would help avoid the stress and fear of being around fish. I used to be vegetarian myself only eating fish, but it's been a few years now that I avoided it all together due to fear of even bringing it in the house, and I began eating meats for protein.

        I can understand your wife's taste in meat, I grew up eating meat stewed or well done. It's a cultural thing, and most people from the middle east prefer their meat very cooked, with the exception of some dishes like raw kibbeh from lebanon and such. I thought I could never attempt to eat a medium steak like my SO but now I can eat meat even more rare than him which he finds shocking.

        I hope with some time and patience your wife will come around! Btw. do you know if it's the texture of flavour of the steak that she doesn't like?

        1. re: BamiaWruz

          That's a really interesting observation about the cultural influence. My wife's family grew up poor in southern Europe and I always imagined that the only time they ate meat other than a holiday was when an animal was too old to be otherwise useful -- hens no longer laying eggs, for example. Older animals need to be cooked slowly with moist heat to break down connective tissue -- but do the same with a grocery store chicken and it will dry out.

          My wife like medium rare steak -- she went through an evolution like you did (and so did her Dad). It's the fish she's squeamish about and you are right that I should find out better what exactly about it she finds unappealing,

          Good luck with your SO and his allergies!

    2. Not everyone enjoys fish at that "Perfectly Cooked" point, it may be the texture that they don't like, the taste, any number of reasons.

      I'll never forget going to a high end restaurant with my Dad, and cringing when he asked for his Ahi Tuna Steak to be cooked "Well done." And even though I tried my best to explain to him that the best taste, etc for the ahi was at rare, my Mom just interjected that "Daddy doesn't like to eat his meats that way." So I accept him as he is, and no longer try to correct the way he likes to eat. He always gets all the end pieces of every roast I make for him, and if I lived closer to my parents, I would be happy to make them fish, however they wanted to eat it, b/c I now appreciate them as individuals, and don't think of them as just Mom & Dad.

      Maybe the solution for you & your DW is to cook your fish pieces separately, or take your piece(s) out early, and leave her piece(s) in the oven or on the flame longer. I really don't think that in the end, you will be able to change her taste. I suppose it's possible that you can take her out to a fish restaurant and see what she orders and how she comments on the doneness of her fish. Maybe a certain preparation or a special chef can "show her the light". But in general, I think it's best to accept her as someone who likes her fish to be "well-cooked".

      1 Reply
      1. re: Phurstluv

        Thanks for sharing the story about your Dad. It's interesting you mentioned tuna because my wife does like Tuna just seared on the outside; now that I think about it, it probably is a texture-thing, since rare tuna still has a certain firmness but a just-done trout will be slightly soft.

        Ironically enough, given your story about your Dad, my Mom was notorious for cooking steak so it didn't get beyond the still-mooing phase. But you are wise to cook to the taste of your guests and steak lends itself well to that, especially on a grill.

        The challenge for me is that I have seen my DW's tastes change and develop over time so part of me thinks she may change her preferences about fish.

        I've tried the different cooking times approach and I'm happy to do that when I'm cooking. Perhaps the best way to "show her the light" is by gradually reducing the cooking time of her fish, leaving it in longer than ideal but not quite as long as she might cook it.

      2. I think your only solution is to speak up politely, express your appreciation for the fact that she is cooking for you, and just communicate that you would like your food to be put in the oven ten or fifteen minutes after she puts hers in. If she is cooking early and keeping the food warm enough to become overcooked for several hours until you come home, you need to find another solution. I've been married for nearly 30 years, and DH definitely eats things done differently from my own preference. You just need to find an way to accommodate it. It is all about being appreciative and communicating what you want. You will not be able to force each other into eating other ways. This is not a bad habit as much as it is lack of knowledge about each other's preferences and also about timing your dinner. Maybe if she knows you are coming home two hours later, she can cook later? Figure out a compromise.

        1 Reply
        1. re: RGC1982

          That is sage advice. Perhaps at a time when we are not cooking, I should ask her what I can change to make her life a little happier -- there's no doubt things I could do -- and then, if she asks me the same question, I can raise the issue in the way you suggest.

          "Habit" was a sloppily-chosen word by me. It's a preference, as you suggest.

        2. I think you will have better luck if you approach it as cooking the portions of fish to 2 different doneness-es than trying to make her like it your way. My DH likes things very rare. I have also converted from shoe-leather steak to a medium-rare, but that is as far as I go. I don't have to like his steak & he does not have to like mine. Try to see it from her point of view - it is not overcooked to her, it is done the way she likes it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: elfcook

            Out of curiosity, how do you convert in your tastes in steak? Is it a change that in hindsight you are glad you made even though at one stage in your life a medium rare steak might have been unappetizing? I made a similar transition myself, preferring well-done steaks as a child, though the change came from within and not the result of someone advocating rarer steaks.

            I do try to see it from her perspective and I appreciate that she likes fish cooked until it is very firm, flaking apart and dry. We tend to make extra when we cook fish (to pack for lunch) so perhaps I can cook pieces the way she like, the way I like and something in the middle, place them on a platter, and just let her chose. Over time, she may change, but that will be up to her.

            1. re: elfcook

              I was brought up in a home where steaks were well-done only. I liked them with BBQ sauce - probably because the meat didn't taste that great alone. I didn't really like steak enough to order it out, so I had little exposure to other degrees of doneness. Once married, my DH manned the grill & liked steak. Originally I'd make him cook mine more, but over time I gradually ate it less hockey-puck-style and discovered that there was something tasty about steak. We still disagree about burgers: I cannot stand the taste of his under-done burgers. He thinks they are perfect. Our steak tastes are closer, but I still take the thinner portions that are past rare, and leave the really pink stuff for him.

            2. This reminds me of a time I was manning the grill at my mother's house. There were burgers & hot dogs; I took the burgers off when they were medium well because neither one of us like raw/rare meat. They were nice & juicy but oh no, they weren't cooked enough for her so had to return to the grill. She cooked those things until they were hockey pucks and I didn't eat any. I tried to tell her they were cooked but sometimes you can't convince people to eat things the way you do so why try? The way you eat fish is just right...for you but not her so just cook individually

              2 Replies
              1. re: Cherylptw

                I would never try to change my Moms preferences when she was around because at a certain age people aren't so eager to explore change. My DW is relatively more open, so I held out hope. At least we both like steaks the same way. I love a medium rare burger too, but these days, you really need to do it the Alton Brown way to be completely safe. (Brown buy a whole cut, cooks it for 30 seconds in boiling water to kill any surface bacteria and then grinds it.)

                1. re: SouthernHoo

                  I don't eat rare meat but that's an interesting method that Alton Brown uses to kill bacteria. ...