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May 8, 2014 10:59 AM

Home Cooking and Marital Discord

I'm a bon vivant. I like to cook, have wine, friends over, and long meals. My wife almost views eating as another task that needs to get done as quickly as possible (don't tell her that I'm sharing this). We have young kids, so there's time pressure. I'm trying to cook interesting things to develop my 6 and almost 4 year old's palates. I'm pretty good at getting food on the table in a timely manner, but it does bring up conflict. My wife is always happy with what I cook, but gripes about the effort and the time. If she cooks, it's hot dogs, mac and cheese, and stouffers lasagna. Things from shiny boxes. The kids love that crap, but my daughter is starting to get it. Anyone else have these issues?

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  1. I don't, as I'm single.

    But perhaps you can tell your wife "Hon, I *like* to do this. I love to cook. I love knowing that you and the kids are getting healthy foods that I prepared. I love knowing that the kids are trying new things."

    6 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      Yes, LindaWhit, we have had those conversations and have achieved a balance, and she agrees, but there's still that general daily tension with the kid's schedules (every marriage has tension on a number of levels) about timing and such. It isn't horrible, but I'd expect that true chowhounds would get into this situation.

      1. re: rudeboy

        Kids are often busier than parents are nowadays. I don't envy you with the juggling of the schedules and trying to put a good dinner on the table, rudeboy.

        1. re: rudeboy

          And another thing, Rude-y, even though this isn't exactly a chowish bit of advice: Back off on the scheduling thing. Seriously. Kids need down time. Highly scheduled elementary age kids are more likely to grow into teens who need constant stimulation, wherever they can find it. If you can find even one night a week to cook, as well as eat, as a family, your kids will remember this in years to come, and they might learn to enjoy good food as much as you do.

          1. re: Isolda

            I'm with you on this, Isloda. That's my general plan.....doing a stir fry the other night with my daughter doing the stirring was awesome. She felt like she had some game in the dish. Yes, it took a bit longer than it should, but what the hell?

            She can knock out her homework early while I'm cooking if she's not participating.

            We also did a Bangladeshi meal - I visited Bangladesh in Jan, but we also met a Bangladeshi at a Shell store near our house. I told him of my travels.

            After telling my daughter of the meals there and showing her the photographs, she wanted to eat a Bangladeshi meal. We ate with our hands, as Bengali people do. The guy working at the store (I told him of this) bought them some candy out of his own pocket - Bengalis are extremely generous.

            1. re: rudeboy

              You might find a real kindred food spirit in that guy at the Shell store, rudeboy. I'm Indian, and in India Bengalis are known for being ardent food-lovers and great cooks (with an immense fondness for every kind of sweets, so take this dude some brownies and you'll likely have a friend for life). Their cuisine also has so many influences from other cultures -- Chinese, Mughal, British, Portuguese -- that it's really fascinating. And like you said, most Bengalis are very generous and love to share food. I guess it's that way with most cultures who have suffered long periods of famine and hardship.

              Anyway, your kids are lucky to have a Dad who is interested in the people around him (and what they eat).

              1. re: ninrn

                Thanks for the nice response, ninrn. I will bring him some "sweets" the next time that I make some!

      2. rude-y (that's what I'm calling you from now on!), do you work outside the home? If so, perhaps your wife thinks you're taking time away from her for something that means nothing to her. Or that instead of taking time cooking, you could be bathing kids, etc. ???

        11 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          fine with me on rude-y! Yes, but I'm a daily shopper, then have to get home and prep and cook by 6;30. I can't make a bechamel or a proper veloute in that time (for example), so I've had to dumb down my cooking. If there's a marinade or spice rub, I do that in the morning. My wife doesn't need any one on one time with me, unfortunately (oversharing?), and I still bathe the kids.

          But she takes care of ALL the laundry, most of the kid's school stuff, accounting and bill paying, and a lot of the house cleaning. It's almost the perfect scenario. She is sort of type-a. Sometimes division of labor is the best approach. But we can still get into these daily arguments if dinner is 10 minutes late. The way I cook, you just never know. That's why I could never be a restaurant chef.

          1. re: rudeboy

            What about the weekends, rude-y? Do you have more time then where you could perhaps do the more time-intensive preparations? OR, perhaps you can do some pre-planning of meals and get the prep done on the weekends.

            "OK, we're going to have burgers on Wednesday. I'll caramelize a couple of pounds of thinly sliced Vidalias on Sunday afternoon and freeze most of it, keeping out just enough for everyone for this Wednesday's meal."

            1. re: LindaWhit

              Ha - I'm going to have to change my handle soon!

              I'm REALLY bad at pre-planning meals and doing "for the week" type cookiing. I'm pretty good at using all the leftovers, but typically, I like to cook just enough to not have any leftovers (or maybe a work lunch).

              I'm lucky enough to be just a few minutes from my market, and I like to go every day. I'm not sure that I will ever be able to change my habit, unless I move to the hinterlands. We eat lots of seafood, so i want it to be consumed the same day. I don't really like to freeze meat. Perhaps, during this phase of life, I should reconsider. I think that I just like to cook too much.

              I like your idea about onions. I've done that for peppers and kept them in the freezer, because roasting and peeling peppers is time-consuming (and they freeze well). I've started using more prepared sauces - sear a piece of wild salmon and finish with a prepared mango habanero sauce. Microwave a heaping plate of spinach for 1 min in the microwave and toss with prepared dressing. I don't like cooking this way, but it works for now!

              1. re: rudeboy

                Exactly re: roasting/freezing peppers. I try and do about 6-8 at a time, and freeze on parchment paper, then peel off and slide them into a ziploc bag for later use, taking only what I need for that meal.

                1. re: rudeboy

                  As a serious "hobby" cook who drove my husband silly for many years with time-consuming cooking projects that rarely hit the table in a timely or useful fashion, I think you need to reconsider some of your habits and preferences to make your cooking more family friendly.
                  After all the main reason to cook is to get your family fed, not to have a good time cooking.Pursuit of the latter when everyone is tired and cranky can become a nightmare. Weekends are the time for relaxed kitchen experiements.

                  We found out years ago that pasta and a vegetable, or dishes such as indian curries, dal and rice, cooked on a weekend which can reheat or be supplemented over 2 or 3 weekday dinners with an extra dish or fresh raita, soups or stews that can be served for a couple of meals or even a pot of black beans for burritos, can, along with bread and cheese and salad suppers, worked for our family. We still rely on left-overs for many of our weeknight meals, since I get home late. My husband would simply go made if he had to wait for me to cook a full meal every night.

                  Also, working toward a better understanding with your wife is important..She is unlikely to come to share your values if there is time pressure, inconvenience or it food becomes a bone of contention in your relationship. Even getting your kids on board with your viewpoint could become a further source of dissension with your wife.

                  Moving toward some kind of common ground of understanding is going to be important to your future happiness!

              2. re: rudeboy

                Yikes. If your wife doesn't want any one-on-one time with you (sexual or otherwise, no assumptions being made there) it's extremely unlikely that cooking is your primary problem.

                That brig said, there are plenty of interesting meals from a wide variety of cultures that are pretty quick. I'm sure there are lots of quick meal books at the library as well as online. Then you could save the more labor-intensive meals for the weekends or maybe do some advance prep as LindaWhit suggests.

                1. re: ErnieD

                  Didn't mean to imply too much - but having young kids takes it's toll on the one on one time if you know what I mean! With so much to do (she works too, but there's school and daycare chores and now homework for my girl), there' barely any time. Just stating as a response that she doesn't feel that my cooking takes away from her time with me.

                  1. re: rudeboy

                    Things are hectic when the kids are young. It'll slow down and get better once they are older. The key is not to let either partner feel neglected (unappreciated) until then. It's difficult and tiring to keep everyone and everything on schedule. During a quiet time, explain to her how you appreciate all the work she does to keep the family running smooth, then tell her it's important to you that the kids learn to eat healthy and appreciate a variety of foods. That it is something you want them to value throughout their entire lives and you believe it should start now.

                    That should work.

                2. re: rudeboy

                  You need to hire someone to do the house cleaning then.

                  1. re: law_doc89

                    Mrs. Rude is a clean freak, and there's no one that can clean properly. I definitely would help. The upside is that the house is always totally clean. She puts as much mental and physical energy into cleaning the house as I do into cooking. Two pillars of the temple, right?

                    1. re: rudeboy

                      I think you should demur, then, if she offers to cut your hair.

                      (As other posters have noted, there's more going on here than cooking, but with 50 offers of advice in less than a day, I'm hopeful you'll find some solace, and ideas for resolution. Good luck, rb.)

              3. I have a similar situation. I go to extremes about making stocks and sauces while making dinner. I butcher my own meats and fish, and roast and simmer bones while preparing the meat for tonights dinner. I make sauces for everything. A different sauce for each. A from scratch cook. No short cuts. I LOVE doing it. Demi-gaze, reductions, stocks and all the proper prep. I make dinners that make restaurant food seem like drive-thru stuff.
                I buy and wash and chop all my dark leafy greens. A job nobody wants to do in our house. No prechopped greens. No prechopped salads.
                The preparation of dinner is often longer than cooking times, of course depending on the meal, cooking time may have actually started from last night or this morning.

                We entertain often and our guests come very hungry. I do most of all the cooking in our home, she assists when appropriate.

                Left on her own, she will boil some pasta, sprinkle some cheese and call it dinner. Maybe order a pizza. No frozen dinners as she doesn't care for them, but, for dinner tonight she made....reservations....

                4 Replies
                1. re: Gastronomos

                  G, do you have kids at home? Ours are grown and gone with kids of their own. My meals are generally quite easy but I hope tasty. A protein, a starch, a "vegetable." I aim for 730 but am sometimes off by a half hour. But, if so, it's cause we got to watching one of our "liberal media" shows and couldn't tear ourselves. Bob will do ANYTHING in the kitchen that I ask. I was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and, boy, has he ever stepped up! I wonder if you and rude-y got your wives into the kitchen with you. You know, a little slicing and dicing, or getting ingredients from the pantry and fridge. Or just sitting and having a glass of wine, if they'd feel more a part of the process. Just random thoughts from an old lady :)

                  1. re: c oliver

                    c oliver. I am sorry about the RA diagnosis. It's great that Bob is stepping up. That's NOT marital discord. My wife helps with cleanup.....I'm pretty good at cleaning as I go, so we go 80/20. I do 80 percent of the cleanup (she might disagree) and she does the detail cleaning. We have two stations, so that helps to avoid bumping into each other.

                    1. re: rudeboy

                      Oh, no, far from it! I've just found that when I've gotten him involved (and BTW he LOVES good food.) he has some 'ownership.' He's become my go-to for roasting vegetable, for instance. He knows he can do it and I think likes being part of the process.

                    2. re: c oliver

                      She's become the best at chopping, slicing, dicing and general prep and help in the kitchen.
                      It's just a big difference in how we approach the kitchen.

                  2. If a delay in dinner time leads to later bedtimes for the kids, that's a problem. You might consider doing the time-consuming recipes after the childrens' bedtime, reheating the next day. As you surely know, some dishes are better the next day, and for the ones that are not.... you're feeding young kids, not Gordon Ramsay. They are NOT going to turn up their noses on Tuesday because of a Monday mornay. (Imagines Mama Cass singing "Monday mornay, warmed up Tuesday, Monday mornay, sometimes it turns a little gray").

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: greygarious

                      Monday mornay is now in my repertoire for Tuesday! Love the Mama Cass reference.

                    2. Hey I like to cook and in fact am not Type A at all. My DH and I operate about as relaxedly as I imagine a two kid, two full-time jobs household can - kids being old enough for school and two sets of activities, but young enough to be quite high maintenance still with the bathing, brushing, etc (4 and 8).
                      And yet. I can possibly relate to your wife and how it feels when things don't follow the schedule. Sometimes it feels like 5 minutes late or one chore forgotten and things will spiral completely out of control.
                      Is it possible to figure out what the exact problem is and plan around it? Does she hate listening to whiny, hungry kids, especially when she is not in charge of the meal (I do)? Then plan on a plate of crudite/cheese/crackers for everyone to nibble on. Does she need some kind of relax/unwind ritual to help her relax *before* dinner so she is not on edge? That could be a glass of wine or a cup of tea, or walk the dog, take kids to the park, etc.
                      Alternately can you compromise some nights? Use the crockpot or reheat something that holds well so you can have good meals that take little prep time.
                      Remember that what makes a relaxing, fun hobby for you may be the opposite experience for her. I also value good food for my kids but I think that can be done without a lot of last-minute prep on weeknights.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: julesrules

                        I think you hit the nail on the head. It's just that food is not as important for her as it is for me. I want food to be important for the kids, though. I'm thinking that it is a critical time, when they're young, to establish "kid comfort food" that's not from a shiny box.

                        She doesn't sit down. She's fortunately and unfortunately like the energizer bunny. Always moving and doing something, and very schedule oriented. I'm not griping - it benefits me in numerous ways and we're a good team.

                        You are about two years ahead of me on kid's ages, I expect that it will get easier, and he harder later as they are doing soccer, band, and whatever. But I'd like them to be food-conscious at that time. That video showing the lunch preparation at a school in France really sets the tone for what I'm thinking. I'm trying to teach my 6 year old daughter knife skills. We made a stir fry together last week, and I pulled a chair up to the stove so she could stir.

                        1. re: rudeboy

                          It just occurred to me that if there's even a little cloud of angst over cooking, it could plant a bad seed in the kids' heads. They could associate cooking and food as something not happy. Just a thought.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Yep. My cousins suffer from that. They eat fast food only now....