“Give me (said she) a well-cooked, well-served meal, a bouquet and a sunset and I can do more for a man’s soul than all the cant ever preached. I can even do it without a sunset!” – Anne Ellis, in The Life of an Ordinary Woman
Balance – is anything harder to achieve? You may think sliced garden tomatoes and fried yellow crookneck squash are the very thing for lunch. Your husband says, “Where’s the beef?” and your kids just get bug-eyed and wonder what has possessed you to think yellow slimy vegetables are actually edible, and more to the point, why you want to torture them?
When John and I married he was so happy to be free of convenience store burritos three times a day (he still says they saved his sorry single life) that he would eat whatever I put in front of him. As long as there was a healthy serving of “protein” that is. Any red-blooded American male worth his salt will tell you red blooded American males need both red-blooded meat and plenty of salt.
John actually wooed me with the very worst of (in my minority opinion – he has since corrupted our children) red meat. “If a strong wind comes along you’ll regret it,” he’d say, regarding my skinniness and disinclination to eat during lunch in favor of getting more work done (yes, I’ve grown in many ways since those days). I ignored him, so he took matters into his own hands. Thinking store-bought burritos weren’t evidence of true love, he made his signature sandwich:
My Own True Love Bologna Sandwich (MOTLBS)
Two slices of fake wheat bread – you know the stuff – with the split (wow!) “butter” top
Slathered, and I do mean slathered on both sides with Miracle Whip (John claimed God prefers Miracle Whip – I laughed and it only encouraged him)
THICK sliced bologna – the tasty cheap stuff with all the chicken tongues and pigs feet
Iceberg (what else would God eat?) lettuce and plenty of it
And here’s the best part – “pasteurized processed American cheese” (at least they didn’t add ‘food’ to the description).
You, oh discerning reader, have likely determined two things, but you may only be right about one of them. If you think I loathe every ingredient in MOTLBS you’re quite right. But if you think it follows I didn’t eat, or certainly didn’t enjoy eating this concoction, you’d be mistaken. Maybe there was love all over it, maybe it was just the melding (can you say “melding” about such things as iceberg lettuce and American cheese?) of the flavors. Or, and this is likely, it’s the fact that I was hungry all the time in those days. Whatever the reason, the MOTLBS was delicious. Simply and utterly delicious. Healthy, well, no, not so much. But then, I always say when something is off-the-charts delicious, “Isn’t there health value in food that makes you so very happy?”
Balance, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the trick. How does a girl keep herself trim and healthy even as she keeps her husband happy. She gets tricky. Once in a blue moon (It didn’t take John long to learn I detested most of what he loved) when I’m way too busy and tired to cook, I bring home MOTLBS ingredients. Ecstatic John happily makes his own sandwich(es), those for the kids, and lovingly prepares one for me, adding his concession to my healthy ways – lots of sweet onion. So, rather than thinking he’s dead on his feet and wishing he didn’t have to cook, he’s thinking what a sweet dear wife am I.
Now, just in case you’re wondering why John’s tired feet are more relevant than mine, let me assure you there are number of reasons why it’s better for me to be the Great Kitchen Master. You’ve already seen what our health might look like if John were in charge, and later we’ll talk about the money savings due to my Kitchen Master-ness. That’s right, I’m the Kitchen Master. I’m no lowly slave, nor will you be if you stay with me. You’ll be living in Kitchen Rhythms and Graces, and lovin’ it.
So, back to cooking for a husband (or anyone else with lesser culinary tastes than those possessed by your inimitable self). Here’s my mantra, regardless of the issue: “A smart girl like you oughtta be able to figure this out.”
A smart girl knows it is unwise and unkind to say, or to illustrate with your deeds, “Your mama sure raised an idiot child. I think I’ll slap her next time I see her. What was she thinking letting you put ketchup on steak?” That’s right. True story, ketchup on steak and just about anything else. (The other side of that is that my mother-in-law taught John to be appreciative and considerate, perhaps moreso than his wife ever learned to be.)
Are you getting the feeling here that my healthy habits might have been as hard for John to take as was his SAD for me? I began to search for foods we both liked, and ways to make his diet a bit more healthy. Another key: I began slowly, improving John’s salads as follows.
John’s Favorite Salad (JFS)
Iceberg lettuce (of course!)
Gobs of shredded cheapo cheese
Fake bacon bits – gobs again
Those stale chemicalish croutons
And why not drown it all in Thousand Island Dressing?
I will not insult your intelligence by attempting to convince you that this salad is, well, edible.
My solution began as follows:
Mix iceberg lettuce half and half with Romaine (now he eats what he calls “weeds” with only an obligatory grumble).
Add sweet yellow or red onion slices (as time went by I added more and more goodies until now he’ll eat anything called salad.)
Use real bacon bits – just put bacon (nitrate and nitrite-free) in the oven all nicely spread out on a cookie sheet, bake nice and crispy, and crumble it up. Of course, the cook gets samples, and if she wants to be in good with her man, she gives him a slice or two as well.
Buy that ridiculously expensive Thousand Island dressing in the refrigerator section- at least it’s free of the chemical plethora/extravaganza found in most store-bought salad dressings.
Now for John’s New and Improved Salad
Any and all organic salad greens you like
Any and all other veges – I like radishes, sweet green peas, sweet onions, scallions, homemade croutons, home grown tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon bits or ham or turkey, and a homemade white dressing or Thousand Island! If you prefer an Italian dressing (just use lemon juice or your favorite vinegar, olive oil, a little honey, salt, pepper and additional herbs if you like) add your choice of cheese – I recommend herbed goat or sheep cheese. John says he hates any and all things sheep or goat, but he likes herbed goat and sheep cheeses if they’re done lightly and in salad. Parmesan and Feta are more palatable to the unadventurous palate, however.
One easy way to eat with the “sensitive” palate (doesn’t that sound better than “oafish and boorish”?) is to simply separate their food before adding herbs and extra spices and seasonings (extra being those things other than black pepper and salt). While some dislikes may seem unreasonable and be quite exasperating, in many cases there are physical reasons for such preferences. While I can never have too much cilantro in my salsa, John is actually nauseated by it. So, I just separate the salsa into separate containers before adding cilantro.
Mexican food is a great food to make at home for a man, and other unadventurous eaters. You can hardly go wrong, whether feeding a husband, kids, or company, and it’s easy to make it healthy and delicious for yourself as well. This is a great recipe for delegation. Give the kids chopping and cheese shredding assignments, as well as a lesson on proper handling and cooking of raw meat. We always use colorful and festive dishes witb Mexcian food – green plates and glasses garnished with lemons and graced with bendable straws. A fruity herbal tea makes an inexpensive and refreshing drink.
You have no need to apologize to guests if you simply serve water. We all need more of it and it saves the confusion over who likes what when you have a large group. If your guests insist on contributing something, here’s a great opportunity. Tell them you’ve got it all covered, unless they need desserts or drinks other than water (or whatever you have planned). This way they can bring something without getting under your feet.
One of my favorite recipes, which is excellent when company includes kids, is a buffet dish we call Brush Piles. Basically Brush Piles are simply tacos in a pile.
Ground beef, cooked and seasoned ahead, even the day before,
Season beef with dried onion powder (kids often detest cooked onions), garlic both fresh and dried, chili powder of choice, cumin, and cayenne (go easy and consider your guests’ tastes when cooking for a crowd).
Shred cheese ahead of time and set out to reach room temperature. Raw white cheddar is an excellent choice, but in case of budget constraints I also like Tillamook cheeses.
Chop onions ahead (same day), cover and refrigerate.
Chop tomatoes and lettuce same day – leave tomatoes out, refrigerate lettuce until about an hour ahead. The lettuce may wilt if left out too long. The reason for getting things out is we don’t want to put cold veggies on hot meat and get that not-so-attractive brilliant orange grease effect.
Pace Mild or Medium Picante Sauce (as all other ingredients, put in serving bowl with serving utensil) or make your own salsa with all your favorite salsa ingredients.
Corn chips – I heartily recommend organic, non-gmo chips.
Arrange the above as you want people to put on plates. We put the chips on first, then the beef (very hot) then the cheese so it melts, then the onions, tomatoes and lettuce, topped by salsa.
Options: Sour cream, Guacamole, Bean Dip
Easy and Delicious Guacamole
Avocadoes – I like to use one per person – all smashed up. We’ll pretend you have five diners.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (the stuff in the plastic lemon will do in a pinch). Simply cut a lemon in half, then ream it out by squeezing it around a fork as you twist and turn the fork (I put a colander over a bowl to catch the seeds). One lemon should be about right, but if you’re not a lemon lover, or if the lemon is extra juicy, start with ½ and then taste test.
Lime juice is optional (just a teaspoon for starters).
Garlic powder – I put in a couple of teaspoons, but that’s a bit much for most people. Again, try one teaspoon and taste test.
Pace Picante sauce – just pour in about half a cup (less if you’re nervous about so much, and as always, taste test).
Now, stir it up and keep the plastic right on top of the guacamole until serving time, and stir if it’s dark on top. This will be fine left unrefrigerated for a few hours before serving.
Another possibility for guests who are contributing to the meal is suggesting they bring the chips, salsa, bean dip, queso, or guacamole. But be warned – theirs probably won’t be as good as yours.