Aunt Ethel inscribed this aphorism in a cookbook she gave my parents as a wedding gift. 37 fruitful years ago.

I chafe a little at the notion of cooking as romantic epoxy. Like, who’s supposed to be back there slicing and dicing, keeping the marriage together? We all know whose job cooking is.

Or was.

Look around Aunt Ethel! Today we have 24 hour jumbo buffets across town and Any’tizers Buffalo-Style Chicken Wyngs in the freezer.

Besides easy access to convenient foodstuffs, no one has time to cook, ok? In our goal addicted, Cult of Productivity society? Not so much.

Deep down I know old Aunt Ethel is unfashionably right.

Just because women are no longer relegated to slaving over a hot stove does not mean the kitchen has lost its tremendous power.

“There is no sincerer love,” said Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, “than the love of food.”

Research suggests most married couples have sex seven times a month (less than twice a week). Compare that to 21 meals per week and you might reach for the grocery list.

Definitely I have a standard dish – who doesn’t – to feed lovers or potential ones. I want to appear talented in every room in the house.

My ol’ faithful is Atlantic salmon accompanied by salad, baguette, wine, +/- steamed asparagus.

Honey Teriyaki Salmon

Combine in a mixing bowl 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup honey, juice of half a lemon, 1 clove garlic. Whisk til honey dissolves.

Marinate 1 pound of fresh salmon fillet in mixture for 4 hours.  Or just baste the fillet with it.

Broil salmon at 375 for approx 15 minutes

This dish has slaying power. Serving it predictably results in kissin’ – even if the kissin’ is not, sadly, bound to last.

British actor Richard Grant recently declared in an interview that cooking has kept his marriage going for 23 years, and in April Scarlett Johansson told People magazine how much she enjoyed cooking for her new husband. “I find it very therapeutic,” she said. “I put on some music, maybe have a glass of wine, and make something like a turkey Bolognese or a nice frittata.”

Frittatas are, like, Level 7 to me. I don’t aspire to a Julia and Julie type of undertaking at all; carcasses are where I draw the culinary line. I will never have my own apiary or bake bread from scratch (unless, I guess, if Ryan Reynolds were my husband. In Scarlett’s shoes I too might venture into Top Chef territory).

But besides accepting it as relationship superglue I’m beginning to see cooking as an oddly helpful writing tool.

“Writing is not a monolithic process just as cooking is not a monolithic process. You don’t just go in the kitchen and cook – you do a number of very specific things that you focus on one at a time – you peel garlic, you dice garlic, you saute onions – these are separate processes. You don’t just go into a kitchen and flap your arms and just cook – and in the same way, you don’t just ‘write’.”

-Screenwriter Stephen Fischer

Yesterday my father guilted me into helping him shuck ten pound of clams he won at a golf tournament. It was a sublime, mindless hour during which I ‘thought up’ the perfect ending for a story I’ve been agonizing over for months.

There’s a strong case to be made for writers to cook often:

“New findings in neuroscience indicate that your brain is often at its best when your body is engaged in low-level, undemanding activities…a state of “meta-awareness” helps you work on long-term problems. “For creativity, you need your mind to wander,” research psychologist Jonathan Schooler told the New York Times.”

– Globe and Mail July 2, 2010

As the locavore movement dovetails with the recession, maybe we’re all going back into the kitchen, slowly, genders together this time.  I watch my parents mingle with hipsters on Saturday mornings at the Farmer’s Market, everyone stopping to listen attentively while a man selling organic chicken for four bucks a pound explains how transporting birds to the abbatoir seriously stresses them. So he slaughters them on the farm himself (with love).

In Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, writer Richard Wrangham makes the slightly awful argument that cooking led to pair bonding way back in barbarian times:

“There’s this huge distinction in most cultures between the status of men as bachelors or married men. It’s only when the man is married that he gains status and he gains it because he can do two things: He can go off during the day to do manly things—to hunt or raid the neighboring group or check on girlfriends in neighboring camps or sit around chatting and politicking—and still count on the evening meal. And the second thing: When another man invites him for a meal, he can reciprocate. And until he can reciprocate, he’s not part of the community of equals.

Cooking underlies this whole critical distinction because until the bachelor can rely on someone providing him cooked food, he must do the work himself, which means he can’t do the manly things properly.”

Hard to swallow, but anthropology and Aunt Ethel make sense. Cooking more = better relationship & better stories.

Men’s Health magazine runs an outstanding recipe feature aimed at status-less bachelors who have not secured the evening meal. Highly recommended for bachelorettes without status too.

Ironing is another mindless creativity-inducing activity I endorse. But – not to worry – I won’t devote a post to that.

Can you give us your love recipe below?

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MEGAN POWER lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Visit her blog: http://meganpower.blogspot.com

75 responses to “Kissin’ Don’t Last, Cookin’ Do”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    Megan, this was a blast to read. I can’t remember ever seeing another cooking post on here and I enjoyed the way you wove in the themes of relationships and the meditative qualities of preparing a meal.

    I’m the worst cook. I cook all the time, but really I’m just a serial re-heater. As a vegetarian who doesn’t really care for vegetables, my meals are usually some sort fake chicken patty, baked and then diced onto a tortilla with ranch dressing and some Mexican jack cheese. Sometimes I’ll get sassy and make fake chicken parm. Thankfully, while most single people have the general complaint that cooking for one is a drag, I have two greedy dogs who camp on the floor while I cook and then eat, so it’s really a satisfying little ritual where the three of us enjoy some quiet time together with a little something to eat.

    Very nice piece.

  2. Megan says:

    If a man made me fake chicken parm, I would kiss him until I couldn’t feel my face.

  3. ABC says:

    Did you learn how to iron..?
    Here’s a quickie… perfect for a late evening snack.
    Mash up 2 big boiled potatoes in a bowl with some butter, salt and pepper. Be sure it’s not lumpy.
    Add blue cheese to your taste and some chives.
    Serve with pieces of toasted bread and some Port or a glass of Zin.

    Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
    Harriet Van Horne

    • Megan says:

      No mames guey – planche tus pinches camisas cuantas veces??

      I forgot about that potato blue cheese dish. Nice.

  4. It doesn’t even take a full meal to influence an entire room of people into thinking you could be the love of all their lives.

    Make my salsa and you will be the life of any party and maybe even a spicy sex object. It’s even online on my friend’s website: http://willieboy.com/salsa.html

    • Megan says:

      Let’s lobby Brad for a TNB Cookbook! Belardes’ Sexy Salsa can be page one.

      • Haha! That would be awesome.

        And then there’s all the foods with which you can use the salsa. Burritos, tacos, Spanish rice (cook it right in). Makes yummy burgers (mix with the meat). Yummy on homemade refried beans.

        OK, as you can see, I am just a ghetto Latino dude. I don’t get fancy. I just cook lots of variations.

        Green salsa with tomatillos is good too!

        I learned how to make a paella years ago and just learned chicken fried rice. nom nom nom!

        Now I’m hungry and it’s only 8:20 am and I was going to go on an epic bike ride. :/

        • A TNB cookbook is a truly brilliant idea, Megan. I want to be the man who handles the chapter on skirt steak. Awaiting your go ahead to begin transcribing the measurements for my garlic marinade….

        • Joe Daly says:

          That actually is a really, really good idea. Each author can contribute a poem or short story along with their recipe. Of course, a TNB Recipe of the Month club wouldn’t be far behind, followed by a slightly risque “The Chefs of TNB” calendar… it’s gold!

        • Megan says:

          Sean, let’s have your marinade recipe! Would you be willing to pose in the calendar? A summer month for skirt steak.

          Maybe Joe would pose with vegetables. Strategically places zucchinis or, say, eggplants.

  5. Beza says:

    You cooked a very interesting topic. I agree that cooking plays some magic in romance and relationships are as complicated but as delicious as a Lobster Thermidor.
    You made me wanted to go home, look for my mom’s old recipe book and try something new hopefully with some polish flavor…;)

  6. Megan says:

    B, do it! Cook that Polaco something made with love. And report back.

  7. Alli says:

    I really enjoyed reading this! and i definitely think that food helps people connect in many different ways…and it our family food is adored and savoured and whole days can be planned around it!
    in Mexico when you serve a dish some people say ”Ya te puedes casar” if the food tastes good…i would say they agree with Aunt Ethel…

  8. Alli says:

    I really enjoyed reading this! and i definitely think that food helps people connect in many different ways…and in our family food is adored and savoured and whole days can be planned around it!
    in Mexico when you serve a dish some people say ”Ya te puedes casar” if the food tastes good…i would say they agree with Aunt Ethel…

  9. Nice work, Megan. Food writing is always nice to see. One of my favorite things, early in a relationship, is to cook for the woman of my affections. Maybe I should try it as a creativity-freer as well.

  10. JM Blaine says:

    Can this be?
    Did Pony return?
    When I called to thee
    did you reply?
    my friend my sister
    who nursed with me
    at my mother’s breast
    who ran with me through the
    endless fields of clover
    have you returned?

  11. 1159 says:

    Indeed she has
    & she is still who
    she was
    & better still

    • Megan says:

      Hello again, love o’ mine. Milk + clover, the makings of a true 1159 recipe.

      So what is your ballerina’s intoxicating dish? Something Southern, it must be. Share!

  12. JM Blaine says:

    Food is love
    tangible
    Kisses are
    beneath the ear
    behind the knee
    belly button collarbone
    skin between **
    spiritual
    sexual
    sillyserious
    sometimes sacred
    Sanskrit kisses
    on Babel’s Tower
    now complete
    God breathed
    into the dirt
    life & light
    be

    Some kisses
    last
    forever

  13. liesel says:

    what a yummy read! thank you!

    I’m willing to consider men aren’t as concerned with securing dinner as much as “desert” later on and for years to come? if you know what I mean…

    I know more dudes who cook better then us working gurls who are busy overcompensating for aunt ethel and fighting to define ourselves outside of the home by almost never being home, especially not in time to make dinner! Then again, maybe that’s why our marriages aren’t doing so hot either.

    In my opinion, the key to a great love recipe is quantity. They are like human garbage disposals most of ’em. They’ll eat anything. But there’s nothing worse then delicious food you may have slaved over… and there’s just not enough for seconds. Guys are soooo crabby when left hungry. Si o no?

    xoxo

    • Megan says:

      So true! It’s like they revert to cavemen. “Gronk hongray. Gronk need eat now.” While we are silent or simply order another chardonnay.

      What’s the best meal a man ever made you?

  14. Alli says:

    my new favorite meal that takes 10 minutes or less :

    Nan bread mini pizzas:

    – spread tomatoe sauce on Nan bread
    – add chopped green peppers, onions and broccoli or whatever veggies tickle your fancy
    – sprinkle on mozzarella cheese & oregano & a little olive oil
    – bake in oven for 7 mins at 350
    mmmmm…goes perfect with a glass of red wine and smiling company 😉

  15. Judy Prince says:

    Loved this, Megan—-and every one of your comments, as well!

    Is it still true that women would rather be taken out to eat than have sex?

    Or maybe it was that women preferred having sex while out to eat.

    • Megan says:

      Hi Judy, thanks for commenting. The sex columnist Dan Savage does a funny stand up bit about how gross it is to eat a big dinner and then try to have sex. He suggests having sex first, then eating. No one wants to eat all bloated! I never think of it that way.

      I think it all depends on how tired we are or if we’re PMSing or if our boss was a bitch all week. Some nights we want to be cooked for, some nights we just want to go out and some nights we want Pop Tarts alone. We are mercurial like that.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Quite right, Megan. We’re as individual about food and sex as about any other important things (what things could possibly be more important?).

        Case in point re our sometimes-wish to not go out and eat, I’m off-colour as you know the Brits say, so enjoying a toasted wholemeal tuna sandwich, salad of greens, and fresh squeezed orange juice which was brought to the room in this hotel in York. Wonderfully, the English don’t inflate room service prices for food. And they don’t expect a tip for bringing it to the room. Food’s terrific, hotel’s terrific. It’s called Cedar Court Hotel York, is alongside the 12th c city walls, and was recently bought and refurbished; a Grade II (1906, in this case) former headquarters for North East Rail.

        I do hope your Wales experience is full and exciting! P’raps you’ve finished there and have gone home.

        • Megan says:

          Judy, I want to be in a hotel room ordering tip-free room service right this moment. There is little that feels more luxurious than eating restaurant food in a hotel bed.

          Wales was lovely and I learned a lot. Have you been to Gower? It’s gorgeous. Classes finished in June and now I’m home in Canada for the summer to finish my thesis. Hopefully this is a permanent move but in today’s wobbly job market one never knows.

  16. liesel says:

    Ahaha! I can totally picture your caveman immitation en vivo

    The best meal a man ever made me was in my little candlelit south austin apartment, and playing my favorite Latin iPod music mix – Erik cooked up a sexy fattening Italian dish called “burro e salvia” – it was magical.

    Have you every experienced sauteed butter drowned sage leaves? Holy Sweet Tiny Baby Jesus!

    • Megan says:

      Oh you invoked El Ninito Dios!!!! haven’t heard that in a dog’s age

      I have NEVER experienced sauteed butter drowned sage leaves but it does sound magical. What the hell dish name is that – “donkey and ?” Saddle?

  17. liesel says:

    and furthermore, speaking of neanderthals, the champagne story is yours now, not mine.

  18. Gloria says:

    Megan, this is just great. I love cooking so much. I’m actually sitting here right now eating red beans with peppers and pork – which I just pulled out of the crock pot an hour ago. I accompanied it with some lightly sauteed kale and garlic (sauteed in butter with just a dash of lemon juice at the very end.)

    I love cooking – for lovers, for children, for friends, for neighbors…but not for myself so much. (I like it well enough, I’m just tired of cooking for one all the damned time and who wants to eat the same delicious meal for six straight days?)

    There’s the old addage that says the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. (I just tried to figure out the origins of this saying, and found this great link – so apparently this idea is as old as eating. I think there’s truth to it.

    Here’s my favorite recipe for when I have a man-shaped love-interest-of-sorts house guest:

    1 yellow zucchini squash (large) – cut into 1/4 inch thick discs
    1 zucchini (large) – cut into 1/4 inch thick discs
    Angel hair pasta
    light red sauce (tasty and robust, but not full of chunky shit)

    – Saute the two zucchinis in olive oil on medium-high heat so that each side cooks quickly and darkens the meat of the zucchinis, but not so long that it softens it a whole lot (about four to six minutes)

    Kalamata olive baguette
    Olive oil

    salad:
    Cucumber (large) – diced
    1/4 cup finely chopped purple onion
    red wine vinegar
    olive oil
    (put all of this together at the start and let it marinate in the fridge)

    Red wine

    or

    Iced mint tea with honey

    I’m really bad about listing amounts of things like pasta sauce and olive oil – I like to eyeball it. I’d write a terrible cookbook.

    I think your first meal for a new love interest should be simple and something that you could make with your eyes closed. I like the two different colored zucchinis with the red sauce in the above recipe because it’s really colorful. 🙂

    • dwoz says:

      Substitute Eggplant and I’ll be on a flight tomorrow.

    • Megan says:

      Gloria, THANK YOU for those excellent recipes. The angel hair pasta sauce is going into my rotation.

      My culinary whiz parents are evangelical about Crock Pots and pull off some pretty sweet meals with theirs. I might have to invest.

      “The shortest road to men’s hearts is down their throats” how sexual does that sound?? Jeez.

  19. Zara Potts says:

    Cooking a meal for a loved one is a truly delicious experience. I think it has to do with the fact that when you love someone, you want them to feel nurtured and full and healthy.

    It’s why when we are sick, we crave our mother’s cooking.
    It’s why when we are in the first throws of love we make dinner dates.
    It’s why when we marry, we feed each other wedding cake.
    It’s why when love dies, we stop eating.

    I have a great recipe for a marscapone, chocolate and orange tart. I don’t have it in my head, but it is ambrosial and heavenly. I will return and post it!

    • Gloria says:

      I saw Nutella at the store last night, Zara, and thought of you instantly. Food triggers memories. When I smell baking pie, I think of my grandma. I’ve never smelled a food that triggered a bad memory. (Excepting certain liquors, of course. But that’s not really food.)

      • Zara Potts says:

        Nutella! Really? Why does Nutella remind you of me? Is it because I hate it?

        • Gloria says:

          Because once, on Facebook, you mentioned that you were making some pastry and you said you didn’t know what to fill it with and I suggested Nutella and you said something to the effect of, “That’s a fucking brilliant idea!”

          But now I know the truth, Zara.

          But it’s okay. More Nutella for me.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I did??? Ha! I must have been making a pie for someone I didn’t like!!! Ha ha ha!
          Actually one of the worst things I ever ate was a nutella filled croissant. Yuck!

  20. Alexandra says:

    Hurray! I love this article. I found the link to this tasty article on my friend’s FB page. I truly believe that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. My husband, to this day, will say that when we were dating, my roasted chicken dinner ‘sealed the deal’ for him. For my best friend’s wedding, I made a cook book for them with 12 recipes and a gift card to their local grocery store. In the book’s inscription, I had almost written exactly what your Aunt Ethel had written in your parents’.
    I love cooking, but I love baking more. Here’s a tried and true carrot cake recipe that I pull out once or twice per year.

    Honey-Butter Carrot Cake with Toasted Pecans and Citrus Cream Cheese Icing

    CAKE:
    Butter
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 tsp baking pwdr
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    1/4 tsp ground clove or allspice
    1/2 tsp salt
    3/4 cup butter, softened
    1/2 cup honey
    2 eggs
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 tsp vanilla
    3 cups finely grated carrot
    1 apple, peeled and grated
    1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

    ICING
    One 250g package reg. cream cheese
    1/2 cup butter, softened
    2 Tbsp honey
    2 Tbsp finely grated orange, lemon or lime zest
    2 tsp lemon juice
    4 to 5 cups sifted icing sugar

    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Butter 2 9-inch layer pans; line bottom with circle of parchment paper. Stir flour with baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.
    3. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter until lighter in colour and slightly fluffy. Slowly beat in honey, then eggs, one at a time. Beat in sugar and vanilla.
    4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in thirds, stirring until just absorbed. Stir in carrots, apple and pecans.
    5. Divide batter between pans, smooth tops. Bake in oven centre for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into cake centre comes out clean. Cool on rack for 10 minutes; then turn out to finish cooling on rack.
    6. To make icing, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually beat in butter, then honey, zest and lemon juice. Gradually add icing sugar until thick enough for spreading. Spread between stacked layers, then over sides and top. Sprinkle with any extra zest or chopped pecans.
    Makes 8 to 12 servings.

    • Megan says:

      Hi Alexandra, thanks for coming over from FB! Hopefully you can swing by The Nervous Breakdown regularly, there’s some delicious writing on here.

      Very, very inspiring that Roast Chicken “sealed the deal” for your husband. You should renew your vows and serve that chicken to everyone as a reminder of the power of cooking!

      Your recipe – I’ll be honest – seems Advanced. Not that I won’t try it, but I will be scared while I am dong it. So many steps means so places to eff it up. Also I do not own an electric mixer.

      The cake recipe wins best title. In the TNB cookbook we’re going to publish as a result of this post, your recipe will get a full-color, full page spread. It will be mouth-watering.

  21. dwoz says:

    Oh, woe!

    Looking at that picture of the “morgue of spices.” Where spices go to die.

    Perhaps the only spice that improves by being dried out and bottled is Geri Halliwell.

    • Megan says:

      When I too questioned the ancient-looking spice bottles I was coldly informed they just keep re-filling the bottles. So no spices have died in there. Au contraire.

  22. dwoz says:

    I posted a didactic poem for squirrel pate here recently. That’s gonna get the women all ready to shed their inhibitions, right?

    🙂

    Truly, there is no easier way to peel and saute a fine woman than to prepare her a very competent meal and present and serve it impeccably. Except maybe writing her a song and playing it for her on the Steinway.

    Here are my ground rules:

    1) salad has no iceberg lettuce in it;

    2) avoid veal as being a very high negative risk factor;

    3) Bake some fresh bread, it really isn’t hard;

    4) Don’t make something that she thinks will make her fat;

    5) Comfort food, comfort food, comfort food.

    • Megan says:

      D, absolutely not on the baking bread. How about the Kalamata Olive bread Gloria suggested? Compromise it’s all about compromise.

      I read it 4) as “don’t make something that she thinks will make her FART” (which is a good rule too)

      6) No cauliflower

      • dwoz says:

        Don’t make food that will make her fart. Good rule. It’s not entirely altruistic either. Line-of-fire…friendly fire, collateral damage, whatnot.

        I forgot one very important rule: NEVER allow her to do the dishes. This is not about equal division of labor, fair share, etc…it’s about POINTS, pure and simple. Do not leave any POINTS on that table for her to pick up.

  23. Tip Robin says:

    Several things:

    One: The first thing I’ve noticed reading this is that you, or your writing rather, is very economical. It’s direct like nail, has no extra words, says what it wants to and doesn’t stray about. This is positive. It reminded somewhat of Coetzee’s style, something I’ve always very much admired and always wondered how he does it.

    Two: I love to cook. I shun modern society and their Ain’t-got-no-time-to-cook altogether (then again, I do this by also shunning the I’m-goin’-to-get-married norm). I would guess I cook between 7 and 10 meals a week. Yesterday I cooked twice, today once. I have an arsenal of about 10 very solid go-to dishes. My love meal would be either my stir-fry (which is, you must believe, otherworldly, some have called it the best stir fry they’ve ever eaten) or my Ragu (aka Bolognese) which I grafted off a Roman named Lomberto, a writer of some serious literature whom I met last April. It needs a solid 15 dollar bottle of a deep red in order to make it ejaculatory).

    Someone once told me, ah yes, Constance, the girlfriend of Lomberto whose also a writer and one of my best friends, that cooking is creative, and creative minds are drawn to cooking because it offers an outlet for creativity in ways writing cannot. And it is undoubtedly, creative in that you literally create something out of various, disparate things, something cohesive that looks, smells and–most importantly– tastes pleasing.

    One of my favorite smells and sounds is onions hitting extra virgen olive oil that has been heated up on medium high for 1.5 minutes. There is a comfortable, reliable peace in that sound and smell, something restaurants have never offered me.

    I recently paid 160 bucks for an 18 pc of Wolfgang Puck cookware. While not top of the line, it is the best set I’ve owned. And I take care of them like they’re my last good testicle.

    Thank you for bringing all of this to mind.

    And keep tippity-tapping away at your thesis.

    • Megan says:

      Tip, I’m actually not a good writer at all just a decent editor. I spend more time rewriting and rearranging and cutting then actually creating. I’m sure a lot of people do but I wish I had numbers like percentages.

      You are indeed an unconventional boy. How that happened in small town Ohio we shall never know.

      Ejaculatory is a word that looks as oddly beautiful in letters as it does in real life.

      If $160 Wolfgang Puck is NOT top of the line, what praytell is? I honestly want to know. Cuisinart? Rachael Ray?

      Les & I used to see that fancy European Bodum brand at TJ Maxx sometimes and we’d say OMG Bodum! Then it’d turn out to be a hot chocolate kettle or something completely frivolous.

      • Kip Tobin says:

        A top of the line saute pan will run you 150 bucks, easy.

        A high-quality knife will be at least 50.

        All writers are in some way editors (even if not necessarily good ones) but not all editors are writers. I say that you are one (a writer) and you should start acting accepting this fact, especially if you plan to be either a writer-writer or a teacher-of-writing. Either that or you please stop writing and publishing your well-organized words together online, because you are, by definition, writing.

        Ha.

        OMG Calaphone Contemporary Stainless! $465 for a 10 pc! All-Clad Stainless is 700 for a 10 pc!

        FYI: Rachel Ray, Cuisinart, Wolfgang, Emeril and Kitchenaid, et al, are all about the same quality and price. Let’s call that price range and quality middle of the road. Then you got the Teflon cheapies at WalMart and the ridiculously priced ones at Le Boutique Kitchené.

        • Kip Tobin says:

          The rule of thumb in terms of what is of high quality is: If you’ve heard their names in pop culture, well then it’s not high quality. That sounds classist, which, of course, it is, but since I’m in the lower class, at least in pecuniary terms, well, then I’m okay with being classist.

        • Megan says:

          You snob. The first things I buy each time I move – shower curtain, shower curtain rings and a can opener. Last move I had a nice Oxo one. Now it’s dollar store baby. Maybe I’ll ask for adult cookware for Christmas.

          I want to recommend the 2006 Viggo Mortensen vehicle “Alatriste” about 17th century Madrid. Great battle scenes. You will have to judge Viggo’s castellano

  24. KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN

    Prep: 25 minutes

    Cook: 35 minutes

    Makes: 6 servings

    2/3 cup all-purpose flour

    1½ teaspoons seasoning: paprika, garlic salt, basil, red pepper flake, marjoram

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 teaspoon black pepper

    3 pounds chicken pieces (preferably breasts)

    Shortening

    1. Over a medium-high heat place several scoops of shortening into the large heavy skillet, the bigger of the two pans you received as a wedding gift three years ago. The depth of the pool of shortening should be ½ to 1 inch, and should look similar to a puddle of rain. Run the cold water in the sink. Notice how the water shoots out of the faucet at odd angles. The round metal cap at the end needs tightening. Turn the water off, grab a dishtowel, and dry the faucet. Try to tighten it with your hands. It’s not working. Your fingers cannot manage a grip on the smooth chrome finish. This brief moment of technical mortality will crush you momentarily. Like Marcus’ mother from About a Boy—who struggles to wrestle a bowl out of the cabinet and when she finally pries one free she goes to pour the milk into the bowl and the rush of milk rides the bowl through and leaps over the other side and crushes her frail spirit and makes her cry, like a child, over spilled milk. And Marcus sits there at the kitchen table, exhausted and confused about all this up-and-down business. Well, you, you’re not going to cry or anything like that, and you’re not a kid anymore, and you’re not as crazy as you think, but you do let the little things get to you as well. Some many things in need of fixing. Turn the water back on and watch it flow again. It’s a little better. Your sleight of hand helped a small bit, but not very much. The water shoots out of the faucet less chaotically. Go ahead and pass your fingers through the flowing water—in fact, wash your hands—and then flap them somewhat dry and flick the remaining cold water drops clinging to your fingers into the pan. Once the oil sizzles and pops angrily, tossing specks of hot oil all over the wall and stove top, reduce the heat. Flick some more drops of water into the hot pan and revel in the mean beauty of sputtering oil. Cleaning the oil off the wall and the range will prove a soothing task later on.

    2. Put on the new Marah record, Life Is a Problem. Life is a problem. People are a problem. The people in your life—they don’t know it, they never do—are a problem. The people who are not in your life especially are a problem. They might be the biggest problem of them all. No, in all actuality (put it off, put it off, as usual, but you are well aware of this), you are the problem. You are Problem. You always have been and always will be.

    3. In a bowl, combine flour, seasoning mix, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, coating and patting them generously. This is calming, flipping the floured slabs of chicken over and over, patting them gently, trying to make sure they are coated thoroughly. You could do this forever. A lyric walks into the kitchen and breaks you from your spell: “There’s a hole in my boat / It’s a matter of hours / Send me flowers / Sink me flowers tied to a stone.”

    4. Carefully lay the chicken pieces in the pan—gently, as though you were laying a sleeping child down to bed. You don’t have any children, thank God, but if you did that would be how you would do it. Think about that while the grease bubbles up around the chicken. If you did have a child or two, maybe no longer would you be so problemed. Maybe you would finally feel a sense of true importance. The full realization that someone else depends on you, that someone finally needs you—and no simple stranger, at that. This thought—actually, a mute, poorly edited montage in your head—is very, very dangerous. This having a child to fix your problems. You know this is the Worst Idea of All Time. But it might be a nice distraction. Do not crowd the skillet; add only two pieces of chicken at a time. Cook, uncovered, over a medium heat, for 15 minutes or so, turning to brown evenly. While the chicken browns wonder if that’s why you were put to life, to fix someone else’s problems. To be that vessel that distracts, within which the problems of two other people (maybe more, maybe a hundred) sit like cargo—towering, messy stacks of weathered clutter. Notice the hole in the boat. How long has it been there? Consider this. Consider moving the cargo over the hole, so as to plug it, a foolish plan but one that might buy you some time to crank out a better solution. No, the cargo’s just too massive. It cannot be moved by you alone. The water’s bubbling up now, an inch deep and rising. Cold water, too. So you plug the hole with your toe. This appears to work. At least, it feels like it works, but you can’t stand there forever. Someone’s got to maneuver the boat, no?

    5. Drain fried chicken pieces on a sheet of paper towels. Reserve the drippings for gravy. Transfer chicken to a serving platter. There should be enough for leftovers.

    • Megan says:

      Justin Benton, what a satisfying comment. I could burp I’m so full with its richness.

      “This is calming, flipping the floured slabs of chicken over and over, patting them gently, trying to make sure they are coated thoroughly. You could do this forever”

      I had this exact thought, not so well-formed, while bread crumbing halibut the other day. It was over too soon.

      “The people who are not in your life especially are a problem. They might be the biggest problem of them all. No, in all actuality (put it off, put it off, as usual, but you are well aware of this), you are the problem. You are Problem. You always have been and always will be.”

      This is a post itself. Please expound and publish it. I’m fairly begging.

      “If you did have a child or two, maybe no longer would you be so problemed.”

      Are you certain about this? Hm. Maybe you not read that NYMag article called “I Hate My Life” about parenting. Brilliant use of problem as an adjective though.

      I just bought Life Is a Problem off iTunes.

      Thank you for Fried Chicken recipe. Did you also know marjoram takes the bitterness out of brussel sprouts?

      • JB says:

        I did not know that about marjoram. I can’t remember the last time I ate brussel sprouts. Maybe fifth grade? I think I’ll buy some this week and give that a shot.

  25. Erika Rae says:

    Your writing style is lovely. It made me feel as if I were reading a finely layered lasagna. I’ve never done that before: read a lasagna. And like a lasagna, reading this a second time can only improve its flavor. I’ll be coming back for some leftovers tomorrow sometime around noon.

  26. Simon Smithson says:

    “Look around Aunt Ethel! Today we have 24 hour jumbo buffets across town and Any’tizers Buffalo-Style Chicken Wyngs in the freezer.”

    Is this an internet porn euphemism?

    • Megan says:

      Smithy Smithson, get your mind out of the gutter and into the kitchen.

      Have you ever cooked up something magical for a lady love?

      • Simon Smithson says:

        The only thing I’m good at cooking up is excuses.

        No, wait, that’s a lie.

        I’m terrible at it.

  27. […] on the inside of a cook book that she gave as a wedding gift: Kissin’ Don’t Last, Cookin’ Do (http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/mlpony/2010/07/kissin-dont-last-cookin-do/). I read an article on this thirty-four year old piece of advice with a mix of intrigue, panic and […]

  28. Ali Bryan says:

    What if the kissin’ don’t last but the cookin’ sucks? This article gave me the culinary equivalent of small man syndrome. But then I found a recipe to feed it.

    • Megan says:

      Mrs. Hot Mess – I think I speak for everyone when I say I’m dying to see a recipe which helps overcome small man syndrome.

      You must have at least ONE failsafe that your kids and husband love? Does your husband have a special dish?

  29. Brad Listi says:

    I make my wife breakfast every morning. She does dinners. Sometimes we switch, but that’s usually the way that it works.

    Me? I’m not a great cook. I don’t have time. If I had all sorts of free time I would probably get into it. I can’t believe people have time to do all that. For me, it’s gotta be done in a half-hour. And when I have more time than that, it’s usually a Saturday night or something and we don’t feel like being home, so we go out and have somebody else cook for us.

    I like this argument though, or this supposition: that cooking can be a nice complement to writing. That makes sense to me. A left-brain (right-brain?) activity. (Whichever side of the brain stimulates creative thought.)

    I’ve read about this kinda thing many times before. Filmmakers getting breakthrough ideas in the shower. Musicians birthing timeless riffs while driving through the desert or washing dishes.

    Great stuff, Power.

    Write more here!

    • Megan says:

      Thanks Chief!

      We only have about 5 recipes so far but how do you like the TNB Cookbook proposal? Fiction + recipes. Two markets in one! Has potential.

      Maybe a restaurant where the patrons get a little instruction from a chef, actively cook part of the meal, eat it there and then the staff cleans up would be a hit. You get cooking and a mini lesson without the major hassles.

      Don’t stop cooking breakfast for your wife. It’ll keep you together, apparently.

  30. Aaron Dietz says:

    You’ve made me miss cooking–not that I was ever all that great, but I have a few signature dishes and used to entertain once a month or so (casually, mind you). Now…my life is such a whirlwind of not finishing anything in time that I’m afraid real cooking is out the window. I still do an occasional lentil soup….

  31. angela says:

    i love reading about food and cooking, and i love your piece!

    although i make simple things for myself, i’m not skilled in the kitchen, unlike my mother who’s such a good cook she was featured in this online chinese cooking show, and my brother who makes every bit of Thanksgiving dinner from scratch.

    i’ve been resistant about cooking for my boyfriend. i think partly i don’t feel like i’m a good cook, he *is* a good cook, and i was sort of forced to cook in my old relationship. my mother keeps saying i should cook once in a while. “it will be better,” she says, though what “it” is and how “it” will be better she doesn’t specify.

    but recently i took the first step by making my BF instant noodles. i am the instant noodle queen. my favorite are those spicey Korean ones, to which i add cubes of tofu, an egg, and fresh scallions.

    and it *does* feel so nice to make him something, especially since he’s so easily pleased.

  32. Irene Zion says:

    Megan!

    I have that “FISH” book. It’s incredible. You can just sit and read it and there’s always something new to learn.

    The reason you don’t bake bread from scratch is easy. You live in a big city where you can buy good bread. When my kids were growing up for 23 years in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, there was nothing but Sunbeam bread! So I learned. Now it’s second nature for me to make Challah and Italian bread and sourdough Italian and Rye and Pumpernickel, and Panatone at Christmas.
    Bread is still their favorite thing when they come over, but only one of my kids bakes it.

  33. Mathew says:

    I was just going to email you and find out if you were home this summer or not. I wasn’t really homesick for not making it back to B’water this summer until I read about shucking clams with your dad.

    I have no recipes to woo you with, as living in Thailand has meant eating out every single night for over 2 years, but if you were to get your butt over here for a visit sometime I would gladly buy you as much delicious Thai food as you can eat.

    Say hi to your folks for me and keep on writing…

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