I didnít normally find condiments romantic, but as I compared prices of Hunts and Heinz, I dreamily thought about my new husband. This was my first trip to the grocery store as a married woman. Jake and I had returned from our honeymoon two nights ago, and I was still basking in the glow of our recent nuptials.
I held my grocery list in my left hand and tried not to be distracted by my sparkling diamond ring. I wanted to do a good job and make Jake proud. He had teased me before our marriage about not being domestic, and Iíd playfully feigned offense. Then Iíd called my mother in a panic over his joke.
"Mom, Jake says Iím not very domestic and itís true," I whined. I did what any daughter does when discussing her deficiencies with her mom: I established blame. "You did everything for us and you never taught me how to cook."
"Itís true, I spoiled you," My mother said with resignation in her voice. "But, relax. If you can read, you can cook."
Her words calmed me, but only temporarily. A few days later I told my mother-in-law about all the cookbooks Iíd received as wedding presents. "I donít have much cooking experience, but Iíve received many wonderful cookbooks. Iíll be fine. After all, I can read," I said, trying to reassure her that her son wouldnít starve.
"If you can cook, you donít need to read," she said in her usual matter-of-fact manner.
The conversation with my mother-in-law replayed in my mind as I filled my cart with the items for my first home-cooked, married meal. I was determined to prove my husband and mother-in-law wrong by preparing an exquisite dinner. How hard could it be? Iíd browsed my numerous cookbooks, searching for the perfect recipe. The one Iíd chosen had ďgourmetĒ in the title, lots of ingredients, and numerous steps. Surely it would impress my mother-in-law and husband. Martha Stewart, watch out.
As I pushed my cart down the aisle, I realized I had a problem. Two ingredients on my list were items I didnít recognize. I thought when I got to the store, it would become obvious to me where they were, but it wasnít happening. I didnít even know where to begin looking. A helpful employee seemed as elusive as my mystery ingredients, and I was too embarrassed to ask another customer for assistance. Finally, I found a pimply-faced teenager wearing an apron that said, "May I help You?"
"Excuse me, sir?" I used my best manners and flashed a friendly smile. I didnít bat my eyelashes, a technique I would have used in my single days. "Iím having trouble finding the shallots and capers. Could you point me in the right direction?"
The young man scratched his head, "What are they?" What did they teach kids these days?
"Iím, um, not sure. I was hoping you could tell me."
When the young employee couldnít help, I switched to plan B: simplify the recipe. I shouldíve chosen an easier recipe for my first meal, but it was too late now. My grocery cart was already filled with most of the ingredients, and I didnít think Iíd have another use for salmon. I headed home, feeling defeated, without the shallots and capers. I hoped they werenít crucial ingredients. They couldnít be that important since Iíd never even heard of them. It wasnít like leaving out an onion or anything.
That night I worked tirelessly on the meal. By the time I placed the fish in the skillet, I had completely mutilated it trying to remove the pin bones - whatever they were. I set the table with our new wedding china, a tablecloth, linen napkins and candles. I thought this might divert attention from the unsightly salmon. I was horrified when the fish didnít "flake easily" as the recipe indicated it should, but instead stuck to the pan in blackened chunks. The pretty table setting was not going to be an adequate distraction, so I served dinner in my honeymoon lingerie.
This plan worked beautifully. My husband didnít eat any of the salmon, but he didnít complain either.
I learned my lesson that night. I threw out my gourmet cookbook and began using one titled "Four Ingredients or Less" with much greater success. My thin husband even gained some weight. It wasnít until weíd been married three years that he asked, "Honey, when do you think youíll be ready for five ingredients?"
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