In our house, my wife does a lot of the cooking… okay, most of the cooking… okay, all of it. I’d gladly do more. I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest culinary expert, but I can microwave a six-minute Stouffer’s Mac N’ Cheese like the best of them. For some inexplicable reason, though, my wife does not consider that “making dinner.” She once had the nerve to tell me toasting two frosted cinnamon pop tarts does not constitute “preparing breakfast” either. She’s so unreasonable.
There are millions of husbands who love the challenge of preparing sophisticated haute cuisine meals using exotic ingredients like foie gras and arugula, with a side of home-made Dijon-pepper sauce. I’m just not one of them. I never grasped the appeal of laboring for an hour to prepare a lavish feast that I will scarf down in fifteen minutes, only to spend another 45 minutes cleaning up the four pots, five bowls, and nine ladles required to turn my kitchen into a disaster area.
Hey, I can prepare a home-cooked meal every bit as well as the next husband who has never cooked one. But recently, my wife decided it would be a good thing “for our relationship” if I were to pitch in more in preparing our dinners. She presented a ridiculously lame argument about how she has been making the meals for our family for the past thirty years. I countered with a much more cogent argument about not messing with a good thing. Surprisingly, she didn’t take that as a compliment. In my defense, I handle all the clean-up after every meal. And I try extremely hard to make sure I whine about it out of ear shot of my wife.
But my wife is no dummy – despite evidence to the contrary in the form of her decision to marry me. She had signed up for a service called Home Chef, which sends you a box filled with all the ingredients pre-measured to readily conjure up fancy meals like Salmon in Brown-Butter Tomato Relish or Sumac-Spiced Steak & Butternut Squash. Nowhere on their list of entrée options could I locate Chili Dogs with Fries. Go figure.
I’d like to demonstrate how to impress your wife with an elegant home-cooked feast – which I will now prepare with absolutely no assistance from the peanut gallery. Follow my instructions below and you’ll become a Master Chef in no time. Tonight, we’ll prepare Crispy Honey-Soy Barramundi – because that’s what arrived from Home Chef today.
Step 1: Read over the list of ingredients that came in the box: 1 Chayote, 4 oz. Radish, 3 oz. Swiss Chard, 1 oz. Honey, ½ fl. oz. Soy Sauce, 12 oz. Barramundi Fillets, 1 cup Crispy Rice Cereal, 1 fl. oz. Egg Whites, 2 tsp. Chopped Ginger.
Step 2: Get a dictionary. Find out what Chayote, Swiss Chard, and Barramundi are.
Step 3: Set your oven to “bake at 450 degrees”. Prepare a baking sheet with foil and cooking spray.
Step 4: Trim the chayote ends and halve lengthwise. Scoop seeds out. Cut into ½” slices. Trim and quarter radishes. Realize that you had previously fed the radishes to the dog because you don’t particularly care for radishes, and he’ll eat anything. Realize that you don’t have a dog. Where did he come from?
Step 5: Stem the Swiss Chard. Retrieve the dictionary to find out what “stem” means. Stir honey, ginger and soy sauce in a small mixing bowl. If none is available, use the cat’s bowl. She’s not using it at the moment.
Step 6: Place chayote, Swiss chard and radishes (turns out the dog doesn’t like radishes after all) on a baking sheet. Stir with 1 tbsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. of pepper and roast until lightly browned and tender, approximately eighteen minutes. Lightly “toss the mixture” … into the garbage. Retrieve dictionary again to double-check the meaning of “toss.” Retrieve vegetables from the garbage.
Step 7: Bread the fish. Place crispy rice in a medium mixing bowl and crush into a coarse powder. Resist the urge to pour milk on them to see if they make that snap-crackle-pop sound. Place egg whites in a separate mixing bowl. Notice that you’ve run out of mixing bowls. Improvise by using a large coffee mug. Immediately after placing egg whites into the coffee cup, notice that there was still coffee in the cup. Remember vaguely hearing that coffee enhances flavor. Stir coffee-egg mixture vigorously.
Step 9: Place fish fillets in a large fry pan. Add 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Turn burner to medium-high. Realize that you did this step in reverse order. Oops. Cook until golden brown, approximately six minutes per side.
Step 10: Take the vegetables out of the oven. Notice how they are black with the texture of lava stones. Refer to Step 3. Note the term “BAKE” in the instructions. Consider the possibility that “Bake” and “Broil” are not synonymous.
Step 11: Throw away the burnt vegetables. Cut up some celery and tell your wife it was the intended side dish all along.
Step 12: Suddenly realize you omitted Step #8: “Coat the fish with crispy rice.” Belatedly cover the fish with the rice. Note how it doesn’t adhere to the fish but cascades to the bottom of the pan. Remove pan from heat when the rice starts exploding everywhere and the fish turns dark black, becoming Super-Glued to the pan… and catches on fire.
Step 13: Panic for approximately thirty seconds as fire reaches kitchen ceiling. Pour coffee mug of egg whites onto the fish to extinguish flames. Take a moment to admire the texture of the rice across the walls as you inhale the aroma of Maxwell House from the coffee-eggs.
Step 14: Drizzle honey-ginger-soy sauce over the now-soggy blackened fish fillets to add color and zest. Notice how that does not remotely help.
Step 15: Proudly present your fiasco to your beloved wife. Tell her how much you enjoyed preparing it. Try to maintain the facade as she glares at you and the burnt offering and bans you from the kitchen forever. Congratulations. Mission accomplished. Your wife will never ask you to cook dinner again.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
©Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017