Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The particular sadness of apple cake




R.I.P. Marcella Hazan. If you don’t own any of her books, you should change that. They’re all excellent except Amarcord, her memoir, which made me dislike her a little bit. But you don’t have to be a warm, big-hearted person to write excellent cookbooks. If you only buy one of her books, I'd buy Essentials of Italian Cooking and make the pasta with tomato and butter sauce. Perfection.

I apologize for the long absence. I’ll explain. But first, some recipes, most of which I served at a family party:

-chai pickled grapes from Ed Lee’s Smoke and Pickles. Wonderful. Easy. You should buy some crispy red grapes and pickle them today. I served these with manchego cheese (Lee’s suggestion) and this might be the most memorable dish I’ve prepared from his book. The recipe for the grapes is here. I cut it by two thirds because I don’t own a restaurant; as I've mentioned before, Lee doesn’t always scale for the home cook.

-Lee's oysters on the half shell with rhubarb mignonette were nothing special. Raw oysters, thin vinegary sauce. I could not taste the rhubarb. Almost stabbed myself while shucking oysters. 

-Lee’s pulled lamb barbecue was expensive and a fair amount of work and had the gamy, funky lamb flavor that I enjoy only in very small portions. I worry I'm on the brink of not liking lamb. An interesting experiment, but I prefer pulled pork. Also, the recipe calls for boneless lamb shoulder and then instructs you to cook it until the meat “falls off the bone.” That’s a challenge. It leaves you unsure what meat you're supposed to buy. I went with boneless and it worked fine. The recipe is here and if you love lamb and have a day to devote to cooking it, give this a shot. 

-Cheesy broccoli casserole came from a book called Real Cajun by Donald Link and it’s a hearty, rich casserole in the hallowed American tradition that relies on Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. But instead of opening a can, this recipe has you make your own. Your kitchen will look like it was hit by a tsunami and you’ll be scrubbing pots for an hour, but the casserole is worth it. The perfect dish to bring to a potluck or someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner when you don’t have to cook anything else.  

-For a weeknight dinner I made Lee’s habanero-lemongrass marinated steaks. Confusing because on the plate was something that looked like an expensive T-bone steak but tasted like stir fry. I’m conditioned to want expensive steak to taste like steak. You might feel differently. If so, give these a try

So that’s the cheerful cooking wrap-up. Now I'll tell you why I had to take a break from cooking and blogging.

About 10 days ago I baked Smitten Kitchen’s mother’s apple cake. Believe it or not, this cake was even prettier than it appears in Deb Perelman's photo. It was really delicious. It wasn't weird or healthy or gluten-free. Just a beautiful, fattening, old-fashioned cake full of sugar, cinnamon, and apples. 

No one except me ate it. My children did not even taste it. 

A day or so after baking this cake, I flew to Las Vegas for a magazine story I’m writing about thrill seekers. For research, I rode the XScream, an instrument of torture atop the Stratosphere. Have you ever ridden the XScream? My hatred of the XScream is boundless. I would like to say you couldn’t pay me to ride the XScream, but apparently you can. The next day I did a zip line and after the XScream I could have napped on that zip line.

I thought everyone was as freaked out as I was until I saw the photo. Red t-shirt and jeans.
During the 30 hours that I was gone, Mark decided to bake a tube of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls that he’d been keeping in the refrigerator. He and the kids gobbled them all up. When I came home from Las Vegas, exhausted and maybe the tiniest bit strung out, I found an untouched apple cake and an empty cardboard tube that had recently held Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. 

Oh boy. Bring on the crazy. 

Tearfully I told Mark that Pillsbury cinnamon rolls were redundant when there was a homemade apple cinnamon cake on the counter, that he and the kids didn't appreciate me, that I'd wasted years cooking for this family because all anyone ever did was make fun of me or complain, that he’d turned the children against my cooking with his jokes and Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. That our children don't eat vegetables because he made hating vegetables seem cool and funny. Because he is cooler and funnier than I am! And why did he refuse to eat homemade jam? Et cetera. I told him I felt like I’d been living for the last 17 years with Ronald McDonald. 

So much ire and sorrow over an apple cake, but of course this wasn’t just an apple cake. This was the beautiful bundt-shaped symbol of hundreds of dishes I've written about on this blog and hundreds of dishes I made before I started the blog, dishes that no one but me would eat. It’s depressing to cook for people who truly don’t care about food. One hand clapping, year after year. Over time it makes you feel stupid and lonely. Occasionally, furious. 

It’s also a drag to face the wrath of a weeping wife when all you did was bake some dumb cinnamon rolls. 

I was pretty nuts. He was pretty nice about it. You don't have to like food to be a decent person. Steam was let off. Peace restored. 

Sunday, I told my aunt about the apple cake conflagration and she said, “Did you ice the apple cake?”

No.

She said, “Just a little powdered sugar icing drizzled on any cake and I bet they’ll eat it.”  

Owen said, “That’s what I keep telling you, Mom!”

Frosted cakes from now on. Easier than finding a new family. 
 

76 comments:

  1. Wow, this made me tear up for you. And I don't even cook. Stay strong! You know all of us are dying to come over and eat your apple cake-- without frosting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Mark ate almost all the rest of the apple cake and I felt bad, like I'd guilted him into. Which I had.

      Delete
  2. I would have been happy to eat your apple cake too. Having had similar experiences with homemade food that went begging while (insert disgusting artificially colored high fructose syrup ladened product here) was gobbled up, I would say you showed admirable restraint. You let them all live didn't you? Glad to hear that peace has been restored. Mark sounds too nice to divorce over cinnamon rolls. (btw suggest you keep a can of that nasty canned frosting around. If anyone wants frosting that badly they can eat that stuff)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We always have canned frosting around and I'm never the one who buys it. Mark is way too nice to divorce over cinnamon rolls. I'm not sure the same could be said of me. . .

      Delete
  3. Oh my god! You almost made me cry. I feel a little under-appreciated by my family, but jeez, my husband loves homemade jam! What on earth is wrong with your husband? How can he possibly object to your jam? I fault my husband for slathering bottled tartar sauce on beautiful pan-seared salmon with brown butter, but he eats anything I put in front of him, and my step kids are astonishingly adventurous eaters. Keep up the good cooking! You may be wasting your sweetness on the desert air, or whatever that line is, but the rest of us get to enjoy the anecdotes of your cooking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the jam problem has to do with consistency -- not quite as smooth as Safeway Select. Tartar sauce over brown butter. Now that's upsetting.

      Delete
    2. Maybe you should cook for your sister and extended family more often, and go on a family meal hiatus (strike) for a while. Surely they will start to appreciate your cooking once they get sick of canned beans and toast.

      Delete
  4. Having just gotten done fighting with my picky eater about the superb, SUPERB homemade cream of mushroom soup that he called "super gross" and "not food" and nearly threw up when he put the spoon in his mouth that he had barely dampened with the soup, I deeply sympathize with your freakout. It's incredibly frustrating to cook food that you know is better than 90% of anything they'll eat anywhere else and have them be like, [shrug]. I get frightening when they won't eat my food.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cream of mushroom soup is pretty bold. I don't think even I would try that one.

      Delete
  5. I love your cooking and I don't even get to eat it. My husband pretty much eats everything I put on the table, but rarely says he likes or dislikes a particular dish. I often think it's all the same to him and that he wouldn't notice if I started to serve Hungry Man microwaved dinners. I have to mention that the most appreciated I ever felt was the three years I volunteered at a city soup kitchen and got to create dishes from what was donated by local supermarkets, small grocers and farmers' market leftovers. Most of my efforts at least got me a big smile and a nice "thank you" from the recipients, and not much was ever left on the plates.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Obviously you get something out of cooking, even if your husband doesn't offer any feedback. It was always fun to cook for my mom and is still fun to cook for my sister because there was/is so much feedback. I've always wanted to try cooking in a soup kitchen or group home.

      Delete
  6. I've been reading your blog for about a year now; I found it after reading "Make the Bread..." cover to cover at least five times because I liked your writing style and recipes so much. Anyway, all this to say, I appreciate your cooking! I just had a cup of cocoa, using your recipe. It's almost become a graduate school nightly ritual. So thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  7. That roller coaster looks like a nightmare. I'd have been making the same face as you. How come those other people look so damn happy to be up there? No thanks. My husband eats anything I cook, but 99% of the time, he just shovels it in without remarking upon it. Then he complains that I never cook the same thing twice. If you held a gun to my head, I couldn't give you a list of five things I've made that he'd call his favorite. Nigella's meatloaf is the only thing I can think of that he went crazy for. And my almost 4 year old STILL refuses to put anything I cook into his mouth. He's been like that since birth. They promise me he eats at his preschool, so I toss him an english muffin with cream cheese for dinner, and call it a day. Any time I try to make him taste--just TASTE--dinner, it becomes a two hour long standoff that ultimately leaves me furious, and him hungry. Point being, I get it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. Your son sounds just like my kids when they were younger. And Owen often complains that I never make things twice. Then I made banana bread a bunch of times and he complained he was tired of it. Ditto brownies.
      I think the happy people on that ride are a self-selecting group of thrillseekers who don't mind heights. No one with wiring like me (or you or probably half of humankind) would get on that thing for fun.

      Delete
  8. you would have to pry my cold, dead hands from the doorjamb to get me on that thing...and I would have to wear an adult diaper...
    I am lucky to have a family that is pretty happy with whatever I cook, but when I bring homemade stuff to a block party and it doesn't get touched in favor of obviously store bought brownies and Popeye's fried chicken I am outraged. It makes me cringe that your family made you feel that way in your own home. Please don't stop cooking, you have been an inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nah, I won't stop cooking. They can't change and neither can I.
      I do envy you your family.

      Delete
  9. Oh, how this post resonates! First, let me say that I am continually stunned by your ambition and courage in the kitchen. I am a pretty dedicated cook, but you set the bar. The sheer number of things you try regularly, not to mention how demanding the recipes, ought to win you some award. I read you for a lot of reasons, but one is that you prod me not to be so complacent with the same 'ol same 'ol. So! That your family does not get it or appreciate it is really undeserved and suggests a sort of obliviousness on their part that is NOT a compliment. Tell 'em I said so.
    However, I have recently been through a very similar spell, where I half killed myself doing for my husband's family, then planning a weekend's worth of meals that cost a fortune, hauling stuff around for both, only to have my husband fail to tell me he was not going to be around due to going to his college football game, leaving me alone with too much expensive food and being a hostess to guests solo. It's not that he went to the game; it's that I would have made a completely different and cheaper plan had I been informed. I have not even been able to put it into words yet to explain to him how much I resent everyone's belief that all this food "just appears out of thin air." It's a lousy feeling, yet I also think I set it all up by doing so much all these years. When someone figures out a family can eat well when only one person is responsible, I'm listening. Jennifer, you are a great writer with a true eye and voice. Don't stop writing often, whether or not ya'll eat pop tarts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two things: I sometimes think the junk food preference in our house is "obliviousness" as you put it. And sometimes I think it's part of a passive-aggressive power struggle. I go back and forth. When I'm feeling relaxed and happy, it's obliviousness. When I'm feeling tired, anxious, and maybe a little paranoid, I'm convinced it's a power struggle. Probably it is both. Second, I think it's totally true that we "set it up" by doing a lot of cooking. People take it for granted. I'm sorry about that football game incident. How frustrating.

      Delete
  10. I love your blog! I joined after reading your book, love the book!! I have a husband who eats pretty much anything I cook. I'm blessed! I have made " bad meals" even the dog wouldn't eat, like tofu lasagna. I don't like frosting, so I'm with you on the apple cake, just eat it!!!! I have a granddaughter who is picky, but she does try food. Blessings to you, kiddo!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Just remember, even when the immediate family members are not appreciating your cooking, there are thousands of readers who are. I have found so many fantastic recipes through your recommendations, and I love your writing. It kills me every time you describe making some elaborate, wonderful thing, and then note that no one but you will touch it, and it is sitting around on a shelf being wasted... if I were in that situation, I would weigh about 300 lbs., because I would not be able to stand the waste and just eat everything myself. Fortunately my husband will eat anything. But, as others have commented, he is just as grateful if I heat up a frozen burrito as he is when I cook something that takes several hours and a mountain of dishes. That is both good (he's always grateful!) and frustrating (one is a lot harder than the other, also better!).

    ReplyDelete
  12. We are apparently living in the same house. I pull out cookbooks and vary meals and mix in interesting grains and vegetables and just generally cook a little more elaborately than I need to. And, all they really want is taco night or thinly pounded chicken breasts with broccoli.

    I'm going to keep cooking the way I cook (as, I imagine will you), but now I'll remember to ice the cake. Wise words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the icing recommendation was good. Who would eat a Pillsbury cinnamon roll without the icing? It's about the icing.

      Delete
  13. Usually, my family is happy to eat what I prepare. Usually, I can shrug it off when something doesn't appeal. But in the past couple of weeks, my patience has been tested. First, there was a Swiss chard panade that they all but gagged over. No biggie; I ate it for several days in a row and tossed the rest. Now there's a pot a quarter-full of Boston baked beans in my fridge, where it's been sitting for days. For some reason, this batch is kryptonite although usually beans disappear in a flash. I grind my teeth a bit every time I open the door. I think it's because I really had to hustle to make that particular pot of beans happen on a day that was too full of other stuff; I thought they'd be gobbled up as usual, and I don't understand why they're not. I learned long ago that all I can do is prepare good food; whether others want to eat it isn't up to me. But sometimes it rubs me a little raw. And I agree — get a can of store-bought frosting for the philistines.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, usually I shrug it off too. It's when I'm tired or a little down that it starts to rankle.
      I would love Swiss chard panade. Now I want to make that.

      Delete
  14. Is there any cake left? I'll have some! My husband's family for years served Entemann's coffee cakes on Christmas morning when I brought homemade pastry. I stopped killing myself to make them the good stuff and save it for a more appreciative audience. You're the best and your post made me a little weepy (partly from self-pity, partly from empathy). Think of us as your virtual dinner guests. We love your cooking! xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Mark is in charge of our Christmas morning breakfast. I don't know it started, but it's a tradition. He always makes bacon and buys miniature powdered sugar donuts that he cuts in half, spreads with butter, and then bakes. This is one meal we have never, ever argued about and there is probably a lesson to be learned here, though I'm not sure what it is.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. Powdered sugar donuts cut in half, spread with butter and baked? Seriously? Why does that sound so dang good? Shouldn't it sound hideous? hahahaha! Love him!! and you!!

      Delete
  15. Amen, Sister. I feel your pain. While my husband and kids swoon over my baked chicken and crock-pot pork roast (neither great culinary achievements), they're pretty dismissive of anything fancier than a nice grilled steak. My husband steadfastly refuses to eat my homemade mixed berry jam. He says it's because of the seeds. I actually puree my fruit and pass it through a sieve because blackberry seeds are obnoxious. Still, he won't even try it. He'll only eat black raspberry jelly made by his mother or by Smuckers. What's worse is that when we go to Thanksgiving dinner with his family, I'm only allowed to bring my 'famous' layered salad -- iceberg, peas, red onions, mayonnaise dressing, shredded cheese, bacon bits. Not in the least challenging or interesting. Luckily, my extended family and friends gobble up my food! The way I cope is to remind myself that it's not my fault he has no taste. Buck up. Your kids will appreciate you introducing them to new foods as they get older.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Men and jam. It's so weird!

      Delete
    2. Well, I'm a man and I make jams myself. My latest creation was gooseberry/jostaberry/redcurrant/aronia mix. So there. ;)

      Delete
  16. Let me start by telling you that I am devoted to your blog. I find you incredibly brave in the kitchen, I admire that you follow your passion, and I truly enjoy your writing style. You are clever and funny and adventurous. I wish I were more like you. Now the reality part that no one wants to hear. I, too, cook things that my husband does not appreciate. On rare occasions, it still makes me sad. When it does, I try to remember that he didn't ask me to spend hours in the kitchen making foods he did not request. He does not share my passion for new recipes or new experiences at the table. In other words, I should not be angry with him for him for not sharing my interests. It's not about me when he doesn't appreciate my cooking, and I shouldn't be doing it expecting praise from him. I know better. I also do not share his love of watching the same movies repeatedly, the Discovery channel, or fishing. You are a masterful home cook, Jennifer, but I hope you do it for you, because you enjoy the food and enjoy the process; otherwise, you will be frustrated endlessly. People can love you and appreciate you without sharing all your interests. I would suggest that you find someone who appreciates your cooking and share it with them or remind yourself each time you cook something new that your family may not particularly appreciate it. If someone says "pass the salt" it doesn't mean your cooking is not grand, it means they like salt more than you do. I have been much happier since I arrived at this philosophy. Now I occasionally suggest that we eat take out, and he is fine with that, and I am able to enjoy the fact that I am not expected to cook an elaborate meal every night. When you feel like you need the positive feedback, cook something that you know will get it. Please don't think I am lecturing you. It took me a very long time to come to this way of thinking (I am much older than you), but I am a much happier cook now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wise words, Beckster. I don't think you're lecturing. I sometimes feel bad that I've forced this mountain of food, this intensity about food, on a man with very simple tastes. I don't usually get overly upset. My head was not really screwed on straight the day of the apple cake.

      Delete
    2. Whew! I was worried I sounded a little strident. I still have episodes when my head comes unscrewed, but less of them now that I am old(er). Don't feel bad that you have forced food on anyone! Your family and friends all benefit from your largesse, and they know it. I think we sometimes have unrealistically high expectations of our abilities to please others. As Katherine Hepburn said, "if you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased".

      Delete
  17. oh man - I just looooooove your writing and your content. I love how candid you are - so much so that i just interrupted my husband's Walking Dead consumption to read some of it to him. I love that you just tell it like it is with these recipes and I am often compelled to try them based on your candid reviews. I also so appreciated the "oh boy. bring on the crazy." quote because I've been there and felt that. But, most of all, I love that your aunt knew the answer - how sweet is that? and no doubt, true. Thank you for cooking and blogging! I'm always excited when I see one of your posts in my blog list. :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh, I thought this was going to take a much darker turn than it did, whew.

    Like others mentioned, my husband eats without much commentary, and like you, food I do make ends up getting "forgotten" or "looked over" and I become enraged and feel unappreciated. It's very frustrating because we both work full time, so the pressure to feed us always falls on me since he doesn't know how to cook (despite my efforts). Like another commenter said, I can't even tell you 5 dishes I made that are his favorite. He has a massive sweet tooth and although I can bake, I don't like to (so many dishes ugh) and don't really eat sweets. But once in a while I'll make him brownies or something, and then end up throwing half or more of it out. He'll say he got sick of it, forgot it, or it was just too much to eat, meanwhile he'll have cleaned out all the cookies and ice cream in the house, or worse -- all the fruit I bought specifically for a recipe. I vowed to never make him a cake ever again after throwing out the pineapple upside cake he didn't eat.

    I admire your resolve and perseverance, and I appreciate your cooking. I wish I was there to eat it with you. Go on strike, or just cook for yourself and you will very soon find out just how much you're appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've gone on strike periodically. It is very restful. Next time I get worked up, I'll do it again.

      Delete
  19. I hear you... I have a husband who prefers alfredo sauce from a jar to the genuine article I make in my kitchen. I could go on at length on this topic, but I won't bother, because we all know how it goes. Luckily for you, you have multiple audiences for your cooking and baking (I'm talking about this blog, articles you write, books you publish), so it doesn't matter if your family don't know what's good. A large audience of readers appreciates your efforts most sincerely. I so admire your writing and your love of what you do; I can't do that kind of cooking most of the time, but I love reading about yours.

    I laughed at the instructions to cook the boneless lamb until it fell off the bone. Could be very easy or very difficult, depending on how you interpret it.

    I like the idea of going on strike. Every so often, if my husband complains too much about what he's given to eat, he is treated to a week of food out of cans or suggestions that he grill himself some hot dogs (the extent of his cooking skill). He gets the point and becomes more appreciative at least for a while.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I feel like this post was written for me. My husband has requested jarred pasta sauce instead of homemade roasted tomato sauce and when my 7 yr old turned up his nose the other week at homemade chicken potpie (Pioneer Woman recipe) I was crabby. My husband is somewhat picky and has little interest in food preparation or consumption. Plus he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, so I end up eating more than I should of baked goods.

    Thankfully my extended family and friends appreciate my cooking. I have to bake gluten-free due to celiac and people are always amazed when I tell them the muffins, cake, etc. is gluten free.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've made that potpie! I actually did a taste test with PW's potpie, Thomas Keller's, and then some frozen potpies. I can't remember what the results were, but the frozen potpies were not as reviled as I felt they should be.

      Delete
  21. Jennifer, I also think that the "crazy" can happen over anything. Your post resonated because it sometimes feels as if you/I/others work hard on whatever aspect of your home life that you care about (cooking, being organized about your child's school stuff, doing the laundry!) and no one even notices. I've gone on similar rants and while completely justified in my own head, I know my also sweet significant other thinks I have lost it. And for a few minutes I have! I know I will always have to work on not caring so much, because in the long run it makes me a better person to be around. I am sure it is not a power struggle as you obviously have great relationships with your family, but they are not as intrigued (although isn't your daughter a big baker?), just like I don't care about the Patriots! So invite those of us who live in Marin to eat with you! I'd be thrilled.... Keep up the great writing; yours is the first blog I turn to when wanting to read others' thoughts on cooking or life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Mark works for a sports web site and I don't even know the rules of football. So it goes both ways. (Isabel has stopped baking, but I know she'll come back to it.)

      Delete
  22. I adore roller coasters, I adore your blog, and I loved your book. I can completely relate to your frustrations with your non-foodie family. My husband thinks that hamburger is a food group!
    Thank you for your blog, thank you for your honesty and transparency. Please know that your kitchen adventures ARE appreciated, even if it isn't by your hubby and kids!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Do you ever notice that you get the most comments on the personal stuff? You are an amazing woman, and you have (once again) touched a nerve: we feel unappreciated in our own kitchens. You had one of those epiphany moments, and your head exploded. Been there; done that - Preach It, Sister! Thank you for sharing; we are your friends, and you were totally justified. And your husband is a great guy, who *listened* and then ate cake because it was never about the cake - it was about whether or not he loved you and cares about the things that are important to you. Hugs to both of you - and smooches on your Owen, who is going to be a good man when he grows up. :) Best, Ida

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ida. Your comments are always lovely.

      Delete
  24. Oh. Oh. Oh! I so know this feeling. It's a lonely place. But here's a story: My son, who would chow down on his way home from school on Popeye's or Doritos and then leave his thoughtfully-prepared dinner sitting untouched, went to college. As we were packing, I gently suggested maybe a few spices and condiments for his dorm. He agreed, and not even reluctantly. Two weeks after drop off, he called to excitedly tell me about the camping trip he took with his new friends. "We made polenta with fresh veggies and I was the bomb because I brought my Indian spice mixes." To be clear, I'm not sure this will ever happen with my younger son - he's a more hardcore food hater but what you are doing will have impact. When they pull away and are free to like things you like again, they will get it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, and when he calls to talk to his brother he ALWAYS asks what we had for dinner!

      Delete
  25. Okay, so picture yourself working outside the house full time and having your husband cook every dinner. My family is as picky as yours (possibly pickier?) and I end up eating my husband's bland chicken soup, mashed potatoes 3 nights a week, and no vegetables outside of frozen peas. If I cook something more interesting on the weekend no one will even try it. Except for Deb's mother's apple cake. That they request all the time - but I figured out the frosting (glaze) trick early on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This doesn't happen in other countries, does it? Is it all just because we have so much choice? I'm guessing that in India you eat curry at home and feel lucky to have it and no one complains. Curry is what you eat. It's when you can choose between curry and enchiladas and bland chicken soup and every recipe on the internet that things get complicated.

      Delete
  26. So what would be your advice for someone 5 years into a relationship (no children)? I do most of the cooking because I love it and having good food matters to me. He's appreciative for anything I cook, but despite also being a good cook rarely does it himself. If it's his night to make dinner, I pretty much have to supply a menu. I don't want cooking to turn into a thing I resent and I'm already prone to martyrdom as it is. Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like, not gotten married? Ha! No. I don't think cooking should be a deal breaker. There's a flip side to this problem that Hanna Rosin wrote about a few years ago and I remember reading it and thinking, I have it so good. I would be miserable if I had a husband who wanted to elbow me out of the kitchen. For some reason I can't make this link show the whole article, but this is the piece I'm talking about: http://hannarosin.com/the-rise-of-the-kitchen-bitch/

      Delete
  27. I can't make enough of that apple cake to satisfy either my family or my in-laws. I had gotten into the habit of making icing out of the left-over juice from the apples and drizzling it over the cake. Just this week my wife tells me that I should stop ruining the cake with icing, and I must admit that it is just as good without.
    I too have the same problem with my family, no one seems to appreciate a nice home cooked meal, they just want pasta with butter or a cheese quesadilla. Is there something terribly wrong with a home-made chicken pot pie that I spent an afternoon making? So goes life, a small problem in the scheme of things.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I've been thinking about this post for three days, drowning in guilt over how we used to treat my mother's cooking. Any time she would serve us something that she liked but we didn't - squash casserole being the main offender - we would joke that it was a "PMS dinner". Basically we accused her of cooking something we hated just because she was in a bad mood and wanted to take it out on us! What ungrateful little schmucks we were (my dad included). Karma is a b*tch though -- now I have a husband who is "not hungry" when I make Bolognese or curry or fajitas but will polish off a box of Fig Newtons after I go to bed. At least he doesn't complain about PMS dinners.

    ReplyDelete
  29. One time we were hosting some Southeast Asians for a few days, and I planned a variety of meals, using some of my best recipes. I thought it was pretty good, but all the meals were eaten in silence--polite silence--and I didn't think anything of it because only one of the group spoke English. Finally the man who spoke some English said to me, Don't you ever cook rice? Whoops! They were dying for some home cooking! I let them handle all the cooking from then on and it was good stuff.


    My husband appreciates variety, which is what he gets. The down side is he has to ask for his favorite dishes to make an appearance because I'm always trying some new recipe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if you were in a Southeast Asian household, would you expect them to make hamburgers for you? Of course not! I think it was rude of them to insist on their own food. Travel is for trying new things! You were being a gracious hostess, providing them with typical home-cooked meals of your own culture.

      Delete
  30. Oh, posts like these make me think we need to move to California and I entertain thoughts that we'd be IRL friends instead of just on the internet. We could send the boys and Isabel out for In-N-Out (no, wait, I'd go too, to be honest)...chicken nuggets, and we'd have something interesting.
    And my husband (who should know) says you kind of did marry Ronald McDonald. (With great affection, I assure you.) It's kind of tragic, I have all but given up on trying new recipes due to the lack of enthusiasm with which they are met from the kids, but my husband is at least willing to try them. Life is unfair that way sometimes. He's ready to fly out to dinner, ply Mark with something in a box, and eat his portion.
    And on another note: you are my hero for getting on that thing and living to tell the tale. I've been on planes that fly lower than that.
    Thanks for being a prophet without honor in your own land, but inspiring kitchen bitches all over! Ah, internet irony.

    ReplyDelete
  31. My kids don't like anything with a sauce, except pizza. And they vastly prefer DiGiorno's to my homemade grilled pizzas. Ingrates. Actually one of them deigns to eat macaroni and cheese, despite the sauce problem, but she prefers everyone else's to mine. At first I thought it was the Kraft problem but she also likes diner mac n cheese, which honestly I can't see is different than mine. Maybe I should just give up and add MSG to everything.

    The apple cake looks great, except that they also don't eat cooked fruit. Or cake, really.

    I think all of us spouses/parents who cook for family members who won't eat their food should get together, cook together, and EAT together. That being said, I'm totally making those pickled grapes so my foodie friend (wonderful cook who puts me to shame) and I can indulge.

    Sending you a big hug.

    ReplyDelete
  32. OH! I need to try your Vadouvan mac n cheese on her! Why did that brain wave take over a year to manifest?!

    ReplyDelete
  33. One: I plan to try this apple cake at an event I've got coming up; I think the folk there will be most appreciative.

    Two: I believe you'd really appreciate one of my father's favorite stories. He went to one of the last one-room schoolhouses in the hills of southwest Virginia. His cousin taught there, trying to get some culture into a bunch of kids a lot more interested in hound dogs and shot guns than poetry. One day he read William Blake's "Little lamb, who made thee, dost thou know who made thee?" aloud to the class. When he was done he turned and asked one of his students about the poem. The kid just gawped at him, so Cousin Dewy leaned back, hitched his thumbs in his suspenders, looked over the assembled students from his 7' 2" heigth, and announced "Clods! Mere clods!" That has been a catch phrase in our family ever since. You can use if if you like, next time your bunch turn down your delicious home-grown yummies for some mass-produced processed food product.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I'm off the subject, but there is a reason Smitten Kitten gets more comments. Her blog can arrive via email, and yours does not. Also she blogs regularly, and so people are happy to have that frequency. Checking to see if you have posted is a drag, and I lose interest when nothing new is up over a week. Just some feedback. Your writing is the best.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Next time he buys Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, tell Mark I have some very embarrassing video of him performing at a talent show 30 years ago and am not afraid to deploy it.....

    Being incompatible regarding food can be frustrating. I am incredibly lucky that Michael cooks (as I really don't care to - I save my energy for baking), but there has certainly been mutual frustration when our dietary wants and needs differ. Luckily, we both agree that homemade beats Pillsbury every time.

    I'm thinking that in 10 years, your kids are going to think about your cooking the same way I think about the year my dad took us all to France for his sabbatical. We (kids) didn't want to go, we kicked and screamed, but years later, we really appreciated the experience and feel incredibly fortunate. Hang in there.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Just to add feedback based on an earlier post. I love the frequency of your blog, I don't have the time each day to check, I have a look once a week or so and it feels like a lovely treat if you have posted something new. Yours is also the only blog I have ever kept up with, I just love it.

    And I am another in the "everyone hates my cooking camp". I love cooking, love recipe books and love feeding people who love to eat good food. Which is none of my family, I am most disappointed with the children - how on earth did I get it so wrong that they will try nothing new, will eat only restricted meals and there is one meal only that they both like?!

    ReplyDelete
  37. I mostly agree with the posters that tell you that you should cook for yourself, and not expect your family to share your interest in food. That said, I can see how frustrating it would be to provide meals every night to a family that rejects half of what you make. I suggest that you involve them more in the process, both so that you are cooking things they like and, more important, so that they appreciate the hard work it takes to feed a family. At the very least, your children should serve as your sous-chefs for most meals. That should make them more appreciative of the effort that goes into the meals, and less likely to reject a dish that they helped to choose and prepare.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Wow, both sides of this resonant with me. I am the cook in my family and that's just how I like it. Luckily my husband and kids pretty much like what I cook - so I've only experienced your pet peeve in small doses. BUT I have experienced it and I have also experienced something of the other side. I dated someone in college who likes to cook as much as I do. It drove me CRAZY. His crimes included: pre-heating pans on high; garnishing salmon with dill (only herb I can't stand); making everything overly spicy (he's Indian). Not a big deal, but frustrating because his way of doing it RIGHT was my way of doing it WRONG. Part of my problem with this was that he was horning in on my territory in the kitchen. That nuance is obviously NOT the problem you are describing, so imagine another scenario. Imagine Mark suddenly took a huge interest in, for example, your wardrobe (use whatever metaphor you like). Suppose he spends long hours shopping for the family clothes and laying out outfits for you every day - OCD outfits with lots of jewelry, tight waists, high heels, etc. Yeah, sometimes he'd pick the perfect thing that you were in the mood to wear, but most of the time you'd rather be wearing sweats. It is your body, after all, but somehow you are supposed to appreciate and wear the outfits he picks out so painstakingly every day.

    Or what if Owen's enjoyment of his Legos required the entire family to sit down each day and admire the creations he made that day. If you didn't spend that requisite 15 minutes each and every day, or if your bluff weren't exactly perfect, it would make him feel sad and lonely or occasionally, furious.

    I don't mean to reprimand you, I mean to encourage you back into that zen mind frame in which you are cooking for the art of cooking and not for that 15 minutes of appreciation from your family. They are your Legos. Enjoy them.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I totally get it. My brother insists on a "snack night" for a hoilday get together that I host. His family's preferred food for this event consists of Bagel Bites, pizza rolls, cocktail smokies in commerical bbq sauce, and French onion dip from a can. One year, I skipped a day of work to prepare homemade mini pizzas, blackberry bbq sauce for the smokies, and homemade French onion dip---carmelizing the onions alone took hours. Upon arrival to my home, my sister-in-law looked at my work and snarled. She tasted the dip and made a face--it gets worse. THEN, she and my brother went to the grocery and returned with a bag of pizza rolls and a can of dip!

    Now, I just do not bother. They bring their junk food and I eat before everyone arrives!

    ReplyDelete
  40. That sounds like an argument that isn't really about the food.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Perhaps you simply had Post-Traumatic XScream Disorder? If memory serves, Mark ate exclusively hot dogs back in the day, so your progress in expanding his culinary horizons has been nothing short of remarkable. Why he eschews your jam, however, remains a mystery.

    ReplyDelete