Learn to Love Cooking in 10 Easy Steps

wiskIs the daily grind of meal preparation getting you down?

Dinnertime used to make me want to impale myself with an instant-read thermometer. The heat. The mess. The complaints.
No more. I’ve changed my life, and so can you! Here are some handy tips to get you out of your doldrums and into the kitchen.

1) Drink.  Alcohol is a great stress reducer, and everything looks better after a glass of wine (not unlike dating). By the time the night is over,  you’ll be crowing “Bite this, Ina Garten.”

2) Make sure everyone else is drinking. Lowering one’s own expectations is only half the battle, unless you’re eating alone. This rule does not apply to children. That would be illegal. I looked it up.

3) Cook what you want to eat. You can’t please everyone, so please yourself. Develop a sense of Zen about hot sauce on delicately flavored entrees, selective ingredient-picking and sentences like “it’s not my favorite.” Practice saying “If you don’t like it, feel free to cook tomorrow.” Be prepared to follow through.

4) Just make the Mac and Cheese already. Not the Gruyere/Emmentaler version laced with truffle oil and lobster meant to “expand their palate”.  Kids don’t like anything that isn’t as orange as a stadium full of Dutch soccer fans. Accept this and you will know peace.

5) Get the right gear. Nothing says “I’m a real cook” more than having a potato ricer, a convection oven, and Dean and Deluca smoked sea salt in your kitchen. Even if you never use them.

6) Put on music. Cooking should be fun! It’s even more effective if you sing and dance along. Need an extra booster? Tell your teen son you’re going to “drop it like it’s hot,” or that the dinner recipe includes “Cup a Ace, Cup a Goose, Cup a Cris.” Snap a pic of his horrified face for future inspiration.

7) Get someone more competent to help you. Like playing tennis with an ace, working with a better cook raises one’s game. If you play your cards right, they’ll tell you to ditch the apron and let them take over because you’re totally useless.

8) Get someone less competent to help you. If something goes wrong in the kitchen, ask for help. Make sure to tell your dinner guests that “Bobby was SO helpful.” Put finger quotes around helpful. Non Est Mea Culpa.

9) Add butter. Because everything is better with butter. Cheese sauce, chocolate and sprinkles often work as well.

10) Tell your diners “It’s French.” Even if it’s chicken. Call it poulet. Quote Julia Child. If they look less than impressed, say things like “The French have such a refined palate,” and “Not everyone can appreciate true cuisine.” Poor creatures–fatally limited by their own lack of sophistication.

If the above ten steps don’t work, pull a Spinal Tap-worthy 11 and get take out. Better yet, do step one, then jump all the way to 11. Learn to Love Cooking in Two Easy Steps! As Martha Stewart says, “Now that’s a good thing.”

Photograph “The Instrument” by Sierra Blair © 2005 Creative Commons/Flickr





Excuse me, but these pounds are not mine

scaleWhen the dude runs down the stairs yelling “Mom” while laughing, it’s generally not a good thing. Particularly if my husband is following close after, and he’s laughing as well.

“I wanted to see what I weighed, so I used your scale. Hahahahahaha!”


My husband got a scale that talks to the Fitbit. I’m starting to think the Fitbit is more trouble than it’s worth. Then again, it provides me with so much writing material, how could I give it up?

The Fitbit scale tracks weight and body fat and sends loving messages to my phone to let me know when I’ve done well.  It’s the kind of scrutiny that I’d divorce my spouse over–or at least withhold sex. The problem is that it’s insensitive in every sense of the word.  Rather than sensing that it’s me, because I have my Fitbit with me, it guesses who is standing on it based on weight.

My son is six inches taller and five pounds lighter than me. He has the body fat of a stinkbug. Does it occur to the scale that I couldn’t have lost five pounds in three hours and cut my body fat by 2/3? No, it can’t. So my phone starts buzzing as my Fitbit account begins to send me congratulations.

Congratulations Jeannine! You’ve lost another five pounds! You’ve earned another badge!

Congratulations Jeannine! You’ve lost ten pounds total! You’ve earned another badge!

Congratulations Jeannine! You’ve exceeded your weight loss goals! You’ve earned another badge!

Time to set new weight goals Jeannine!

My husband and my son find this hilarious, because they know how my mind works. I will feel guilty that I haven’t earned these accolades. I will bemoan the five pound gain next time I step on the scale, even though I weigh exactly the same as I did this morning. I’m so grateful that I don’t share data with anyone other than my husband (and the wisdom of that is debatable as well) because that would make my humiliation complete.

I skulk to my computer to delete the latest weight entry, and wonder how their program works. Will the Fitbit take the badges back?

We retract our congratulations, Jeannine.

How could you lie to me, Jeannine?

I’m disappointed in you, Jeannine.

It’s not my fault Fitbit. It’s yours. You’re the one who misidentified the daddy longlegs that is my son for a 48 year-old woman.  He is a head with limbs attached. I have boobs, okay? This is not that complicated.

Talk to the hand, Jeannine, the scale ain’t listening. Your Fitbit suggests that you get moving. Apparently, you still have weight to lose.

Luckily, my Fitbit dashboard says nothing, but the badges still sit there, making me feel guilty.  It’s like getting something I didn’t buy in my shopping bag. It’s happened before. I took the items back. The customer service at Whole Foods couldn’t figure out why I’d bothered. I’d probably burned more gas than the 3 bars of glycerine soap cost. My decision was not carbon neutral. Something new to feel guilty about.

I will never outgrow my Catholic guilt, any more than I will lose ten pounds. I don’t need to lose ten pounds, but dammit, I will see that unearned badge and feel guilty. My son keeps ribbing me about it, so I tell him that since he’s committed me to losing another five pounds, I won’t buy anything but kale and sparkling water until I get there.

Who’s laughing now sunshine? You want ice with that drink?

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by DavidD © 2012 Creative Commons

I may be crazy, but at least I don’t look crazy

My husband is a man of science. If you want to move him, show him the data. He approaches most things in life that way. Research, test, measure, refine. He is a spreadsheet ninja.

I operate more instinctively, which is not to say that I’m a risk taker. My instincts are just as likely to say that looks like a good way to break a bone as it is to say that could be kind of cool.

I have decided that it is time for me to stop eating like a 12-year-old. He has decided that man was not intended to wear shoes, even while running.

I’m working with a wellness coach who has me eating quinoa, juicing and cutting down on my unhealthy coffee habit. I have no data. I haven’t asked for any. When my coach talks about her approach to food, I think to myself  I want to feel like that.

My husband runs though our neighborhood at 4:30 a.m. in bare feet with a lamp on his head. He’s been tracking his pace while altering his stride. He now runs as fast as he did when he was twenty. I think to  myself I want to feel like that, only with shoes and not at 4:30 a.m.

I don’t expect that any amount of data will get me to run without shoes on. I’ve broken two toes in barefoot freak accidents (I mean really, who breaks a toe tripping over their own Teva), and saw my best friend step on a nail in bare feet when I was ten. Both have scarred me irrevocably.  DSW just sent me a $50 discount certificate, and I swear it’s because they were afraid I might be thinking about it. I think they have nothing to worry about, and that I have some shopping to do.

Last night I asked my husband for a tea kettle for Christmas so I wouldn’t have to microwave my water anymore. He sighed. I have no data, I just want to honor the tea. I want to feel like that.  The tea kettle is $15. It’s a lot cheaper than the juicer. I suspect I ought to start getting my data ready for that one.

Interestingly, barefoot running requires special “non shoes” for winter. Frostbite and all that. I’ll put it on his list. Ironically, it’s a spreadsheet.

Words by J. B. Everett