Arianna Huffington was in New Zealand recently and she admitted to something that was appalling. Unthinkable. Outrageous. Disgraceful. “I can’t cook,” she said.
How could she have missed domestic goddess on her path to global domination?
To be any kind of woman over thirty these days you’re meant to know your caraway seeds from your cardamom pods. In fact it’s a perquisite on the road to perfect wife, mother, lover, business owner and general spectacular superwoman. I know this because (and some of you will find this shocking) I am not perfect. I am a wife and a mother AND a woman yet I can’t really cook either.
When I first met the Dimple he came to stay with me in New York and I came home one night to find him on his knees with his head in the oven. “How long has this been broken?” he said.
Feeling caught like a naughty child, I wondered if I should confess that – at 35 years of age – I didn’t even know my oven was broken. In six months I had never used it.
It was then that we both knew I was never going to woo him with tasty chicken carbonara.
When Bob came along the Dimple trotted off to work five days a week and expected a meal to eat when he got home. Like, every night. That was interesting.
My eggs are rubbery. My sauces are bland. My steaks are like jandals. My pizza bases are so crunchy they could sharpen the knives.
We’ve got a new (old) friend in Piha and he’s famous for a few things so he will remain anonymous in these pages. Let’s just call him Choppy.
Last Friday, Choppy watched some sausages boil on our stove and politely asked what the fuck they were.
As I looked at them, swollen, peeling and bobbing about on top of the water I tried to explain that being a Friday I had had some wine and the sausages were frozen so I thought I would boil the bejesus out of them first before frying them but because of the wine I had forgotten about them for a wee bit so they were looking a little nasty.
“Uncircumcised penises!” declared Choppy. “That’s what they look like.”
The Dimple sighed. “See what I have to live with?”
“Well,” Choppy said, “she can do other things…”
I didn’t like the question mark in his tone.
“What about her writing?”
To which the Dimple replied, “I don’t want words when I’m old man, I want to eat!”
Food is not porn in our kitchen.
I desperately tried to remember that sassy remark Mae West had said when somebody told her “You certainly know the way to a man’s heart,” and she had retorted “Funny, too, ’cause I don’t know how to cook.”
Choppy then looked at me with sympathy. “It’s because food was the enemy for so long wasn’t it?”
My cheeks flushed. I felt caught. Again.
That’s the other thing about Choppy. Chop chop chop with his honesty.
“Same,” I said.
“I feel safe when other people cook for me,” she said.
Same. I have been quite happy being a bit useless at cooking (I’m actually really good at ‘putting’ the Dimple tells me, like putting together a cheese board, putting nicely chopped bright things in a salad, putting slices of carrots and celery around a hummus bowl) but my rotten cooking was my own small rebellion – you can take your domestic and shove it up your goddess.
However, hearing the Dimple mention the dreaded OLD has got me thinking. How am I, or Ariana Huffington, ever going to be successful grandmothers without wooing our grandchildren over with Shepherd’s pie and brownies? Is there ever any other reason to visit grandma other than her delicious food?
It’s going to be me and my plate of frozen peas unless they’re visiting for my secret stash of sherry.
So I have a question – I want to learn how to make one dish that my family loves. Just the one. Nothing fancy but something that will make them say, “Oooooh Mum can you make this puhlease?” does anybody have any suggestions?