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I have never been a good cook. I didn’t inherit my mother’s culinary skills or my father’s eye for a good cut of steak. It was probably a combination of being extremely lazy and having a mother who cooked everything for her youngest daughter. The first year I lived in Seattle, my diet was limited to foods that ended in -izza or needed to be taken out of the microwave half-way and stirred.
I remember the first time my husband and I shopped at a grocery store as a couple. We were still dating and had just moved in together. I was 20 and I had never grocery shopped with anyone who wasn’t my mother. There was some extra pressure I put on myself because his ex was an extraordinary chef and I had to be better than that. While we shopped, Mike asked me to pick up some ground beef. I had never done that before so I stood in front of the cold rows of red plastic-wrapped packages regretting never paying attention to my mother while we shopped and instead only filled up the grocery cart with chocolate chip cookies.
My eyes had glazed over until Mike tapped me on the shoulder and asked what I was doing. “I don’t know how to pick out ground beef!” I exclaimed.
Stunned, he looked at me and said slowly while lifting up a package and inserting it into the cart, “You. just. pick. one.”
I was on a mission to rectify that image he had of me. I wanted to prove to him that I possessed the cooking prowess that would outshine any chef and specifically, any ex who had ever cooked for him.
One night, I found a recipe for vegan spaghetti sauce that I thought would be easy enough to recreate. Plus it had “vegan” in the name. That’s fancy! That would surely impress him! My idea was that it would be like a karate leg swoop in his mouth. When he would collapse to the floor, his taste buds in overdrive I would jump up and sing like Julie Andrews on the Austrian hillside, “IT’S VEGAAAAAN!”
The fantasy played out in my head as I cooked. I didn’t have all the ingredients that the recipe had called for, so I figured that if I just added some canned tomatoes, a lot of garlic powder and salt and some microwaved meatless burger patties that it would suffice and magically transform into a vegan delicacy. That’s sauce, right?! I thought to myself. Mike will never know!
That night, I set the table and decided not to tell Mike until after he started convulsing from the deliciousness. He had remarked that I made dinner and kept a hawkeye watch on him as he bit into my meatless creation.
Three bites into it, Mike hadn’t anything. Utter satisfaction didn’t wash over his face and instead a quizzical look took over.
I knew that he knew I was watching him. He held the food out in front of him and said, “This is, um, interesting…”
“You don’t like it.”
“No, it’s just. What is this?”
“It’s vegan?” Like I wasn’t sure what I had spent an hour just stirring and could blame on my inability to read. “Vegan!” I would say. “I thought it was ‘Reagan.’ I thought I was making Republican fare.”
“Have you made this before?”
“No,” I shook my head.
He looked over at the huge bowl, the sauce congealing with the large noodles. This would be the dinner we would have to eat for the next few days.
“So you have never made this for one person and instead you made it for TWENTY PEOPLE?” He started laughing so loud that I couldn’t even hear my heart breaking, my hopes of culinary mastery dashed. I would have to figure out something else to impress him with and there would be no cooking involved.
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