"Where's the oregano?"
"Where it always is, on the shelf above the stove."
"Oh - yeah."
When I'm in charge of supper, it's not like I don't know where stuff is. It's just easier to ask instead of fumbling around in the spices for a half hour. By getting an answer, there won't be the chance of my opening the wrong cabinet and having a large bottle of olive oil fall on my head. A concussed cook may not be able to pull off the evening meal.
I've noticed an evolution in the division of household labor over the past 40 years, with steady progress toward equity somewhere over the horizon. Many times it comes down to who gets home first. Economic necessity has driven households toward two-income earners - and two chefs. This arrangement may have consequences however; not all cooks are created equal.
Early kitchen trauma in our home grew out of a meal prepared the first year together - chicken cacciatore. The outcome of this experiment was a beautiful ceramic casserole dish thoroughly encrusted with chicken, pasta and cheese. Remember, it is important to boil the pasta first before mixing it with other ingredients. Bye-bye, wedding gift. There was some reluctance on the part of the woman who shared my life to let me near the galley again. "You stick with oil changes and yard work," she said.
But when she went to work full time, things had to change. Having watched my mother cook meals for a busy family, I offered to resurrect some of her quick-prep dinners.
We avoided the Swanson's chicken pot pies popular during Mom's era, but introduced meatloaf and baked potatoes on Wednesday nights, alternating with Tater Tot hotdishes. This worked for a time, until the leftovers became boring to pre-adolescent tastes.
We'd switch things up by making more frequent use of the Weber Kettle at the bottom of the back steps. Hamburgers and hot dogs were always welcomed, with an Iowa chop or two thrown in once in a while. But even this cooking could be problematic. Becoming involved in a badminton game as the meal cooked lead very quickly to charcoal chicken, dark, crunchy water chestnuts and seared pineapple slices. Thank goodness Hardee's was only a block away!
Another fairly easy choice for the evening meal came from the back of a Bisquick box. Take some chicken breasts or fragments from a turkey dinner, dice them, add green peppers and pimento and voila, chicken a la king! The "king" then gets spooned over biscuits. While most of the family enjoyed this midweek variation, one didn't. We found out years later that she would fake a cough, excuse herself, and go to the bathroom down the hall, where she would remove the offending cuisine by disposing of it in a paper napkin and then tossing it behind the clothes dryer.
We never discovered this strategy because one of the cats used that room to sleep at night and must have enjoyed the snack. With distribution of labor comes risk from the kitchen. Fortunately, the cat never got sick.
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at email@example.com.