Last week, I asked John Mark to brown the hamburger for dinner. "Oh, good, I get to cook!" he responded enthusiastically. The boy loves to cook. That's a fine quality in a male, wouldn't you agree? His sister also enjoys cooking, but she has to be closely watched since she is scatterbrained in the kitchen and prone to forgetting important steps such as, "Add 1/2 cup milk" or "Sprinkle crumb topping on top of casserole". But John Mark's kitchen intuition is good. He can make delicious dishes with a minimum of intervention, and he is happy to cook mundane things like a casserole with ground beef and Bisquick.
I'm not certain from whom he gets this joy of cooking... surely not from me, who would be perfectly content to never have to cook another meal for the rest of my natural life (as long as someone else cooked, of course!) I would classify myself as an "okay" cook; occasionally I manage to "wow" everyone, and occasionally I fall flat on my face. I recently pulled out a chili recipe I had used quite often several years back: Lyndon B. Johnson's Perdinales River Chili. I made it for Jimmy and Connie a few weeks ago, and it was nothing like what I remember. Even John Mark quickly distanced himself from the disaster (even though he had browned the meat) with the admonishment, "Mom, something bad has happened to your chili!" It's another reason for me to be mad at the Democrats.
My husband does not cook often enough to be called a chef, though he does occasionally make a showing in the kitchen, and the things he makes are usually quite good. I think John's kitchen interests are more self-serving... he cooks when he wants something done a certain way, like the hashbrowns and gravy for Saturday brunch, or the fish he catches and fries from time to time. He's in it for the glory too- most of his dishes have a "wow" factor: Sausage & Chicken Jambalaya, Grilled Kebobs or the Thanksgiving turkey. You will not find John cooking pork chops with peas and macaroni & cheese.
Perhaps John Mark gets it from his grandfathers. John's dad makes a fabulous potato soup. I'm not really sure what else he cooks, but I do have a memory from the first Thanksgiving when John brought me home to Indiana, just before we were engaged. I walked into the kitchen of John's boyhood home early Thanksgiving morning and found every countertop and table covered in slices of bread. Every fan in the house was blowing through the kitchen and John's dad was standing over the bread slices with a hair dryer. Apparently, it is a tradition to make real stuffing- no Stove Top here! Problem was, someone forgot to leave the bread out to dry and now it was Thanksgiving morning. The oven was already in use, and John's dad was using the hair dryer to blow dry the bread. It was an unusual sight and it should have told me something.... I still don't know what, but it should have told me something...
On the other side of the family, we have Daddy D. Daddy D is my stepfather, and he loves to cook. Everyone is very happy that Daddy D loves to cook, unless Daddy D is on a diet, and then you just don't know what you're going to get. The worst may have been when our family made an extended visit to see my parents in Florida a couple of years ago. Daddy D was on some version of a low-carb diet and was making lots of unusual foods, like lasagna with eggplant instead of lasagna noodles. All leftovers from these unusual meals were saved for a "stew" later in the week. The refrigerator was packed with small Rubbermaid containers of items for Daddy D's stew. One night, my mom and I were cleaning the kitchen after dinner (Daddy D does not clean; he only cooks) and I asked my mom if we should save the bit of crushed pineapple in the bottom of the can. "Oh, save it," she retorted, "he probably wants it for his stew!" It was so funny that we both doubled over with laughter for the next five minutes. Who knew that Daddy D's stew had become such an object of culinary dread? Poor Daddy D. I think he got wind of the anti-stew rebellion and began making Chinese Stir-fry instead.
At any rate, I am pleased to have a son who loves to cook. One thing's for sure... whatever bent his cooking gene ends up taking, he will have come by it honestly. One day, I hope my daughter-in-law will thank me. And I will tell her the most important lesson I've learned: When you have a man in the kitchen, take every opportunity and kiss the cook!