I watch in anguish as Todd cooks dinner. Unfortunately, Todd does not speak the Cookish, the language of cooking, as I do. He doesn’t hear the onions as they moan, chop us more uniformly! Some of us are an inch wide while others are just millimeters wide! He doesn’t listen to the ground beef in the pan crying, stir me! I will clump and won’t cook properly if you don’t! The kitchen knife is yelling, clean me! but Todd doesn’t understand.
I should be grading the biology exams my eighth graders turned in a week ago instead of criticizing Todd's cooking, but the wailing of the food is too much. I cannot allow my kitchen to be wronged so grievously.
Todd notices me watching. "What? Don't give me that look. Get back to grading, Linda. We agreed I would cook dinner tonight so that you could get some work done."
"But, you know how much I love cooking and the meat is burning and there are dishes all over the place and the smoke detector is about to go off and-"
"Enough," Todd gently pushes me out the door, papers and all. "I will take care of it." Somehow I doubt that. But I really do need to grade these exams.
An hour later, the dishes are piled in the sink(still dirty), the smoke has cleared, and a plate of burritos sits on the table.
I grab one burrito and take a whiff. The heavy scent of grease assaults me. I guess Todd forgot to drain the beef. He didn't listen to the tortillas when they told him to warm them either. Sigh. I take a tentative bite and immediately set my fork down. Some of the meat is overcooked and dry, while other parts are raw and chewy. Todd also hasn't added salsa, cheese, sour cream, beans, or literally anything even an amateur Cookish speaker would add.
"I'm not hungry anymore," I declare, and push away my plate. I’ll just eat some yogurt later.
"It's food. You need to eat," Todd replies.
"Food is defined as edible. I don't think this fits that definition."
Todd shrugs. "Suit yourself." He stuffs one burrito into his mouth and then two more after that.
I purse my lips and go back to grading exams. I will definitely be cooking dinner tomorrow.
“So. Your birthday is coming up,” I say to Todd as we eat dinner the following night. I made chicken pot pie. Todd is working on his fourth slice. “What do you want to do?”
He smiles. “Make me something tasty. Something like this. The pie is perfect by the way.”
“Alright. Invite your friends. I’ll cook a dinner that will blow your taste buds.”
“Sounds good. Or should I say, tastes good?”
I roll my eyes and toss my napkin at him.
Todd loves soup. You wouldn't think it because he’s always stuffing himself with meat but soup is his soft spot. I’ve made him pumpkin soup, split pea soup, bean soup, vegetable soup, beef stew, and many others. So for his birthday, I’ll try something different: lentil soup.
It’s not fancy or pretty, but my grandma once made it when I was a kid and it was delicious. Hopefully, it will be enough to blow Todd’s taste buds as I claimed.
On Wednesday, Todd’s birthday, I finish most of my work on lesson plans and grading during school and come home earlier than I normally do to start cooking.
I throw on my red checkered apron, wash my hands, and pull out ingredients from the pantry and fridge. I pull out my chef’s knife and wooden cutting board. Time to chop.
First, the onions and celery. They whisper to me, guiding my knife to chop uniform pieces. I heat olive oil in a big pot and slice carrots. When the oil is popping, I throw in the veggies. The fragrant scent of onion fills the kitchen as I mince garlic and toss that in as well.
The veggies call, we are soft and ready! I add in the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and spices. Onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, salt, pepper, basil. The sweet, tangy scent of tomatoes and spices bursts up. I throw in chopped potatoes and lentils, turn the heat to low, and cover the pot.
Time to make garlic bread. I preheat the oven to 350 degrees and soften the butter. I stir crushed garlic, parsley, and parmesan cheese into the butter, spreading it on an Italian loaf which I stick in the oven.
I chop spinach and lift the lid of the simmering ochre yellow soup. I inhale the earthy scent of potatoes and lentils. Everything is soft and the liquid has thickened. Excellent, the soup murmurs. I add the spinach and cut the heat. The cheese on the bread is bubbling by now so I take that out.
I set the table with fancy china plates and appetizers I prepared yesterday. Greek salad, carrot sticks with hummus, pita chips, french onion dip, zucchini garlic bites. Everything is perfect, the food sings in a deep, harmonious chorus.
Todd gets home and grins like a madman when he sees the table groaning with food. I shoo him out before he starts sneaking bites.
Todd’s company and gym friends begin to file in as I fold napkins and set out silverware. I pour red wine and light chatter fills the air, replacing the humming of the food.
I ladle out soup and everyone takes their seats. I tap my wine glass and stand up. Todd glances at me from the other end of the table, dark eyes twinkling.
“A toast to you, Todd. This is all for you. You are the most wonderful person, husband, and friend. I love you, my darling. Happy birthday! Dig in everyone.”
For a second, the quiet scraping of chairs and spoons is all that I hear. Then everyone takes a bite of soup and moans in delight. The air begins resonating with the crunch of garlic bread and carrot sticks.
“I knew you would blow my taste buds, Linda! Cheers to my incredible wife!” Todd calls.
I beam as everyone echoes, “Cheers!”
When everyone is leaning back in their chairs, too full to move, I bring in red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and double fudge brownies. Everyone groans but clears their plates. Soon, nothing is left on the table but crumbs.
Later, when everyone is gone and the kitchen is spotless, Todd and I stand, arms around each other, on the balcony. A cool night breeze caresses our faces.
“Did I tell you I love you?” I mumble into Todd’s shoulder, drowsy from food and wine.
“You didn’t need to. I felt it in every bite of food I ate today.” I smile softly.
Todd might not speak the language of cooking like I do. But we both speak the language of love.
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Oh, this was so cute!! I love the idea of Linda being able to hear the Ingredients speaking to her. And the feelings of frustration when someone is cooking (who shouldn’t be cooking) were so relatable. My husband burns anything he puts in the oven, no matter how many timers are set. Enjoyed this great story!
Oh, thank you so much, Aeris! The same is with my dad; the smoke alarm always goes off, even when he's just making toast. :)
Heh, Cookish is a great idea :) This story is sweet. I can totally appreciate Todd's frustration in the beginning. People learn best when they're free to make their own mistakes, right? But that was hard for Linda to swallow, especially since she really did know better, and jeez those burritos sound terrible :) Good voices in this story. I'm pretty sure Linda was also just procrastinating in the beginning, because who wants to grade papers.
Thank you for your sweet comment! It's interesting to see how others understand my writing.