The Chef and I don’t always agree.
If you’ve been reading this site for awhile, you know how the Chef and I feel about each other. From the time I announced his existence on this site in June of 2006, it was quite clear I was moony and madly in love. If he had his own website, he would have used entirely different words to say the same thing. We’re made for each other.
Our love has changed, of course. We can never go back to the exuberance of finding love and feeling it flourish with each moment. These days, our love is more mundane, and deeper, than in those first days.
Now, our love is the worn place on the couch where he sits with the remote in his hand, flipping to Jon Stewart, while I lay with my head in his lap, exhausted and exhilarated from a day of being with Little Bean. Plates scraped clean of food sit on the coffee table before us. I’m in my pajamas, again. He smells of the restaurant. His socks are dirty. We should be in bed; we’re both tired, and the baby will be crying in only a few hours. But these moments at the end of the day — devoid of adventure and out-loud romance — are our favorites together. We know each other so well that his hand on my shoulder feels like an extension of my body. We don’t need to talk much. We’re no longer in that first gush of knowing each other, when we want to share all our stories for the first time. He strokes my hair. I hold his hand. We laugh and gnash our teeth at politics. My eyelids droop. I don’t fight it. I fall asleep, curled into him, feeling safe.
And at 6 in the morning, I open my eyes and look over to the corner, to see him sitting in the rocking chair, feeding our daughter. He looks down at her with adoration, the awe in his eyes clear, behind his smudged glasses. His bathrobe needs washing — there is always laundry to be done — and his hair is a hilarious mess. He looks so beautiful to me that I’ll never be able to say it. When I see him cradling her in his arms, and see her look up at him with wide eyes, I tear up a little. And then I drift back to sleep.
We couldn’t know those moments when we first met. I love being here now.
Reading this, and everything else I have written about him, you might assume that we have the perfect relationship. Clearly, we never fight, right?
What, are you crazy?
Put two passionate, strong-hearted people into a relationship, have them share every intimate detail of each other’s bodies and minds, and repeat, day after day for years. Do you really expect there to be no disagreements?
The other day, the Chef and I were driving to his restaurant, Little Bean in back, asleep in her car seat. We were talking about the techniques he wants to teach in the cookbook we are writing. Somehow, we began talking about artichokes. They used to intimidate me, those thorny creatures. I wanted him to demonstrate, with photographs, how to take them apart and reach the thistly heart. He wanted to use the space for something else. “No, but artichokes are really scary to some people. It would help,” I told him, gesturing with my hands while I drove. (That drives him crazy.)
“They can use baby artichokes if they’re scared. We have more important things to show,” he said, waving his hand and looking out the window. (I hate when he won’t look at me.)
We spent the rest of the ride going back and forth, talking about the first days of cooking, about what’s important to him in this book, about our different perspectives. That all sounds pleasant, doesn’t it? Actually, we sometimes interrupted each other, spoke abruptly, and never did come to a consensus.
That was a great conversation. Really.
Disagreement? It’s good for people. Honest, kind debate — not the staged presentations we’ve been seeing in the national spotlight — is how our brains grow. And I think if we had never fought, we would be a little unhealthy at this point. What would we be hiding from each other? There have been tense discussions in the kitchen at midnight, misunderstandings that blurted into bigger problems, conversations in bed that hurt for a bit. Honestly, there haven’t been many, but there have been some doozies. Every one of those moments has taught us something important.
We don’t yell at each other. Or call names. That’s the last resort of people who don’t know how to talk. And we work at it — we won’t go to bed mad, even if it means staying up until our eyelids start to hurt.
(Frankly, most disagreements never make it that far. Staying mad at each other through a meal is too painful not to bend and apologize.)
We try to save our arguments for matters that really matter. After the scare we had with Little Bean after her birth, only the consequential deserves our attention.
And would you be surprised to find that most of the times our disagreements end in laughter? In fact, the other day we had a few festering moments that ended in a spontaneous pillow fight, both of us falling on the bed and giggling.
I love sour and sweet together.
So, for those of you who have been wondering (and the angry woman who wrote to me this week, insisting I must be lying about our relationship because no one is that perfect): yes, we fight.
I just haven’t written about it here. This is a food blog, after all.
But I will tell you about one major disagreement we seem to have solved this week.
The Chef won’t eat oatmeal.
I adore oatmeal. Before I had to go gluten-free, I ate steel-cut oats every morning. Not because I had been told they are healthy, but because I just plain love the taste. The heft of them. The way my belly is filled with warm softness after I finish my bowl. Once I found gluten-free oats, I would have happily returned to my earlier habit.
Except, the Chef thinks oatmeal is gross. Now, I maintain that’s because he ate instant oatmeal out of a packet when he was a kid, just like I did. This is the man who regards American cheese as an abomination. Anything that artificial doesn’t move him. Therefore, he doesn’t want oatmeal.
However, on the few occasions when I have made up a pot of oatmeal for myself, and offered him some with brown sugar, blueberries and pecans, he looks up from his bowl and says, with wonder, “Hey, this is good.”
Except, when I say, “Hey honey, how about oatmeal for breakfast,” he doesn’t even look up from the newspaper before he says no thank you.
This week, however, I came up with a recipe for oatmeal pancakes. And guess what? He loved them. “Hey, these taste like oatmeal, but they’re pancakes. You can make these for me again.”
I looked at him for a moment, until he heard his own words.
“Okay, I’ll make them next time,” he said, laughing.
Being married to each other is never boring. All it takes is a little compromise. And some pillow fights.
OATMEAL PANCAKES WITH BLUEBERRY COMPOTE
These pancakes, adapted from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking, are enough to sway the most stubborn oatmeal loather. Soft with cooked oatmeal, but crisp on the edges, they taste like childhood Sunday brunches. (I can’t wait to make these for Little Bean someday.) However, they seem to do best in small sizes. When I made them the width of the pan, they sagged in the middle. Stack up the pint-sized pancakes and plunge your fork into the middle.
I found that oat flour makes these pancakes nearly indistinguishable from regular pancakes. Until Bob’s Red Mill starts making oat flour from their gluten-free oats, we simply have to make our own. We have an especially powerful blender, thanks to the generosity of a good friend, which turns any grain into flour within minutes. But a strong food processor and some steel-cut oats work well too. Try it. You’ll want to make everything with oat flour soon.
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cooked oatmeal
1/2 cup milk (or soymilk, for those of you who have to be dairy-free)
Combine the oat flour, sweet rice flour, baking powder, and kosher salt. Set aside.
Whisk the two eggs well.
Combine the oatmeal and milk. Slide them into the eggs and stir them together, quickly. (If the oatmeal is hot, the eggs will begin to cook a bit when they meet. This is why you want everything ready to go.) The batter will be lumpy with the oatmeal.
Grease a small skillet with canola oil or butter. Put it on medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet. Don’t touch the pancake until bubbles appear on the top of the pancake and begin to pop. Flip the pancake. One minute later, put the pancake aside.
Make yourself a stack of pancakes, keeping the first ones warm in the oven (at 200°).
Makes 8 small pancakes.
2 pints fresh blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Bring the sugar and orange juice to boil. Add in 1/2 of the blueberries, as well as the cinnamon stick. Turn the heat down to simmer and allow everything to cook until the blueberries start to fall apart.
Mix together the cornstarch and water to make a slurry.
Add the remaining blueberries to the mixture. Stir and let simmer for a minute. Take out the cinnamon stick.
Dollop in a little bit of the slurry and stir the mixture. Continue this until the compote has reached the thickness you desire.
Take the compote off the heat and spoon it on top of the blueberries.
Save the rest of the compote, cooled, for the top of ice cream, or folded into yogurt.