Help Me Help You: Sharing the Cooking Load

Written by Danny.

This post was birthed a few weekends ago when Aimée was gone to BSP in Pennsylvania.  I had the kids for an extended weekend – on holidays – and it was both wonderful for the bonding and closeness I got with my boys and terrible as I realized that I rely on Aimée for so much.

You see, we both rely on each other for so many things: I believe that Aimée has filled the car with gas exactly twice in the 9 years that we have been married.  Each time comes with a story of exasperation and woe that I listen to with a bemused smile. Why? It’s just no big deal for me. For her, however, it is unfamiliar territory.

If I were to coordinate a Thanksgiving dinner, though?  The shoe would be on the other foot (and the pre-dinner snacks would be whole, raw apples).  I may be able to contribute to one of the side dishes, desserts or appetizers (I’ve improved since the apples), but to orchestrate an entire meal?

In my defense, I usually get our standard breakfast offering  ready for the family: coffees, APPLE juice (no other kinds tolerated, apparently) and some kind of cereal – oatmeal, cornmeal, flakes-from-a-box. But a cohesive, timely, organized lunch or supper? That’s different from day to day? Her territory.

You see, even though she wrote an awesome list of what to eat and when (mostly for the kids, of course) for the weekend she was gone, I nevertheless felt a bit out of place in the kitchen, and I realize that I have a basic skill set that I need to hone: cooking.

Perhaps you have a partner like me? Here’s what we need to be able to help share the cooking load effectively on a regular basis or in an emergency situation.

Start slowly

I remember watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and was amazed at the complete and utter lack of ANY cooking skills whatsoever for some of the characters he was dealing with.  Someone had never turned on their stove and yelped when flames jumped out of the gas burner.  Someone asked how they would know when the water was boiling (it makes bubbles).

If you are to encourage your partner to help you out with the cooking load, you may need to start slowly: like making oatmeal, not turkey dinner.

A few years ago, I decided to forgo cold cereal in favor of hot.  I wasn’t sure I could do it.  “Do you know how much TIME it takes to cook this stuff? You actually have to boil water!”.  My rant fell on my own ears, and I realized how silly it sounded.

But at first, it was still tough, because it was unfamiliar. I’m sure I asked Aimée about the water/cereal ratio every morning for a whole month (then I wrote it down).  “Do you boil it first, or put it all together and then on the heat?” I would ask.  “You figure it out,” was the reply.

Now, in the time it takes to make a French Press coffee, I can make oatmeal, cornmeal, eggs almost any style, and a host of other breakfast staples.

Going forward, we may be going on to a schedule where I make one supper meal a week. This is for both my benefit and Aimée’s, especially now that she’s pregnant, and still not super into cooking right now.

Go back to the basics

To prepare your partner to share the cooking load, I’m talking here about going back to the basics of scratch cooking.  Not about the subtleties of manchego or Stilton on your rapini gratiné or about optimal wine pairings, I’m talking about ensuring that the toast is not stone cold by the time the eggs go INTO the pan, or the opposite, with cold eggs and nothing else on the plate (both have happened to me).  Basic dishes, basic concepts (like timing) and build from there.

Here are a few suggestions for getting started in the kitchen:

Invite the kids to help

Photo by Tim Chin

Getting the kids involved from a young age is something that Aimée and I are both in agreement on.  Noah could make French toast from scratch, by himself, at age 4 – albeit with a lot of oversight.

You should be involving them regularly at mealtime: simple things like setting the table for the young ones.  Or washing and spinning (our kids’ favorite) the lettuce for salad.  Or spooning the batter onto a hot griddle for pancakes. Or measuring –  and tasting – chocolate chips for cookies (my favorite!)

More help:

Final thought

Over the past week or so as the love has poured out for Jennie, I’ve been thinking about what it means to love your family. There has certainly been a lot of love shared across the food blogging community this past week, and the sentiment is certainly felt here. Just remember that as awesome as it is to make a pie and share it with someone you love, as per Jennie’s request, it is as important to love your family by teaching them to cook. So next time you make Mikey’s pie, make it with the one you love.

Are you loving your family by teaching them to cook? Does your partner share the cooking load?

About Danny

Danny Bourque is a mechanical engineer who is known at both home and work as either “the geek” or “the numbers guy”. He is very methodical and genuinely loves to analyze almost anything that piques his interest – including food.

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Comments

  1. What an adorable and thoughtful post!

  2. This one made me smile. There were times every so often growing up when my dad had to cook for us girls. We often had spaghetti, but it was some of the best because it was made by dad. As an adult, I’ve found that teaching someone to cook is hard! I never realized how much I take “the basics” for granted (and am always grateful that my mom taught me).

    • I remember those “dad meals,” too. We had lots of spaghetti and hot dogs, and occasionally just cereal, since that’s what he knew how to cook. But I still loved those nights because it meant spending more time with him. 🙂

    • Teaching the kids to lick the sugar spoon, though, requires no teaching at all. =)

  3. What a wonderful post and perspective!

  4. OK, listen – filling up the car with gas is ANNOYING! (As is anything involving car maintenance, really – rotating tires, oil changes, issues with weird squeaky noises.) I am more than happy to take responsibility for the realm of food in our house as long as it means I don’t have to deal with anything vehicular. 🙂

    Having said that, I’m showing this post to my husband in the hope that he’ll maybe make more than a plate of nachos for me every once in a while.

    • I forgot to mention in the post that I’m still good at Nachos.
      Yes, we each have our areas of expertise, but if Aimee were ever sick or away for longer than our freezer is deep, I need to know how to feed my family. Likewise, you may sometime need to fill your car with gas – regardless of how annoying it is. You’ll get used to it. Promise.

  5. This could also be titled Spouse 101. Or Required Reading for Spouses. 🙂

  6. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says:

    Oh Danny, I had to laugh out loud at the “You figure it out” line. Having spent a weekend with your wife and 3 other food bloggers, I heard a lot of that sassy get-on-with-it personality and adored every second of it. Thanks for sharing her with me – and you’ve got some great tips here. Timing is something that James struggles with too (and me too, sometimes!).

  7. I’m thankful that I’ve never had to show my man how to boil water… HOWEVER I will admit to having to bite my tongue on several occasions from telling him how to do things “my way” when he’s helping me in the kitchen. Still – I must trust him somewhat (!) to get it done (in his own way) because I’ve left him alone with the children on a few occasions with no pre-made meals and no lists. He’s a great husb and dad… and I am so into letting him help me 🙂

    • I know. I was shocked about the water thing. The lady was probably in her thirties. Brandon’s a good guy. I’m sure “his way” is just fine.

  8. Kyle is great at this—in fact, there are times I need to remind him to keep it simpler and to not go too crazy experimenting. One of our inside jokes is to ask me if I’d like cinnamon on my eggs, since he proactively did that for me when he made me breakfast the first year of our marriage.

    Great post, Danny!

  9. My husband used to split the cooking with me when his schedule allowed. Now his time is spent earning our entire family income AND being a full-time graduate student.

    Thus, during some seasons of life, it just isn’t realistic for the cooking duties to be shared (unfortunately). I try to be grateful for all that my husband does contribute–and it’s a heck of a lot!

    • It definitely sounds like he is doing his share. I used to contribute more before we had the kids, but now we have become more “specialized” in our tasks.

  10. Great info!

    I’m lucky to have a man who loves to help and cook and drink. OH, I mean clean.

    and drink.

  11. Great post! I’m going to share this with my husband.

  12. I do most of the meal prep in our house, simply because of our work schedules. My husband is excellent in the kitchen. Some things (the GRILL for example) are totally his territory.

    Two other tips that aren’t mentioned here:
    1. Ask your spouse what he WANTS to learn to cook. Don’t plan your weekly menu and then expect him to execute that new recipe while you’re gone for the evening.
    2. Don’t just involve the kids. Involve the whole family. Cooking can be great bonding time and an excellent time to catch-up and chat at the end of the day.

    Fun story: We joke that I can tell when Scott’s stress level is high because he starts baking. After our second son was born, he decided he needed to master the perfect pound cake and find the best recipe for sweet and spicy mac n cheese. Now, he channels most of his experimentation into brewing his own beer!

    • Hi Alissa – great tips! Family time is very important for us, so if we can squeeze some extra time together, then all the better! I have some buddies who brew, and it sounds like fun – and cheaper in the long run once you’re equipped.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  13. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me and my husband. He is returning to school as a graduate student and I returning to full-time work (after working part-time since we’ve been married). Because his schedule is more flexible than mine, he will have to pick up a lot of the household duties that I usually do, including cooking. He finds that task daunting and is very apprehensive about it. I will be putting the suggestions from this post into action right away and hopefully it will help him and me!

    • If he gets stuck, “just figure it out” is good advice – especially if you’re committed to eating it no matter what. Hah! =)

  14. Great that Aimee has helped you expand your repertoire! Hehe, she will need your help even more as her hands get filled up again with a new little one! Great advice!
    Bernice

  15. What a great post! My hubby did some cooking for me while I was recovering from surgery… But, now I am back to doing almost all of the cooking again! I think I will have him read this post. 🙂

  16. Baking N Books says:

    I don’t have a family. But I commiserate solely because I WISH I had someone to help me! I think I would be a lot more creative – a.k.a not just depend on my George Foreman and wok to grill and saute veggies every night….but, alas – what’s wrong with keeping it simple??

    • I had a LOT of George Foreman and couscous in my short life as a solo bachelor. Luckily, Aimee would also come over from time to time and help me “adjust” the recipes to make them taste better. Adding salt really helps!

      When I was in university, we had a few friends who would get together regularly and share meals together or do potlucks. Great opportunity to get variety.

  17. Absolutely! Teach them to cook!
    My husband’s mother did every household chore without any help, and in the end it did not help him at all. I need to remind myself this from time to time as well. It is so much easier to just do it myself.

    • You hit the nail on the head, Lori. In the long term, “doing it because it is easier” will make him miss out on a valuable life skill – making food to eat. Plus you miss out on the family-time if you prepare meals (and eat them) together.

  18. Great post, Danny. I am pretty certain I have filled my car with gas about 5 times in past 5 years!

    • I’ll begrudgedly agree that pumping gas is not a life skill that one needs to know. After all, there are still Full Service stations out there, no?

  19. Stephanie Robison says:

    Fantastic post, Danny. I really enjoyed this one – I enjoy all of them of course, but this was a special dose of fun and an alternate prospective. I liked how you brought it all back – at the end – to loving your family by teaching them to cook, a good reminder that while a talent for cooking like Aimee’s is a gift, cooking itself is an oft neglected basic life skill. Thanks! (and thanks to Aimee for being brave enough to leave you in situations where you can learn this stuff to share with us!)

  20. I have to second Amber on thanking you for sharing Aimee with us. 🙂 These are greats tips, and I plan to share them with my husband!

  21. my toddler loves to help bake in the kitchen (and take some samples). i must admit, my husband does all the weeknight cooking.

  22. “Bemused” means “confused” or, maybe in your context, “preoccupied.” Is that really the word you meant to use? Seems like you meant “sympathetic” or “amused.”

    • Webster’s dictionary defines as “to cause to have feelings of wry or tolerant amusement”. That is the intended sense.

      I was and continue to be bemused by her gas rants.

      Thanks for reading. =)

  23. lol 😀 my husband is just like that! really needs a full guide taking care of the house while I’m not there….

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