In & Out of the Kitchen: Husband takes a turn — and baked ziti is a hit

Baked ziti casserole (photo provided)

Baked ziti casserole (photo provided)

“What should we have for dinner tonight?” husband Eric asked, early in the day. I’d made roast chicken, then chicken soup last week, we’d had steaks, and then the night before, seafood. “How about Italian?” suggested Eric. “I can make my baked ziti casserole.”

Within five minutes there was tomato sauce and sausage on a plate to thaw. I wasn’t going to pass up on this offer: I imagined myself in front of the fire with a book and a glass of wine, Eric slaving away in front of the stove. “Are you going in the kitchen?” I’d ask when he came in the room, holding out my empty glass.

When it was time to start dinner. I sensed Eric was wavering; usually at this time he’d be on the sofa under a quilt, purporting to read but snoring away.

I want to help but I don’t want to help. We were both grown-ups when we met, living on our own and feeding ourselves without problem. There were slight differences; his friends who showed up at our first joint dinner party were surprised to find they didn’t have to help cook the meal.

We took turns cooking, at my house and at his and he more than kept up his end. While I was more inclined to cook from scratch and eat from the pot, he set the table and used cloth napkins.

It wasn’t long before I’d bossed him out of the kitchen. Now I was afraid he’d forgotten how to cook. That wasn’t doing him any favors.

“Is this the recipe where I add chopped onion or garlic?” he asked as I passed through the kitchen, avoiding eye contact. He likes to have a sous chef, so I made myself scarce. If you’re making dinner, you do it all, is my philosophy.

I had a cat on my lap and a book in my hand when he rushed in to take down the smoke alarm. I texted my niece Ann Marie: “He’s going to open the windows.” “Omg, hahaha oh boy! Keep me posted!” she replied.

A drawback to open-plan houses is that you can’t close off the rooms when, say, the kitchen is full of smoke and it’s 18 degrees outside. I closed the door to the living room and went back to my book.

I was trying not to get up and see what the noise was about when Ann Marie texted: “You can do this. He’s just having his fun in the kitchen.” Pots banged, windows slammed. “He’s a little rusty, he’ll be great by the end,” she counseled.

And she was right. “He’s listening to music and whistling” I texted. And later, “He’s singing ‘Light my Fire.’ ”

When I went into the kitchen the ziti was baking in the Pyrex covered bowl and it was a picture, cheese oozing over the pasta and sausage. There were pot holders on every surface but the counters were clear and there were no dishes in the sink. He’d set the table and put salad bowls in the fridge.

The ziti was delicious. Eric’s been toying with the idea of retiring and I’d like to be less territorial about the kitchen when he’s home full time. He’s a smart guy and quite capable. He was a little rusty in the kitchen, but he was great by the end.

In & Out of the Kitchen appears occasionally on Wednesdays in the Life & Arts section.

Categories: Food

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