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Monday, October 01, 2007

Faking it

These days, it's rare for the wife and I to go out for a good meal. Unless there is a shark hanging from the ceiling, a hostess with a packet of crayons, or a giant mouse running around the joint, we don't tend to go out for dinner as much as we did in the past. It's hard to enjoy a five course meal and a cup of good coffee while a three year old shoots drinking straw wrappers at the adjacent table.

Saturday, we were able to head out to a place recommended by some fellow bloggers. American Grocery sated our need for something above the traditional fare offered by places with kids menus. I had venison--so fresh and rare, I imagine it was plucked from the nearby woods that morning--in a fig demi glace. I also ate organ meat, but that's another story for a different day.

When time arrived for the dessert course, the wife decided on some homemade doughnuts stuffed with mocha cream. Though our friends were there, talking and enjoying saying panna cotta in a thick Italian accent, it was impossible to miss what started happening to the woman I married. With a touch of mocha cream on her lip, she let loose an ever so quiet moan. Her body shuddered. Her eyes may or may not have rolled up into the back of her head.

Yep, there it was. I privately raised my coffee toward the kitchen and thought, "My compliments to the pastry chef." I didn't learn until later that the pastry chef was named Susan. The implications and possibilities were boundless, but left for another time.


Anthony Bourdain once wrote about the--if not always sensual--sexual nature of cooking and eating. By definition, he contends agreeing to eat a meal cooked by someone else is a submissive act, one giving up any illusion of control. You open your mouth and let someone else slip something inside. It's the concession of power for the pure sensual pleasure of letting someone else do while you enjoy.

I like to be in the kitchen. It's a creative and therapeutic outlet. It is especially gratifying when, after a few hours with knives, herbs, and meats, I get to watch someone really enjoy the food. It is akin to the satisfaction of another creative and experimental outlet that takes place in another room in the house. A job well done is a job well done, if you you know what I mean.

Marriage can be a tricky thing, though. After years and years of eating the same meals prepared by the same cook, there is an unintentional routine and expectation that arrives at dinner time. My wife knows the meats, the rubs, and how long it's going to take for the meal to be finished. It's the type of thing that leads a guy to experimentation. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, though, it ends with my wife slowly placing malformed rice noodles onto her tongue and forcing a "this is good, honey" from her abused mouth.

There, dear friends, lies the rub. If cooks are the dominant types, they like to believe they have done good, that they have given pleasure, that their toil and art served some greater good. They like to see animated pleasure, and in its absence, at least like to know they have gotten your tastebuds off. For some folks, it's enough to hear, "This is good." Others, like me, like to really believe it.

Indeed, the routine and familiarity of marriage goes both ways. I generally know whether my wife is enjoying something or merely tolerating it. I use the word "generally," because, despite really enjoying the process of pleasure, I am never 100% confident.

That's right. I never know for sure if she is...faking it.


A home eater has to walk a very thin line when dealing with a semi-confident cook. Being overly critical of a meal or the one who cooks it could result in a complete loss of confidence that turns into tentative cooking (a tragedy in itself) or a complete abandonment of the kitchen altogether. However, being too careful about the cook's feelings and feigning enjoyment is even worse.

Let's go back to the bedroom (he says as if we ever really left). I think we can all agree that it's pretty clear when a man is satisfied. Moreover, it's not the hardest thing in the world to accomplish that goal. Give him a big enough burger and a basket of fries, if you will, and by and by, he's going to walk away happy. A woman, however, is a fine diner. Something from the drive thru just ain't gonna cut it. Furthermore, figuring out whether the lady's epicurean needs were met is as difficult as reading a french menu through a napkin. She may have acted like she enjoyed it, but there is always a lingering doubt as to whether she enjoyed it.

There are times, of course, when it's pretty clear. Saturday night, as my wife's mouth slacked and she shimmied in her chair at the taste of the mocha cream, Susan the Pastry Chef had obviously scored one for the good guys. Down the table, however, I couldn't get read on how much pleasure Cheryl was getting from her goat cheese gnocchi. Her husband probably knew whether she enjoyed it, but I was at a loss. When she shared a piece with me, I felt a familiar tingle in the good places, so I had to assume Cheryl liked it as well. She said it was good, but I would never know if she was faking it.

We go to restaurants because there is no commitment. The chefs are the pros. You can usually assume you're going to walk away satisfied, but there is no risk of hurt feelings if you don't like the food. You're only out the cost of the meal, rather than the potential hurt feelings and marital strife of not liking your partner's cooking. What's more, when the server asks if everything is alright, you can fake it without longterm consequences.

At home, though, faking it is the worst possible temptation. In the face of a sub par meal, efforts to make your cooking spouse feel good about what he's prepared can only lead to one thing: more sub par meals. As it is with the time spent in the martial bed, a marriage beset by gastronomic dissatisfaction is not one you want to lead.

So, friends, when you feel the urge to say, "This is a good meal," when, in fact, you'd rather have had KFC, just don't do it. Faking it is the path to a lifetime of of wishing you'd ordered takeout and a couple of items from the Adam and Eve catalog.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to run. This is the first night in nearly three weeks that I'll be able to go to bed with my wife and I have to make a stop at American Grocery for some of that mocha cream. I wonder if Susan the Pastry Chef has plans?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly for the wife at bedtime, you'd already eaten the organ meat.


7:47 AM  
Blogger DrChako said...

G-Rob stole my comment about organ meat...

Well, if Susan's available, make sure the video is in YouTube format.


8:05 AM  
Anonymous KenP said...

You give credence to this Anthony B. guy?

Here is a guy that leaves a respected situation for the sake of an airline ticket and being put up in an exotic spot and Vegas.

I mean...who in their right mind...um...er...ah...nevermind.


12:53 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

no faking it,
as a chef you are right
as a spouce you are right
as a friend you are way off.
if you make your spouce something that just gives her a toegazzem every time she eats it you know you are doing it right, dont change the recipe.
but if she is not scratching, hitting, biteing, yelling, screaming or the like then you know you need to change the recipe. if this doesnt work go for the organ

whats better than a rose on your piano? ans: two lips on your organ.

8:28 PM  

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