The Ever-Changing Recipe for Marriage

In less than two weeks, Mister MA and I will celebrate two years as two wedded peas in a pod. Although no longer newlyweds, we’re definitely not old hat at this work-in-progress called marriage.

Wedding day, March 2, 2007. (Dan Murano)

One would think that with the passage of time and accumulation of dirty socks on the floor, you’d know your partner even better than before, but a recent turn of events has given me cause for pause.

After nearly four years of sipping French-pressed coffee together, I recently discover – on Facebook of all places – that he’s not so crazy about my caffeinated method and much prefers the brown crayon brew made from an automatic drip. My question: Why put up with my coffee and keep silent? And what else are you going to spring on me, pal?

Lesson learned: You know what you know until it no longer applies.

In the two years since we said “We do,” we’ve experienced an enormous amount of change, including buying a new home and moving across the country. There have been three kitchens, at least one lost knife, the sudden death of an electric beater, a temporary oven coma and at least three broken mixing bowls.

For better or worse, for salty or sweet, we’re coming along just fine, and the recent coffee debacle aside, there’s constant learning taking place -- about one’s self, each other and the hearth we share. For lack of a more original expression, I’m taking it all with a grain of salt, and I think he is, too. As many of you know all too well, the kitchen can get pretty hot, and that’s not always a good thing.

With relatively few years under my wedding belt, I’m hardly in a position to dish out marriage advice, but I am confident about one (well, maybe two) thing(s): Food heals all wounds, both great and small, and is the all-powerful medium that says all the right things when words cannot be found.

A couple of examples come to mind:

When I am so in the dog house (which is rare, ahem) or when he’s had a bad day, I know I need to pull out all the stops and whip up some of his favorites, even if I’m not hankering them myself:

Chile shrimp

Joe’s Special

Potatoes, any way, but a special kind of love for roasted

A snack plate, complete with Kalamata olives, hummus, crudite, selection of cheeses, some kind of crackery thing and a few gherkins thrown in for good measure.

Pizza – if it were up to him, pizza would be on the menu at least three times a week. Although he loves my homemade dough, Mister MA will do cartwheels when I agree to go out and share a pie of tomato sauce and fixins.

I’ve not met a sweet that Mister MA doesn’t like, but his all-time, mood-altering favorites are chocolate chip cookies, hands down. My go-to version calls for half the amount of butter and eggs, and no one can tell what he’s missing.

Any of these will melt away the icicles and I’m either back in his good graces or helped turn his frown upside down. Note: these items are also good when you want to say “Let’s be friends again”.

When I want to remind him how smart he is for marrying me...

I make a roast chicken, butterflied and have it crackling away in the oven when he enters the front door. It’s my 50s housewife version of offering him a martini.

I take the time to make a proper breakfast. Blue corn pancakes garner extra points in the ain’t-she-great category.

I whip up a pot of soup. As elementary as it is for me, it mystifies my man, who is under the illusion that good soup is made by elves. Let him keep believing the hype.

We both work and are exhausted by seven. This is the most difficult – and frequent – scenario to master. We have had more than our share of tiffs around the issue of what’s for dinner and who’s making it. I’ve long proposed discussing dinner plans first thing in the morning, but who I am kidding? Needless to say, we’re still working out the kinks on meal prep. Here a few meal ideas that we can do together seamlessly at the last minute -- and which keep the peace:

Short pasta with roasted broccoli

Thin omelets and an ad hoc salad of whatever greens are in the fridge

If there's leftover cold rice in the larder, fried rice is always a welcome visitor.

I don't want to say when all else fails, let's make grilled cheese, but it's a good rule of thumb in our house, particularly when we add some roasted red peppers, leftover caramelized onions or a shmear of Dijon. Whatever we have on hand, the grilled cheese makes the residents of Casa Appetite smile wide.

Share your go-to recipes for keeping your marriage or committed relationship delicious in the comments area or today at 1 ET for this week's What's Cooking.

By Kim ODonnel |  February 17, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Wedding Fare
Previous: Meatless Monday: Pav Plus Bhaji Equals Party in Mouth | Next: Chocolate Syrup, the Old-Fashioned Way


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Interesting... I never knew that women too could end up in the dog house. Based on my 21 years of marriage, I thought the kennel belonged solely to men.

Posted by: MoodyBlue1 | February 17, 2009 7:41 AM

Don't forget Mr. Freezer and Mr. Microwave! When you are conscious and not too tired, make some good sauce that freezes well (meat sauce, cream and mushrooms, roasted peppers, etc.), then have a supply of fresh tortellini or ravioli, also in the freezer. Then when you both come home tired, sauce in the microwave, ravioli in boiling water, and in less than 10 minutes you have dinner from heaven.

Also, it's a little bit off-topic, but never underestimate the joy of waking up your honey with cappuccino (preparation time: 3 minutes, tops) and a cookie. Extra brownie points for being woken up by the fragrance of fresh bread, even the simplest one, off the breadmaker (key tip: keep some containers with pre-measured ingredients, to dump in the breadmaker the night before, so preparation time is a minute or less, even in a comatose state).

PS I have been dumped multiple times, including a wife, so maybe the stuff above works, maybe it doesn't. Oh well.

Posted by: uprufssu | February 17, 2009 8:55 AM

What are your absolute, must have, can't live without, favorite foreign foods? Share them here:

Posted by: LaurenJill | February 17, 2009 9:13 AM

Sunday night is burrito night in our house, and we make them together every week. He chops, I season and stir. We've had this tradition since we first started living together, and its still our favorite dinner of the week after almost 7 years.

Also, I made your Red Velvet cupcakes for Valentines Day and they were quite a hit, only a couple left now.

Posted by: veginchantilly | February 17, 2009 9:18 AM

Hey, Kim,

I don't share the problem of who cooks when; I'm the sole cook in our household, which is fine by me. Our first date was me making dinner for two. He's also mystified by my soups, though. We have that in common.


Posted by: ArlingtonGay | February 17, 2009 10:07 AM

I've only had one cuppa joe this morning, but I don't see the chat link in the "Discussions" list for the WaPo... are there gremlins afoot?

Posted by: Agathist | February 17, 2009 10:56 AM

There is a chat today! The omission is mostly my fault, but no worries: we're on as per usual. Link being added to the sked as I type.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | February 17, 2009 10:58 AM

after almost 5 years of marriage, I have to say we have also not mastered the dinner planning. My husband excels at breakfast so on weekends that is often one of our times to just hang out and catch up after the week. This weekend he was wowed by your Sicilian cauliflower recipe and said "I don't usually like cauliflower but this is awesome." Thanks!

Posted by: chiquita2 | February 17, 2009 11:16 AM

The first meal I made for my husband, when we weren't even technically dating, was my meatloaf. Apparently, that did the trick -- he still requests it a few times a month. And if you don't think meatloaf can be special ---- mine has cheddar cheese, goldfish crackers, and barbecue sauce in it. Definite magic.
And if he's had a bad day... always good to whip up chicken piccata -- 20 minutes to a great dinner.

Posted by: Maalik | February 17, 2009 11:45 AM

No lie: Kraft Mac n' Cheese and Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks are his favorite meal, and heals all wounds.

(Centre pauses for effect)


For me? Reservations and a babysitter.

Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | February 17, 2009 12:52 PM

After 19 years of not-marriage we don't always have it figured out, either. Still, our current system in which I am in complete charge of cooking, going on for three years now, works pretty well. I have time because I've got no commute and work about half as many hours as he does. I love to plan and cook meals, he'll eat anything, he's good at telling me when he's got a yen for something in particular, and neither of us minds when I just don't feel like cooking and order thai or pizza.

Posted by: esleigh | February 17, 2009 1:01 PM

esleigh, what you typed is my exact situation except fewer years (and I've always been in charge of the kitchen). When we met, he was using his stove mostly for storage.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | February 17, 2009 1:15 PM

Well, Kim knows I'm not the best cook...I'm the cut out cookie lady...but after almost 15 years of marriage... my husband loves my beans and rice. What I love most about him is that he's happy being home and eating cereal... he's not fussy at all!

Posted by: nanloggon | February 17, 2009 1:18 PM

ArlingtonGay - One of my sisters does that; I started a fire in her kitchen (no damage, whew) because I pre-heated the oven not realizing that she used her broiler to store paper bags!

My guy is good in the kitchen and we cook together when he's got time (not often these days) but I still do the planning, shopping, etc.

Posted by: esleigh | February 17, 2009 2:26 PM

We were married in 1998...I do most of the cooking (like 90 percent) and he does most of the washing up. My husband loves my cooking, and he always compliments. He is happy with the simplest homemade mac and cheese or the very fussy and time consuming. I think he likes the simple things the best. Meatloaf, beef barley soup, chili, grilled salmon. I've learned what he doesn't like (chickpeas, lentils and all dried beans except black) and we just avoid.

He likes pie of any kind and cookies.

He makes the best dry martinis ever.

I outed his exploding soup fiasco, which happened on one of our first dates, in a previous post. It's part of his lore and charm.

Best to you and Mr. MA, Kim

Posted by: khachiya1 | February 17, 2009 4:48 PM

Contentment: I plan the meals, shop, cook, and sneak in more veggies than he'd eat on his own. He perches on a stool to keep me company when I cook, or calls out the evening news to me from the next room. He lights the candles, pours the wine, and later, washes the dishes. I set up the coffee maker for the next day, figure out what needs to be defrosted, and pack his lunch.

Love: He who hates mornings edges out of bed into the cold, gets the morning paper and brings two cups of coffee, with just a smitch of cream, back to our bedroom so we can start our day together.

Posted by: Agathist | February 17, 2009 5:53 PM

Maalik - please please please share the meatloaf recipe! I want to use goldfish crackers in meatloaf!

Posted by: alisoncsmith | February 17, 2009 8:13 PM

Maalik, me too! I have visions of little goldfish swimming through my food. Please don't tell me you crush them up.

Posted by: elyrest | February 18, 2009 2:20 PM

Wow --- I had no idea goldfish would be so coveted.... ;)~

I don't have a real recipe, but the trick is: if you usually use breadcrumbs, use half breadcrumbs, then half goldfish (either crush them up, or just throw them in). Cube up some cheddar and throw that in, and then a few dollops of barbecue sauce. I basically took my mom's recipe and ramped it up a little. But, I don't measure stuff (can you tell?)... :)

Posted by: Maalik | February 18, 2009 5:19 PM

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