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October 14, 2009

Notes on Cooking for Men

Filed under: Books,Philosophy — Mr. Henry @ 8:15 am

Lately Mr. Henry has been reading and re-reading Notes on Cooking, a handy, fun, and blissfully succinct new book by Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich replete with wise lore from the kitchen.

Although Notes on Cooking covers most aspects of cooking, it omits any discussion of the social setting, specifically the interpersonal dynamic between a woman in an apron and a man waiting to eat. If you are a man lucky enough to live with a woman who cooks, pay close attention to the following rules of comportment:

1.    Set the table.

2.    Compliment her finesse at the stove and her personal sense of style. Every meal is a celebration. She, doyenne of the household, happens to have cooked the meal for you, unworthy guest. Maintain decorum. Keep your natural boorishness in check.

3.    The time to offer suggestions for improvements to choices of menu, seasoning, degree of doneness, or other components of the meal is not while sitting down to dinner. Her queries on these subjects should be construed in their narrowest dimensions. You should venture an answer only if she demands one.


4.    When you’ve done the dishes, do not conclude that you’ve finished cleaning up. Wipe the counters, sink, and dining table. If you harbor hopes for clandestine assignations between you and the missus later that evening, sweep the floor.

5.    Take out the garbage, carefully adhering to the following dicta:

a.    Do it before she reminds you.

b.    Do it without calling attention to yourself. Simply because you humped a trash bag it does not follow, therefore, that you should be in line to receive a battlefield commendation.

c.    After taking out the trash, do not plop down on the couch in the belief that you have fulfilled your kitchen obligations. This is a critical juncture. Remain upright, in motion, and engaged.

6.    Never come home empty-handed if your route has taken you past the grocery store.

7.    Always carry the heavy grocery bag.

8.    Make a habit of carrying home heavy items like milk and fruit.

9.    Always buy more bananas than you need. By this clever stratagem you can ensure that two or three will ripen past the optimal “just a few brown sugar spots” state. After your spouse has castigated you for profligacy and a pitiful absence of common sense which she wishes to heaven she had recognized twenty years ago, she will bake her signature banana bread, the ideal breakfast. For the remainder of the week, mornings will be bliss.


  1. Wisdom that should be taught to all males, starting in grade school.

    Comment by klee — October 14, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

  2. When you’ve done the dishes, do not conclude that you’ve finished cleaning up. Wipe the counters, sink, and dining table. If you harbor hopes for clandestine assignations between you and the missus later that evening, sweep the floor.

    Yes, yes, a million times yes. My girlfriends and I have despaired over this many times, after making a deal with our respective mates that we will cook, but they must do the dishes, only to have be confronted every evening with clean dishes and a dirty countertop, table, sink and floor.

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — October 14, 2009 @ 7:22 pm

  3. Personally, I think the wisdom that should be taught all males is the skill and willingness to do half the cooking. (Including the meal-planning and shopping therefor.)

    Comment by caia — October 15, 2009 @ 2:52 am

  4. Oh my goodness. Is there a way to copy this post in its entirety and reprint it, say, on a page of the Sports Illustrated bathing suit issue? The back of a beer bottle? The bottom of a urinal? The potential to help so many is so great.

    Comment by Irene — October 15, 2009 @ 7:48 am

  5. And always say “thank you” and something nice about dinner. My wonderful husband always does and it means the world to me.
    It also means I will continue doing the cooking.
    (Yea, that, and the fact that he really can’t cook. We still remember the Funny Pasta Incident.)

    Comment by Cara — October 16, 2009 @ 4:45 am

  6. The nice thing about this advice is that one can switch the sexes and it still all works.

    One of the best circumstances, however, is when both of you know how to cook, and you’re at that point where you can divvy up the cooking duties for a particular meal, throw in your two cents (or receive the other person’s two cents), and the overall fabulousness of the meal merely increases exponentially. Oh–and both of you get in the habit of cleaning up as you go along, which means there are almost no dishes at the end. Which leaves plenty of time for assignations, clandestine or otherwise.

    Comment by Narya — October 16, 2009 @ 7:51 am

  7. My husband has taken these tips to heart and now he is happily outgrowing all of his pants. He really takes #9 seriously. He loves his banana bread. Thanks for posting 🙂

    Comment by Catherine — October 20, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

  8. At Casa Twistie all excess overripe bananas go into my favorite banana cake which, alas!, Mr. Twistie cannot eat since he has diabetes. And since he doesn’t like cake anyway.

    Still, the extra bananas are always welcome and get him much praise and positive reinforcement when he comes through.

    Comment by Twistie — October 22, 2009 @ 7:22 pm

  9. Am I the only demented soul who was reminded of this?

    Comment by raincoaster — October 28, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  10. Ayyyy! Mrs. Henry caught her husband looking at your link, raincoaster, to The Twilight Zone. And it was 3:45 a.m. Today she is watching him carefully for more indications of strange behavior.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — October 29, 2009 @ 7:33 am

  11. Mr. Henry–

    How did you know about the banana thing? I have become a total banana hag to my husband as of late. But do you really like fruit flies in your apartment? Maybe it is worth a rotten banana or two if the outcome yields banana bread.

    I think you needed to be more forceful about the wiping-out-the-sink part of your analysis of proper male kitchen behavior. My request for the final wipe up had been met with little response until I said: Ha! You think you are doing the dishes, Babe? Well, the sink is the LAST DISH, and you never do it. It smells, too. Finish what you start!” I know it sounds harsh, but the results were spectacular. My hubby and I make a great team in the kitchen. Thanks for reminding the men out there how important a role they play in that regard.

    Comment by Thra — November 1, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

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