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.