As my ten-year wedding anniversary approaches, I’m thinking about how far my husband and I have come from those early, awkward newlywed days. One thing I’m sure my husband is glad to see behind us is my ineptitude in the kitchen. We married when we were both still undergraduates. I had been living on my own for a few years by then and my diet at the time consisted of popcorn and spaghetti with meat sauce, an easy, cheap meal I couldn’t mess up. When I wanted to “splurge,” I headed for the value menu at the local fast food place for chicken nuggets and fries. I knew how to cook in the basic sense of the word, but I knew nothing about marinating, slow-cooking, or sautéing, and the only seasonings I knew were salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning.
I can laugh now, but some of my screw-ups in the kitchen were epic. My husband loves to tell the story of the fake chicken (or “ficken,” as we like to call it) fiasco. We were trying to eat halal but when we couldn’t get to the halal butcher or tired of eating fish, we turned to soy-based vegetarian options. That night I needed to get dinner on the table fast and the pantry was looking a little slim. I had pasta, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and the aforementioned “ficken.” Despite my weak culinary skills, I figured I could put together a decent pasta alfredo. I’d like to blame the resulting catastrophe on the fake chicken but that was not it at all.
I didn’t know then and I still don’t know now where exactly it went wrong, but what I ended up with was a lumpy gray mess of food that actually looked more appealing than it tasted. It was so bad I took one bite and refused to eat anymore. My husband? He cleaned his plate. I told him he didn’t have to eat it. I begged him not to eat it; I even offered take-out. He kept eating and declared it “not that bad.” It was that bad.
I thought back to our wedding day. As the imam went over the rights and responsibilities of husband and wife, he reminded my husband to be compassionate and considerate of my feelings. “So that means, if your wife burns the beans, you compliment her on the rice,” he said. It seems my husband took his advice to heart.
I’ve suffered many other mishaps in the kitchen over the past ten years, including a failed attempt at making salmon croquettes that left me in tears, but I have come a long way from “ficken” alfredo and I am proud to say I have never burned the beans.
Ambata Kazi-Nance is a freelance writer and full-time mother. She lives in her hometown of New Orleans with her husband and son. Ms. Kazi-Nance holds a Master’s degree in English from the University of New Orleans and is an aspiring fiction writer. She blogs occasionally at MORmama.wordpress.com.