The Newlywed Kitchen, the cookbook I coauthored that strives to inspire couples to learn to love cooking together. It's wonderful to see a longtime idea come to fruition: I've often said this book is like a really long feature I always wanted to run in Seattle Bride Magazine, one that came from my dismay at learning that so many couples not only don't cook their own meals, but think of the kitchen as more of a battleground than a place of love. In fact, I remember interviewing one new bride and she said something like, "Oh, he would never let me in the kitchen. He yells at me if I chop onions wrong!"—words that broke my heart. As chef Duskie Estes, one of the many wonderful contributors to the cookbook, said so perfectly: "There are so many things to love about a person than how they chop a carrot."
Soon after I began thinking about couples and their often combative relationship in the kitchen, The New York Times ran an article about "alpha chefs," control-freak cooks who consider the kitchen their sacred ground and
don't allow anyone to help, make suggestions or collaborate on "their" meals in any way. To me, this attitude is the antithesis of cooking, which in and of itself is a practice of generosity that should come from the heart. Feeding another person, whether it's someone you love or a stranger, is not a competition or an opportunity to show off (though we all like to impress our dinner guests with our culinary prowess). Rather, it's both a gift to that person as well as a trade: Their (hopefully) scintillating company for your food.
One of my favorite food articles I read last year was Michael Pollan's piece, again in the NYT, that discussed the idea that cooking is what really separates us from the animals. (Gratuitous sidebar: Pollan wrote me a really nice email—now saved forever as a thrilling souvenir—when I contacted him about contributing a story to the book :) In the article he suggests that the cult of foodies and prime-time Food Network shows create an atmosphere of competition, and actually discourage cooking, making it a spectator sport instead of a joyful part of our lives.
The Newlywed Kitchen, I hope, will help make cooking a joyful part of our lives. I feel very lucky that my partner and I love cooking together and for each other. In our nearly four years together, we've created hundreds of fabulous meals—sometimes he preps while I cook or vice versa, and sometimes we're side-by-side at the stovetop, banging elbows and reaching for the same wooden spoons. I can't imagine how different our friendship would be if we ate take-out or went to restaurants every night.
Perhaps The Newlywed Kitchen—due out May 1—will offer inspiration for couples seeking to share something similar: a daily ritual that encourages conversation and creativity—not to mention the most important thing—quality time over good food and a drink or two.
As for me, wow: My first cookbook just arrived in the mail. The rest of the night, as you can probably guess by now, is dedicated to people I love, a lot of good food and a drink or two.