Engineers in the Kitchen
“Who says he has to stay at the door? The engineer can play in the kitchen.” The Gabe
I am an evil genius.
But let’s not get to that, just yet. Let’s go back a few years. Say, 13 or so. Me, newlywed, first Thanksgiving on my own.
I had spent many hours at my mother’s elbow as a child, learning her ways, her craft in the kitchen. My great-grandmother’s stuffing, how to make gravy and the secret to flaky pie crust.
I thought I had this dinner nailed.
It was an abysmal failure. The pie crust was thrown in the garbage, not once, but twice. The gravy was lumpy and gelatinous, and the only thing that turned out half-way decent was the pumpkin pie. Custard is pretty hard to screw up.
My new husband, on the other hand, having started cooking at the ripe old age of eight, was running circles around me in the kitchen. In the last twenty years, he’d waited tables in some of North Conway’s poshest hotels, worked as a short-order cook in a diner, weilded knives as a prep chef and had been running his own, well-stocked bachelor kitchen for nearly ten years.
He was way out of my league. I was mortified. I couldn’t cook (much) and my husband was a pro. I was mad. I kicked him out of “My Domain” and spent hours trying to master the secrets of sauces and savories. He couldn’t help himself, wandering in, giving them a stir and a dash. “I’m just trying to help you! I’d cry and yell and well, it wasn’t pretty.
Then I woke up.
Hello? My husband can COOK! My husband LIKES to cook! I am the luckiest girl in the world!
We settled into a lovely routine of dinner-party hosting – I’d plan the menu, he’d execute and I’d bake something yummy for dessert. Somehow, I’m just better suited to baking; bake I did and that became MY thing. Cakes, pies, cookies. That’s me.
He? He’s the master of crab cakes and Steak Dianne. Chicken Dijon, Shepherd’s Pie, and The Legendary Kitchen Sink Spaghetti Sauce. Chowdah (link to recipe below), Baked Stuffed fish, remoulades and anything, anything that can be cooked over fire or with smoke.
An engineer by birth and education, Realtor by choice, his methods are far different from mine. He has been known to graph our oven’s cooking temperatures; he creates jigs for his crackers out of Home Depot paint sticks; and still uses any excuse to make a spreadsheet. He tackles his cooking with testosterone and panache.
If there are more than two pans going on the stove at the same time I start to cry. Fire? Steam? Scalding water? Doesn’t bother him a bit. The more danger, the better.
It is not unusual for me to come home from work and find dinner on the table. As a working mom, this is like winning the lottery. Every night.
As I said, I am the luckiest girl in the world.
Now, on to the evil genius part.
While I do like to bake, and the most complicated cake has never intimidated me, I’ve never wanted to bother with yeast breads. That’s just one more level of brain share I wasn’t compelled to explore. Too much chemistry, too many variances.
It started to dawn on me that yeast breads were just the sort of thing that would fascinate an engineer. Bio-organisms! Humidity variances! Gluten levels, sugar content, and alternative sources of leavening! It was perfect.
I started dropping hints. Last year, Scooby’s third grade teacher threw down the gauntlet when she declared, in a letter home to the parents, that No Parent Was Willing to make bagels, from scratch, for a lesson on measuring and multi-cultural foods.
“I’ll make bagels!” He squared his shoulders, indignantly.
And bagel he did, with a few foibles and failures, his venture into bread-baking began in a rather chewy, lopsided manner. But it was a start.
Since then, he’s mastered a beautiful, sweet and delicate white loaf bread, cinnamon rolls, sourdough and rye. He’s asking me – yes, asking – who we should be giving gifts to for Christmas and creating schedules (via spreadsheet, of course) so that he can work from home on “baking days.”
Last year at this time I was frantically baking pumpkin bread and chocolate chip cookies by the gazillion. This year, he’s making home-made rye crackers to serve with chevre and preserves at the Women’s Ministry Tea next weekend.
The luckiest girl in the world. That’s me. And he’s wicked cute, too. Here’s our first peek at the photo shoot we had Saturday with the fabulous Rosanne Parket.
Read more about Gabe’s kitchen adventures: