Home by the range, no longer so strange


When my mom and dad married, her only cooking credit was homemade tortillas. It took a good year before she could prepare her husband a full meal. A full edible meal.

Keeping with tradition, her middle daughter and the author of this column also had one cooking credit to her name when she started dating her now husband. It involved none other than kneading, rolling and flipping.

Unlike the madre, I was fine sticking to tortillas. After all, learning to cook would mean more time in the kitchen. And this girl didn't belong in the kitchen.

That's really where my domestic challenges started. In my brain. I grew up thinking there were two types of women. Those who worked in the house and those who actually worked. To get comfortable in the ol' apron and oven mitts meant choosing the former over the latter. So, I put it off as long as I could.

But not without folks taking notice.

If someone in my family cracked a cooking joke, you could find me at the butt of it, waving behind a box of Hamburger Helper. They were quick to put me on chips and soda duty for potluck gatherings and still love poking around my cupboards to get a good laugh.

Some, most of them related to me, might say I earned the ridicule.

Whenever I had the ambition to cook a real meal - less often than a lunar eclipse - the grocery trip alone resulted in one too many frantic calls to my mom and sisters. I blame vague cookbook ingredients and directions. That would also explain why the first time I followed a recipe that wanted me to cream something by hand, I Amelia Bedelia'd it. My hands, the cheese ball, and anyone who braved it paid for that one.

Hoping to ease my domestic doom, the familia personally compiled a cookbook and gave it to me at my bridal shower. It's full of recipes my family members make on the regular, such as my cousin's chile rellenos, my aunt's Spanish rice and my little sister's quiche.

The book features several photos of my loved ones in a cooking setting. My mom's fingers covered in tamale masa, my cousin looking comfy in a well-worn apron, that kind of thing. There are also photos of me. One of them in particular crystallizes the need for the book. Wearing a determined expression in an equally foreign and intimidating environment, my mom's kitchen, I'm opening a can of olives. That cooking feat likely began and ended with that task, too. "There, I helped!"

But I'm happy, and so is my heroic husband, to report that's all changed. At least, it's started to change.

About six months ago, I cracked open the family cookbook and haven't stopped buttering cake pans, sauteing onions, creaming dairy products - with an actual hand whisk - and Googling things such as, "How much is a 'dash?' "

It's starting to look like my mom's cookbooks, stained with oil and flecked with flour.

I've also spent a little time regretting ever taking back a certain wedding present. A KitchenAid Artisan Design Stainless Steel 5-Quart Stand Mixer. In giftspeak, that's the domesticated woman's version of the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. At the time, it seemed as useful in my world as Ralphie's BB gun.

As for my opinion of work performed in the home, it evolved long ago. I'm fully aware it's just as complex, grueling and rewarding as the work outside it. And, as it turns out, the oven mitts are removable.

Contact Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

 

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