Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen


Cooking with another person is hard. Cooking with your significant other is even harder (regardless of their skill level). It took me a long time to consistently use the “inside voice” while cooking next to my husband. My friend imagined us working side by side harmoniously like a carefully choreographed ballet (set to Mozart, no less) like this, but I’m told by other couples that we can be in the kitchen together cooking is admirable.

It all started with a sage piece of advice from my Physics professor in college, after she found out that my then boyfriend, now my husband, and I were moving to Hawaii after graduation for my job. “I’d like to applaud his commitment to you, Yuka, but it is Hawaii after all,” she joked. “Well, it will be good for him to keep house while you work, so this is what you do: you get him an easy cook book, then before dinner time, you go for a walk. You get out of the house, and only come home at dinner time.”

I hadn’t followed her advice at first. I would be frustrated that he couldn’t find ingredients in the refrigerator (which I call “Male refrigerator blindness”). Sometimes, even after pointing out which rack and which side, the word, “where?” would be repeated. Then there is “how dark is golden brown?” and other questions.

I realized that my professor’s advice allowed him to have complete ownership of the project. He may make the wrong call, but it would be his call. He would remember to not repeat that mistake the next time.

Lesson One: they had to first learn it on their own before you can cook with them.

When I was learning how to teach a lab course, holding your hands behind your back while you walked around to check the students’ work was a great idea. When they asked you questions, you can avoid your first instinct to do things for them.

Lesson Two: if the task is assigned to them, it is best to make your role be that of a guide, to avoid buying back the work (and if the temptation is too strong, go back to Lesson One: leave the house before dinner).

It is annoying to be told that this is wrong and that is wrong…so first you only comment on major errors. It’s good to start with a simple non-recipe (so robust that exact measurements of ingredients and timing are not required). Then you can introduce minor course corrections, like a more effective way to peel a carrot.

How To Peel A Carrot:

  1. Wash the carrot
  2. Hold the narrower side (bottom) of the carrot and peel using a vegetable peeler from the middle part of the carrot towards the top (where the leaves were attached).
  3. Flip after you peel the bottom half, and peel the top half.

Peeling the whole length of the carrot takes more care, and therefore, longer. By making each peeling half as long, you can peel at a faster pace.

This is the kind of detail you don’t need to worry about until they got the (non) recipe down. But once they got it down, they would be more open to your suggestion.

Lesson Three: pick your battles. Know when to give what advice.

I think he’s mastered the marinated carrots. We can invite the Danes now. Next step: ceviche!

Photo: mixed ceviche (Peruvian style) at Limón Rotisserie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on October 1, 2015 by in Food, Management and tagged , , , , , .
Follow Sticky Notes of Thoughts on
%d bloggers like this: