Jock in the Kitchen: Recipe for Disaster or Success?

- Jock Mackenzie

“Are you kidding? You’ll cook supper every second night?” My wife’s reaction was memorable — one of shock.

I don’t recall just how the promise originated, but I’d made it. It was too late to take it back — and I didn’t really want to. I’d never been much of a cook, but I do enjoy a challenge.

Sharing seemed fair. We do so many other things together: golfing, skiing, housework, yard work, walking the dog. And the joy my proposal received was beyond my expectations. Simple plan — whoever cooked didn’t clean up. Cook every second night.

But what to cook?

A bit of history is in order. I’d never really “cooked.” I’d barbecued, but often just the meat part of a dinner. The rest of the meal just miraculously appeared on the table. Okay, I did tackle the boxed mac’n’cheese, but its preparation resulted in gales of laughter when my adult kids visited. They saw me following the “boil six cups of water” instruction on the box.

I started small. I’d barbecue the meat (usually a rotation of chicken, pork chops, steak, hamburger), do some variety of potato (boiled, mashed, sliced and barbecued in foil), then add a vegetable (often heated in the microwave). It got a bit boring — but it worked.

Then, I discovered these things called recipe books. I soon learned that not all of them had the likes of me as their intended audience. Many were intended for chefs, not wannabe-late-to-the-party dudes. Jan had an excellent collection of Best of Bridge recipe books, a series written by women in Calgary and quite the rage many moons ago. They’re classics.

Perhaps even better were online recipes. These often had the advantage of videos that showed the step-by-step process. Wow! My favourite site has been Inspired Taste. A couple from Washington State have a delicious array of tasty and relatively straightforward dishes for all parts of a meal — soup to nut bread. A favourite that I’ve made several times is their Cheesy Apple Stuffed Pork Chops.

But talk is cheap. It was easy enough to say that I’d cook every second night — but did I? Yes! It’s a bit like the old joke — Question: “How do you remember your wife’s birthday?” Answer: “Just forget it once.” And the next part was routine. I quickly got into the habit and soon became intrigued with a bit of one-upmanship.

Jan is and has always been an excellent cook. I couldn’t consistently outdo her, but I did have moments of brilliance. And her admiration and wonder at my efforts were incentives. Add to this the every-other-day joy of not having to do the dishes — delightful!

Some of you reading this will be in my shoes or apron. Some of you, like a small number of my friends, will say, “Hey, you’re a little late to the party.” Others have said to me, “Jock, my husband already does all of the cooking.” My point? To quote the last verse from a golf poem I wrote about a husband and wife sharing time on the links, it’s all about teamwork:

Of the summer day we went to play

Together as husband and wife

We’re the twosome who grew some

And now we’re a pairing

As we walk down the fairway of life.

Jock Mackenzie taught thirty-one years for the Red Deer Public School District. For the latter half, he was an elementary school principal. Upon retirement, he toured the convention/in-service circuit sharing a career’s worth of ideas (see his blog) and now enjoys volunteering and writing — and cooking.