The pain of watching someone cook who can't cook.

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Master Chef
Dec 25, 2006
Long Island, New York
This is a venting thread.
In my household, I am the cook. Since the kids moved out, its just my wife and I I prepare 99% of the dinners. She will prepare her breakfast and lunch ( which is usually yogurt and fruit, okra very simple sandwich that requires assembly but no cooking. On occasion she will bake a zucchini bread or try something new, but it is me who does the most in the kitchen, as I enjoy its and am good at it. In other words, for me its a hobby, for her it is somewhat of a chore.

A few months ago she found a recipe she wanted to try. Its a Chinese style Tofu with string beans. At this time of the year with the string bean overload in the garden, its the perfect dish to use some of the beans up. She has made it before, and it actually comes out pretty good, Ill even say above average. Ive never really watched her make it until yesterday ( even though I offered, she said she'd do it , but made it a point to say ( out loud) that she hates cooking).

Watching her clip the string bean ends and cut them with scissors instead of a knife. Ok, it works. Not how I would have done it, but if she feels more comfortable and safe doing it that way, more power to her.

I offered to fry up the tofu , as I know she does the low and slow method and takes forever. I know there is a quicker way. But she insisted, that she'll do it. I noticed the tofu cubes were 4 X the size as she usually makes them. I asked why, and she said she was just in the mood to mix things up a bit. Im guessing she waned fewer pieces to fry up so it would go quicker. Not going to ruin the dish, but the texture will be different as the firmer outer to softer inner ratio will be different. For those of you who eat or cook with tofu, you know what I mean. Anyway, if thats what she wants to do, terrific.

Then the recipe calls for blanching the string beans to get cooked but remain firm. Add them at the end when tofu is done. I see the pot is filled all the way to the top with water, which is ok, but going to take forever for the water to boil. Could have done with 1/2 the amount, but its her time and she's he chef.

All these things are not critical, just a different approach, and I was able to ignore it ( kind of)

Then when the tofu was done, the recipe calls for adding the sauce ( soy sauce,broth, maple syrup. and a few other things), then the string beans, and when the sauce thickens, its done.

I see her do all this , but then I noticed her sprinkling the corn starch into the already boiling sauce . At that point I said ' what are you doing' ? She said that this is what the recipe says to do. I responded, There is no way the recipe calls for sprinkling the cornstarch in to hot boiling liquid. Usually its mixed into the cold liquids first, then added . Slight argument ensued . At that point I pulled out the recipe which not only clearly says to mix all the sauce ingredients together ( including corn starch), but I had sent the recipe to my my son, and in my own handwriting next to the sauce ingredients I wrote " Make sure to mix up all the sauce ingredients prior to adding it, so the corn starch is not settled all on the bottom".

Luckily the liquid wasn't at a complete boil, and there weren't too may corn starch lumps. But with that, my wife said that she's never cooking anything again.

If she does, Im just staying out of the kitchen til its done. At so many points I wanted to just move her out of the way and do it myself, as I know it would have been done more efficiently.

***Just as a side note. Our arguing was done jokingly with sarcasm. Its not like it was an all out brawl***

I had another incident years ago when I took one of those hands on cooking classes at a kitchen supply cooking store in the mall. The first instructions were to chop all of the produce up ( onions, carrots ...). I did it and was done in a few minutes. Not trying to race or show off, but just did it . I looked around and it really amazed me how few people ( or at least in this class) just couldn't chop up veggies with a knife. Once again, very difficult to watch.I guess its either more of a skill than I thought, all the years of doing it that it just comes natural or both.
Larry, I feel your pain. Our situation here is very similar to yours. I usually camp out on the Ell of the kitchen counter with my laptop and phone. When SO starts to cook (usually baking) I can see what she's doing. I used to make suggestions too. At one point she told me to either shut up or leave the kitchen. Now I just watch and shake my head. Sometimes I leave the kitchen.

SO has an uncanny ability to choose the wrong tool for the job. We have a set of steak knives on the counter in a block. She uses one of those knives for just about everything. When I suggest using one of the actually sharp knives made for what she's doing, she tells me she's afraid of them. If she's cooking, she never chooses the right spat or spoon for the task.

That said, she makes great stuff when she cooks but I always feel I could make things easier. The only thing she lets me do to help is to shred carrots on the FP for carrot cake. She would do them by hand.
Those who know me, know that I cook, Jeannie cleans up behind me.
Its been this way for the 28 years we have been together.

Fast forward to present day.

I have not been well for a few months and have slowed down just about everything. I doubt that I will fully recover my skills and desires. I'm 82, happy and fine with my life.

I depend upon Jeannie for evening meals now. ( we often have either breakfast or lunch out) She has stepped up and is doing everything she can to supply me with good tasting, nutritious meals.

She cooks nothing like I have for so many years. I listen and smile as she makes her way around our kitchen.

I am, totally pleased that she is, very willingly, going outside her comfort zone, to make certain I am correctly fed.

To me, Jeannie is my kitchen rock star. :)

I do not have your patience, larry and Andy. Himself can't cook and I can't keep quiet. :LOL: It might explain why he won't be my sous chef now that I really would like some assistance once in a while. Shot myself in the foot, I did.

Then again, I'm not really sure that he seriously can't cook, or he has faked incompetence just to get me to do all the work...

...I have not been well for a few months and have slowed down just about everything. I doubt that I will fully recover my skills and desires. I'm 82, happy and fine with my life....
Ross, I'm sorry to hear that declining health has stopped you from doing something you've enjoyed so much. It's heartening to know that Jeannie has your back - and tummy.
As an add-on to my earlier post (#2), I take responsibility for all kitchen clean-up regardless of who makes the mess.
I'm chief cook and bottle (and pots, and pans...) washer here, too, Andy. I don't let Himself put dishes away, either. unless at my direction. Otherwise it becomes a game on his part of "let's hide the ______ and find out how long it takes her to find it". :glare: :LOL:
I'm chief cook and bottle (and pots, and pans...) washer here, too, Andy. I don't let Himself put dishes away, either. unless at my direction. Otherwise it becomes a game on his part of "let's hide the ______ and find out how long it takes her to find it". :glare: :LOL:

SO will occasionally empty the DW. I know because she finds creative new locations for MY stuff. I appreciate the help.

However NO-ONE is allowed to load the DW but me!
When Stirling cooks, I just leave him to it. He actually has good reasons for doing things the way he does, even if I feel that I have a better way. He doesn't have any depth perception, so he has to compensate for that. I do chop the onions for him. That's because, for some reason, they don't bother me at all - no eye irritation at all. he can get eye irritation from me chopping the onions in the kitchen, while he is upstairs.
I managed to keep my patience until the Corn starch incident. Thats when I felt I had to speak up.

She usually does most the clean up. That being said, I do constantly clean and reuse the same pots and utensils as Im cooking , so there usually isn't all that much to clean up. Ill unload the dishwasher, but she is much better loading it than I am.

I often just clean the stuff by hand as im using them. I get some kind of relaxing pleasure cleaning the dishes by hand.

If you want to see her lose her patience, look at the look on her face as Im trying to find the matching lid to the container . Ill be searching for minutes and she'll just walk up and find the proper lid in seconds and then yell at me that I messed up the drawer :)
When my husband and I first met, he was a confirmed bachelor!
He claimed to cook, but not so much.
I do have to say he could make a pan seared steak,
albeit well done :huh:
and pasta with re-heated jarred marinara.
The only things he had in his `fridge was water and Beer :LOL:
If the pot/pan was too difficult to clean, he threw it out! :ohmy:

He'd never brewed his own coffee in the morning, instead he went out to
his local joint to drink coffee and read the morning paper.
And then I came along and showed him how.

I do not like to go out for coffee!
In the morning, I like to start slowly,
brew a pot and sit and sip in my pj's until it's time to roll.

I had an old electric perc-o-lator along with a coffee bean burr grinder.
I bought his favorite flavored coffee in bean form and off to
work I went.
When I came home, he had just gotten home before me and was
trying to make an afternoon pot.

"Please help me? I've re-perked this same pot three times now,
and it's still so weak ... look!"
He opens to pot up and he has stuffed the basket full with ...
wait for it ...
In order to preserve world peace, I leave the kitchen when my wife cooks. She cooks very well; we just do things differently!
"Pain of Watching Someone Cook Who Can't Cook"

Wins the "Best thread of the Week"!

This was another "Today's Funny" for me!

Nobody ever lived with me on a permanent basis, but the lady I knew for the longest - about 15 years - learned how to do some things for me, but stayed out my way, when I was cooking. She'd want to help me, getting things ready, but I remember the first time she used one of my knives, she said something like "OMG, you could cut a finger off with this thing!" And she wanted to clean up after me (imagine that!:ohmy:), but she would leave my pans and knives for me to handle - I didn't even have to tell her that, she did that on her own. That's something that makes all of us cringe - when we see non-cooks handling cookware, like it's a throw-away item, that can be replaced, when needed, with things from a Dollar Store.
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