Crowning a new domestic goddess

The first time my now husband, then boyfriend, Justin, suggested we make dinner at his house rather than go out to eat, I was mortified. Me? Prepare a meal? I remember my apprehension as I confessed I was not much of a cook and that we would need to prepare the meal together. Justin was fine with that deal so we shot a few unsuccessful ideas back and forth until he finally asked, possibly rhetorically, “We can’t screw up pasta, can we?”

I held on to my domestically-challenged nature as long as I possibly could. I grew up in a house full of great cooks. My grandma cooked all the time when I was little. Not only did she cook meals, but she was also a fantastic baker. As a kid, my belly never went empty.

The next “head chef” in our home was, predictably, my mom, and wow, could she cook! Nothing tastes better than anything that mom makes. Even as an adult living with my mom and dad, there was no need for me to cook. Mom was already making meals for my dad, and she told me it seemed silly to not make enough for everyone. Maybe beneath my domestic ignorance was a budding chef, but it didn’t appear anywhere near ready to surface.

And it wasn’t just cooking that I avoided. Laundry fell into the same category as cooking. Mom was doing hers and dad’s, so why not just throw my stuff in there too? Cleaning was a chore that I tried to undertake from time to time, but my mom is a “it won’t get done right unless I do it myself” person, so even if I started, she’d finish.

I’m not going to lie-this was a pretty nice set up for me.

Now I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that I didn’t know how to boil water or cook pasta or make a scrambled egg (I could do all of those). If I had to feed myself, I could manage. However, the times I had to make my own large meal were extremely rare. My mom teased me often. “You had better marry a chef.”

Alas, Justin is no chef. On the other hand, he’s not a terrible cook either. He’s like me-inexperienced. He’d lived on his own longer than I had, but I think his idea of preparing a meal was pressing some buttons on the microwave oven and waiting five minutes. In fact, he once told me that he’d thought of doing an “all Little Caesar’s diet.” He’d just buy one of those $5 pizzas every day to serve as all his meals-easy and no cooking involved. “That’s only $35 a week to eat! That would be cheap!” he informed me.

“Yeah, but the expenses to scrape out your arteries after your pizza-induced heart attack will probably even things out,” I replied.

Still, between the two of us, we managed to cook up a pretty decent first homemade meal together. I even made some alfredo sauce from scratch. Justin gobbled up the pasta on his plate, and the whole time I kept asking myself, “Is he eating that because he really likes it, or is he eating it just to be polite?” But I soon realized that he actually did enjoy it, and it really did taste good. Hmm, maybe this cooking thing wasn’t as bad as I thought it was?

Eventually, I began to cook more. Eating in was not only less expensive, but it was also an easy way to make healthy dishes. So I made everything from hamburgers, meatloaf and homemade veggie burgers to a traditional Hungarian chicken paprikash (after which mom said, “If your grandmother was still alive, she’d never believe that you made that!”). And guess what? All of it tastes pretty good. Just ask my husband, who claims he’s gained 10 pounds since he’s met me. That’s ok, though. He’s tall and skinny and can use a little extra meat on him.

Not only did I discover that I could cook, I also learned that I knew how to do laundry, dust the shelves and run the vacuum. I can even sew on buttons! (Ok, I could do that last one long before I met Justin.) But still, to someone so decidedly undomesticated like me, these were huge breakthroughs.

In fact, I was delighted when Justin built shelves in the laundry room, thus actually allowing us to store things and-of course-hang laundry. I gushed on about my new laundry room for days. These are the things that excite me now.

Just last night, I dug out our pathetic excuse for a sewing kit (which is probably even smaller than a travel kit) to fix a few loose buttons on a sweater. As I walked through the living room, I waved the kit in the air at Justin and said, “You know, it would be nice to have a REAL sewing kit.”

“What I heard you say,” he retorted with an ornery grin, “Was that you want me to buy you a sewing machine.” This is also the same man who, despite my limited sewing abilities and lack of proper equipment, thought I was going to sew him a gigantic dog costume for Halloween. Ever since then he’s been threatening to buy me a sewing machine.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I said.” I rolled my eyes. I’m not quite to the sewing machine level yet.

But when I think about what I’ve managed to accomplish domestically in a year, it has just amazed me. Maybe some of you might think, “Big whoop. I’ve been doing my laundry for years. It’s not that fantastic.” Well, no, it’s not, but the point is I’M doing it-not my mom or grandma or anyone else. And I actually enjoy cooking. I often wonder what I could accomplish if I had a stove top with four working burners instead of two….

Who knew that inside of me was this domestic goddess just waiting for her crown? Martha Stewart must be shaking in her shoes.