Now you’re cooking

For some men, the kitchen can sometimes be daunting. I’m one of those men. To this day my “specialty” is grilled cheese, and aside from some minor grilling skills, you won’t see me preparing anything complicated.

While it may be normal for a single, twenty-something to eat microwave burritos and pizza every night, or to forget to eat altogether, a guy has to grow up, right?

A year-and-a-half ago, I got married, and for the past few years, as a general concern for nutrition has creeped its way back into my life, figuring out how to cook more than macaroni and cheese seems appropriate.

But where to start? Do women generally want a significant other who will share the load of cooking daily meals? I can’t imagine the answer is often no, and if it is, they’re just trying to be nice. I know my wife wouldn’t complain.

A few of my friends just happen to be chefs in some of the Old Port’s most happening restaurants, making us guys who are still hunting for the measuring cups look terrible. But from all accounts, wearing the chef’s hat can be so draining that sometimes not much is left in the tank at the end of the day.

From talking to them, though, there can be simple solutions. Perhaps if a nightly gourmet meal isn’t in the cards, a simple but tasty one could suffice. After all, we (or I) have to start somewhere. There’s nowhere left to go but up from Pop-Tarts.

One of these friends, who co-owns a restaurant, told me a few of his go-to options recently – and I can safely say I wouldn’t have thought to try my hand at them in a million years.

“I make ramen from scratch a lot,” he said.

That’s right, the old college stand-by – ramen noodles.

He said he uses chicken or shrimp stock, frozen fresh noodles, a protein such as pulled pork or roast chicken, and veggies like mushrooms or kale. It sounds simple enough.

“Add scallions and soy sauce to finish,” he said.

Now he’s just showing off.

Another friend, who cooks at a Greek restaurant, swears by preparing meals and snacks in bulk – yet another idea that had permanently escaped me.

“I do a lot of pickling in the winter. Pickled beets, okra and dilly beans,” he told me. “I’ll also spend a day in the winter making various soups – vegetable, beef stew and corn chowder. Then I freeze them so I can pull them out whenever, put it in the Crock Pot and they’re done when I get home.”

Both of these guys also believe in the importance of breakfast, not only as a meal but also to cook for a significant other. Oops. I can say, however, I’m really good at washing dishes.

“Every guy should know how to cook breakfast: hollandaise, poached eggs, pancakes, French toast – breakfast is important,” one said.

And here I’d been thinking my over-medium eggs topped with avocado, drizzled with Sriracha with a side of toast was cutting it.

My restaurateur friend agreed, and gave me my next breakfast experiment. He offered hash with eggs, using rice or potato as the base, plenty of onion and other vegetables like peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts or mushrooms, and adding grated cheese on top.

Maybe my lack of cooking prowess stems from school – I don’t remember much of home ec class from middle school, aside from being scared of babies. Or perhaps it stems from watching, but not learning from, the people around me growing up. Both my parents can whip up meals, especially my mom, but I haven’t quite mastered the grill like my dad, either.

Nonetheless, the time has come for my cooking renaissance. During the summer, my wife works at an inn in midcoast Maine, and we spend at least part of the week apart. Let’s just say my restaurant budget spiked last summer, and another season is approaching.

So here’s to the stuffed shells, ramen noodles, and hash and eggs coming my way. Maybe I’m finally working my way up to that surprise homemade gourmet dinner for two, or maybe the best option will still be making that call for dinner reservations.

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