In the supermarket line, four Raleigh firemen just ahead of me were paying for their groceries.
“Ah, somebody’s night to cook,” I guessed. One of the four, Marc Copeland recognized me, and we struck up a conversation.
“What’s on the menu?” I asked.
“Hot dogs for lunch, grilled hamburger for supper,” one of the firemen replied.
I wasn’t surprised. Typical male menu. You aren’t going to encounter fillet of hummingbird tongue on bearnaise sauce when male cooks are on duty.
Everybody cooks on rotation. Marc doesn’t mind the assignment. His favorite entree is pot roast.
“Several years ago, I did serve a meat loaf that was not well-received,” he added. “A co-worker complained that later that night, ‘it tried to crawl back up my throat.’ ”
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t give thanks for being born male. If I had to go through life knowing I was responsible for putting three meals a day on the table for a spouse and family, I’d make myself an arsenic and lettuce sandwich and lie down for an eon or two.
I can’t cook. Oh, on a good day, I can boil an egg, do toast and make coffee. I was raised in a family that believed it was unmanly for men to cook or even go near the kitchen except to eat.
Some years ago, I was unloading the dishwasher when my visiting macho 6-year-old nephew stomped into the kitchen in his cowboy hat and boots.
Dawning himself up in surprise and disapproval, he said, “Uncle A.C., mens don’t do dishes!”
He has lived to eat those words. He not only does dishes. He cooks, changes diapers and does whatever else is required in a modern marriage.
Last year, I mentioned in a column that while my wife was out of town, I had trouble hard boiling an egg to the right consistency.
I was overwhelmed by reader responses. I had no idea there are so many ways to boil an egg.
Once when my wife had the flu, I boldly attempted to bake a chicken.
I came home from work to find the chicken sitting on the kitchen counter, along with instructions my wife had written on a file card.
I was instructed to first reach into the hole of the chicken’s fuselage and remove its “private parts” as I called them -- the gizzard, neck, etc.
I found this repulsive – an incredible, demeaning invasion of the chicken’s privacy and an affront to my own delicate sensibilities.
I shut my eyes and groped for the hole, trying to open it. It wouldn’t yield. I pulled. I pushed. The chicken stubbornly resisted.
Maybe I have the wrong end, I thought, and turned the chicken around. No entrance there. I returned to the other end and tried again. No luck.
How could I get the chicken to relax? I was in no mood to sweet talk a dead chicken. I pushed her aside.
Fortunately, I had brought home a couple of rib-eye steaks. With repeated round trips to the bedroom to consult my wife, I managed to broil them.
Many men, including friend Glenn Keever, are accomplished cooks. Recently, over coffee, Glenn described how he prepares steamed oysters, his favorite dish.
“You just stick them in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and they pop right open.”
“You mean you roast them alive?” I asked incredulously.
This is crazy! A local judge recently canceled Brasstown’s traditional New Year’s Eve ’possum drop because the PETA protested that lowering a ’possum in a bucket 12 feet on the stroke of midnight is cruel and inhumane. Yet it’s OK to cook oysters alive at 400 degrees.
It’s high time the SPOCO, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Oysters, got off its duff and came to the rescue of oysters.
On the rare occasions when I am responsible for a meal, I either take my wife out or bring in take-out from nearby restaurants. When I serve baked chicken, it’s table-ready.
But I’ll always remember that first chicken, the one I never could conquer.
Snow: 919-836-5636 or firstname.lastname@example.org