He Said, She Said

Screenwriter and creative director Patrick O’Connor and English professor and novelist Margaret McMullan return with their column, “He Said, She Said,” based on excerpts from their e-mail exchanges. They also happen to be married to each other and are the parents of a young son, James.

Margaret: I’m thinking of writing a couple’s cookbook.

Patrick: You mean, as in recipes that couples like? Or recipes couples can
cook together, i.e. peel the carrots while your spouse minces the garlic … Or is this a recipe book written by a couple (which would mean that I have to write it, too)? And then there’s this question: Does the world really need another cookbook? Especially one written by us?

Margaret: To answer your first question, it would be a collection of recipes by couples for couples to cook. Together. And yes, you would have to write it too and include your “Non-Stop, No-Chop Chili with Sirloin Beef.” I would include all that we do with squash and that raspberry chocolate torte I made for your birthday. So much of a couple’s history is wrapped up, burrito-style, in food. As you may or may not recall, cooking and food were major parts of our courtship.

Patrick: My contribution to this cookbook will be minor. Chili and jambalaya –– which are really the same thing with different ingredients.

Margaret: Think back. You opened cans before we married.

Patrick: I still open cans. So do you. I opened about 40 cans yesterday to make the chili.

Margaret: Yes, but you ONLY opened cans when we first started dating. The chili was already IN the can.

Patrick: That’s true – I’d never even seen a real garlic clove before I met you.

Margaret: Very sad. So you see, cooking and food were big parts of our courtship. Remember the sesame noodles with shredded chicken and peeled cucumber, hand-fed to you in the car on the way to, where was it? Chicago? Mexico?

Patrick: I do remember the sesame noodles. Very clearly. It was an important juncture in our courtship. Perhaps the recipe for your sesame noodles should include serving suggestions: Hand-feed your future spouse while driving…somewhere.

Margaret: We’ve gotten way past our salad days when chicken Marsala was all we made for dinner parties. For so long, when we first married, I worried that our house would have too many books and papers and eyeglasses and typewriters (now laptops) and not enough food in the refrigerator. Remember how we set out to cook?

Patrick: I will admit that I was a trailblazer in the area of layered Mexican bean dips. I was making bean dips with at least seven layers in the late ‘80s. Now you can pick one up at Schnucks easy-as-you-please.

Margaret: Ah, the bean dip! Which brings us back to all those cans. I prefer the kind of cooking that leaves something for the compost heap. But let’s not forget your grilled steaks, your barbequed chicken, and grilled corn. Your potatoes, your gumbo, your grilled Alder-planked salmon. You’ve got more than jambalaya and bean dip in your repertoire, Sweetie.

Patrick: Okay, you’ve convinced me. I’ll start: Chapter One: Garlic (and other ingredients your husband has never actually met).

Margaret: Excellent. By the way, what’s for dinner? Risotto primavera and spicy slaw? Brunswick stew and baked apples? Pork with curried orange sauce?

Patrick: I don’t know. Sounds like a lot of dishes to wash. How about Los Bravos?

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