2005.11.09 How does humble cornbread taste?

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

“I’ll have you know I cheerily volunteered to make that cornbread,” David said when I told him I thought I might be writing another husband-bashing column.

He had overheard me telling my boss Liz what my column would be about this week: cornbread and my suspicion that my husband and kids feign inability to do certain tasks just so I’ll do them myself.

It’s part of “The Man Code.” I read about it in Cheryl Lavin’s column in the Detroit Free Press a few weeks ago. Apparently, The Man Code—a set of “rules for men, sent to men by men”—has been circulating on the Internet. The Code helps men “act manly in all circumstances, from a bachelor party to a rainstorm.”

A couple of Sundays ago, Lavin published additions to The Man Code, including this one:

If your wife asks you to do something, make it more trouble for her to show you how to do it than for her to just do it herself.

Now, there was a time when I really believed my family adhered to that tenet of The Man Code. But I’m coming to realize my husband doesn’t do this sort of thing on purpose. I think maybe the problem is all mine. I’m just too much of a perfectionist and he doesn’t do things the way I would: the right way, of course.

My new goal in life is to get over that outlook and to accept his way of doing things as legitimate and proper and well and good. I’m inching along in this plan of action. For example, I don’t comment anymore about the way he chops onions or minces garlic. I’m just grateful that I’m not the one with stinky fingers and tears running down my cheeks.

But, I confess, in my heart, I’m thinking, ‘Lord, those are garlic chunks, not minced garlic.’ I’m getting better at accepting his rendition of garlic preparation, though, and am even realizing the chunks taste better than the eensy weensy garlic bits I would mince, mince, mince them into.

  Still, I know I project this air of superiority in the kitchen. Inside, I am laughing at his foibles, and sometimes the laughter even slips out—although it is more clear to me that they are foibles in my mind only. It’s more a commentary on my culinary snobbery than his inability to perform in the kitchen.

Take the Making of the Cornbread a couple of weeks ago. When Maddie quietly asked David to use my recipe instead of the one on the box as he had done the previous time he’d made it, I dictated directions. I‘ve misplaced the original notecard our friend Deby MacGregor wrote the recipe on, but I’ve made the recipe often enough that I don’t usually consult it anyway. I have it memorized, pretty much, but it’s been a while since I’ve made it.

I rattle off the dry ingredients and amounts.

“You’re making it up as you go along,” David accuses.

He’s balking about the brown sugar—four tablespoons—and isn’t too happy about the five teaspoons of baking powder, either.

“It’s Deby MacGregor’s recipe,” I say. “It’s a good one.”

I notice he is adding all the dry ingredients to a bowl.

“I usually put the dry ingredients in the sifter and the wet ones in the bowl so I only have to clean one bowl,” I say.

He grumbles as he transfers the flour mixture to the sifter.

“Did you put the salt in?” I’m just checking. Deby’s recipe doesn’t include salt, but I think grains taste metallic when cooked without it.

“I did everything you told me,” he says.

He’s grumbling and making other noises as we go about our business.

After a bit he shows me the batter. It’s an extra dry contiguous yellow blob.

“Did you put the oil in? Milk? Did you put a cup of milk in?” I ask as I eye the half-cup measure. I am trying to determine what is missing and I think I’ve found the source of the problem.

“I know that’s a half cup,” he says, heading me off at the pass. “I used two of them.”

“Add just a little more milk,” I advise. “It’s not meant to be too wet and thin of a batter.”

“Did you put the five teaspoons of baking powder in?” It’s really too late to be asking, but the batter doesn’t look like it usually does.

“I did precisely what you told me,” he says. “Except for the sugar,” he mumbles under his breath.

He pops the pan in the oven and says, “Well, at least I’ll have something to eat next week.”

“What will it be?” I ask, mildly distracted.

“Pseudo cornbread—cornboard,” he says.

Later, I was chatting with my college sophomore Rozee, telling her about David making cornbread. She was also reading her sociology book at the time.

“Did you know men initiate up to 96 percent of all interruptions in male-female conversations?” she says, cutting me off.

“Did you know that men act like they can’t do things so women will do it for them?” I toss back.

“Like Dad and laundry?” she asks.

“Well, actually he does his own laundry,” I say.

“Well, like he would cook, but nobody would want him to?” she takes another stab.

I’m tempted to say, you’ve got the sociology figured out on that score, but in my more enlightened state, I’m thinking, Poor David, he’s got to contend with The Woman Code: men can’t do anything right.

Enough with the husband bashing; it’s time to eat humble pie—or maybe a second helping of humble cornboard.

   - Nov. 9, 2005

 

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