Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Scalloped Marriage

…and Marilyn asked if I had any thoughts about dinner. I didn’t – and threw out the simplest thing I could thing of, “I don’t know – maybe grilled cheese sandwiches and soup or something.” She pondered this and then responded with “How about Scalloped Potatoes?”

I knew then that the gauntlet was cast. First, if it was Scalloped Potatoes, I would be the one to make it. I was the Scalloped Potato maker. Second, an implied divisiveness was embedded in this suggestion.

You see, this goes to the heart of our relationship. I enjoy change; appreciate the ebb and flow of life. I greet crises as a challenge to be mastered, and a bit of turmoil now and then gives me a fresh appreciation of life. Smooth, trouble-free life is boring. And this is reflected in my cooking.

In contrast, Marilyn is an aficionado of the concept of smooth sailing. A trouble-free existence. This is reflected in her preferences of dining pleasure.

This all erupted years ago. The first time I made Scalloped Potatoes.

It is a simple recipe. My way – reflecting the ruggedness of my soul -- was to simply layer sliced potatoes with bacon and butter and cheese and salt and pepper and hefty sprinkles of flour, with the whole thing drenched in milk. Throw it in the oven uncovered and cook the hell out of it. It is scrumptious.

But, the first time Marilyn tasted it, she grimaced. It seems she confronted pockets of flour. And some of the potatoes on the top were a little burnt. My response was, “Precisely. That is what makes this so good. It isn’t bland, and each mouthful is a surprise. It is this inconsistency which reflects the pioneerish spirit of Texas.”

She wasn’t impressed. “I don’t think there are supposed to be globs of flour.”

This was her way of saying that we live in the 21st century and everything should be homogenized and smooth and of velvet texture.

Marriage is give and take. Sometimes you just have to suck it in, bite your tongue, and give way on your lusts a little. The next time that I was required to create the essence of Scalloped Potatoes, she stepped in. “Why don’t you not put flour in the potatoes, but instead mix it with the milk that you pour over it? And put a top over it when you cook it?”

This was a direct challenge to not only my cooking expertise and manhood, but to the Spirit of a rugged Texas. There are times when you have to put your foot down.

I dramatically responded with, “Yes dear.”

So now we eat bland pap Scalloped Potatoes.

Last night, when she suggested this for our dinner, I knew the angst and contention of our scalloped history was rearing its ugly head. “How about Scalloped Potatoes?” Those meek words caused me to tremor. The question was: her puny Scalloped Potatoes or my rough tough Scalloped Potatoes?

I decided to take the Dr. Phil approach. Negotiation. Compromise.

“I’m not going to peel the potatoes!” I declared. I introduced a change – something to disrupt the smoothness of the whole potato thing.

“Okay,” she said.

“And I’m going to slice up a bunch of link sausage and throw it in!”

She could see what was happening. She was going to get her bland potatoes, but with compromise.

“Okay,” she said.

So last night I stood before the cutting board making pretty-thin slices of unpeeled potatoes. After spraying the bottom of a glass pan with some of that spray oil, I made a nifty potato layer across the bottom. Then I sprinkled some salt and pepper on that layer. Threw in a plop of butter. Then I sliced up a bunch of link sausage and threw these bits of sausage onto the layer – whispering, “Take that! And that!” as I flung each slice in.

I really wanted to sprinkle some flour in. It almost killed me not to. But, I remembered our compromise. So I slapped some cheddar and mozzarella over the layer. And I repeated this process over and over until the glass pan was filled. Then came the hard part -- the part that went against everything that I believed in. I threw some flour in a shaker glass thing, and then filled it with milk. And I stood there shaking the stupid thing until it all reached a state of entermixation. Then I poured it over the potato conglomeration. Actually I had to do this twice. And then I put the damned top on the pan.

As I getting ready to shove it into the 400-degree oven, Marilyn called out – “Why don’t you put in the microwave for a while to give it a head start? That way, maybe it won’t take so long.”

Damn! Who is cooking this anyway? I am the chef! It really tees me off when my wife comes up with weird ideas about my chefness.

Especially if the idea is good.

Humiliated, I put it into the microwave for ten minutes. Then into the oven. Later we sat and ate. I especially enjoyed the skins-on-the-potatoes and sausage part. At least I got something out of the deal, and she did too.

Maybe that is what this is all about. Maybe all relationships should be scalloped.


  1. FABULOUS post, my friend! Loving the compromise....that is what it was, right??

    When you declared "I'm not peeling the potatoes", I thought you meant that she'd have to do that part...but your way sounds delish! And sausage, to boot!

    Well. You certainly showed her. And you've probably got some leftovers as well.

    Do you deliver??

  2. A wise man indeed.
    I should have known that when you left that comment on my blog.
    You said:
    "Upward stretch
    Downward pull
    Head whack"
    Of course. A wise man indeed.
    The Old Professor

  3. What an exellent writer you are! Who do you read?
    Loved the post.

  4. Jerry, you are fabulous. I'd love to try those scalloped potatoes. (And my wife/chef is exactly the same . . . which drives me crazy at times!)

  5. You know, I have some potatoes sitting around that are going to go bad soon. The hubby is at work tonight, but I'll make your scalloped potatoes for myself and the kid--leftovers for the hubby. I'll even sprinkle the flour in--I love lumps!

  6. You know, in spite of the many witty, insightful, incisive, scintillating or otherwise pithy things I could say in response to this post...all I'm going to say is


  7. Another great post...I said it before, and I will say it again....YOU NEED TO DO A DAILY COLUMN!!! You would start each day out with a good laugh. I think you should submit some of these posts to your local newspaper....but only if you will still blog for us...