Friday, January 28, 2011

Sheet lessons

I'm nearly 26 years old, and just learned today how to fold a fitted sheet. What's even worse, I was taught by my husband.

When I lived with my parents, I was in charge of doing the laundry but not putting it away (except my own obviously.) Thus, I can time a laundry load down to the minute, and have honed this technique since Mr. V and I moved in together almost two years ago. However, when I do the sheets I just fold them haphazardly and stuff them into the Ikea wardrobe that serves as our linen closet.

So today, as I asked my husband to fold the sheets for me, he asked if I had ever learned how to fold it properly. I had no idea there WAS a proper way to fold a fitted sheet. Apparently my shoving into a closet doesn't count as a proper way. Psh say I, it's always worked for me.

Well, his way worked better. At least it folded up into a square instead of a vaguely oblong rectangle.

I guess it's a good thing I have a domesticated husband, even if it takes away from my title as The Perfect Housewife.

Hating the late shift

The Perfect Housewife has fallen down on the job.

Due to another editor's vacation, I have been working the late shift for the past two weeks. Because of this, I've been packing my dinner every night and my husband has been fending for himself. I'm sure you can see how this can be wearying after awhile.

Apparently my housewifery skills are appreciated though, as my husband announced yesterday that he is looking forward to getting home after work to find his dinner already laid out for him by his Perfect Housewife.

My poor apartment needs a good cleaning though. I'm fairly possessive about my cleaning supplies, and so I kept telling my husband to stop cleaning up; I'll do it when I'm done my late shifts.

That time has now come, so tonight after I run my errands I will be hitting the cleaning supply closet like an addict missing a fix.

Tomorrow night we are hosting my parents-in-law for the first time by ourselves. Usually when we've had his parents over, we've also hosted my parents as it was almost always something wedding-related so it was easier to host both instead of repeating ourselves. Now, we will be hosting them alone.

Currently I am planning homemade pasta with an olive oil, garlic and wild mushroom sauce, salad, sausages for the meat-eaters (so, everyone but me), and a blueberry-lime cheesecake for dessert.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Housewife Competitive Instinct

It's not the 1950s anymore, when women were expected to stay home once they got married and keep a spotless house, cook delicious meals, entertain any company that came in and eventually, raise the children. However, there are days when it seems that a wormhole has opened up and swallowed me right back into that decade.

I posted after Thanksgiving about my frustration over the ingrained gender roles in my husband's family. That still frustrates me, though it took until recently to realize exactly why that still reverberates in my head.

I was never raised to think that my only stock lay in the cleanliness of my house, the perfection of my cooking and my skills as a hostess. But as the time has passed, it feels like I'm being shoved into that spot, a square peg in a round hole.

My husband has (hopefully!) a good life. Our house is clean, I try to cook dinner as many nights as I can without collapsing from exhaustion, and I love to entertain friends and family to dinner.

But I am not the Perfect Wife in the culture I have married into. I argue, I refuse to cook meat, and I don't want to reproduce at this point in my life. I prefer to sit quietly and observe my surroundings before jumping into a conversation if I'm not perfectly comfortable with the situation. I don't trust easily, I only hug and kiss people I love (and never, ever on the lips unless it's Mr. V), and I don't go along with things for the sake of peace.

No, I am not a good wife in the stereotypical sense. But sometimes, being an individual nags on me too.

Every day, women are bombarded with suggestions for how they should live their lives. The TV blares ads for every possible cleaning product, always showing a woman doing the cleaning. Advertisements for food products invariably show a woman doing the cooking, dressed beautifully with nary a hair out of place. And let us not forget the unrelenting chorus of "You're too fat! Your husband will leave you for a better woman! Try this diet plan because you're just not good enough right now!"

It affects me. The women in those commercials have what looks like the perfect life. No one yells, no one struggles, and certainly no one ever leaves the dishes in the sink for a few hours because she'd rather read another chapter in her book.

My (probably imagined) deficiencies at being a housewife are never more pronounced than when The Housewife Competitive Instinct rears its ugly head.

I am one of two young V wives. My brother-in-law was married four weeks after us. My sister-in-law is a peacemaker, while I am a fiery-tempered grouch at times. She embraces the culture she has married into, while I rail against it when something about it frustrates me. She can start a conversation with anyone about anything, while I prefer to be approached for discussion. In short, we are very, very different people. This has caused some friction in the past, as she has been around the family for an extra couple years, while I was a new entity (and still am, at times.)

The situation brings out said competitive instinct. I want the family to think I am wonderful and that I'm a good wife to Mr. V. I want them to accept me without expecting me to be a clone of my sister-in-law. And so, I bake.


My sister-in-law has said before that she is not a baker, so I take on that role. If someone is having a get-together, I want to bake something. I need to prove to the family (I feel like I should be capitalizing that) that I am good at something. I may not eat meat, I may not want to pop out a kid right now, and I may not have any desire to ever take in my in-laws to live with us except in the case of a dire emergency, but I AM GOOD AT SOMETHING!

These thoughts will be continued in another post.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Homemade pasta and the evolution of a pasta sauce

My grandmother bought us a pasta maker attachment for our KitchenAid stand mixer as a wedding gift, knowing that not only would I love it, I'd probably also use it and invite her over for dinner to test it.

Being mildly paranoid about using wedding presents before the actual wedding (and being a strict adherent of Emily Post's etiquette), I packed it away in a cupboard, and then continued with the wedding planning.

Apparently five months after the wedding is high time to take that pasta maker out of its box. Thus, Mr. V and I gathered around the pasta machine, and prepared to do battle. Now, I've seen Mario Batali and Gordon Ramsay make pasta on TV before, and it didn't look that complicated. And truly, it's not. Flour and eggs are not expensive ingredients, and due to my obsession with baking, they're something we always have on hand. Mr. V, having stronger hands, made the dough while I prepped vegetables for the mushroom bolognese that I found in a Canadian Living vegetarian cookbook. Little did I know that we'd be chopping mushrooms until we had eight cups of tiny shreds.

Not the point, but thank the deity of your choice for the food processor.

Anyway, the dough went well, and then it rested while I continued to chop vegetables (possibly while singing along to The Trews, because singing to vegetables makes them chop easier. It's a little known old wives tale.)

Running it through the pasta machine was mildly trickier. When we've seen Batali and Ramsay do it, they make the dough and then hang the noodles from a pasta drying rack or some such. Needless to say, we have nothing of the sort, and I refused to hang pasta from my cupboards in case they were dirty. We ended up tossing them in flour and putting them in a bowl.

Meanwhile, the pasta sauce is bubbling away and its resemblance to a meat sauce is mildly terrifying. As usual, I've followed the recipe to the letter, but the sauce is ... not so good right now. Not to say that it wasn't a quite serviceable sauce, but it was bland, and we cannot have a bland sauce. Adding salt didn't work, and neither did adding pepper. We had already put oregano in the sauce, which stood in for the nutmeg that Mr. V detests. Cayenne pepper rescued us, and soon the sauce was bubbling away on the stove again, mildly enhanced so it actually tasted like something other than mushrooms.

By this time the water was boiling and it was time to cook our homemade spaghetti. Being used to dried pasta, I was mildly nervous about the short cooking time required for fresh noodles, and may have had to be convinced that they were fine and ready to eat.

Verdict? Delicious. The noodles were fresh and light, and while apparently the sauce couldn't pass for real meat sauce because the texture was different, it was indeed a very yummy meal, and a good first try for the novice pasta makers. Perhaps it is time we invite Grandma over to sample our wares.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Damnit Julia!

I love Julia Child. I think she was a very cool, very smart, very funny lady. And though I cannot eat nearly everything in her Mastering The Art of French Cooking, I respect the amount of work that went into the book and I'm sure her recipes are delicious (or at least Julie Powell, who wrote Julie and Julia, tells me so.)

So it disappoints me to see that she once said that she never serves pasta to guests because it shows that you don't know how to cook. Being a life-long pasta lover and always looking for the next perfect recipe, the idea that I cannot cook just because I occasionally serve pasta to guests is an alien one to me.

That's not to say that I haven't been served some perfectly horrible pasta, but I have also been served some amazing, wonderful, out-of-this-world pasta (Mario Batali's restaurant in Las Vegas, I'm looking at you.)

Though the base of a pasta dish, especially when you're a vegetarian, is often the same flour and egg noodles, there is always endless variety in the sauce. I have never been a fan of cream sauces personally, but many people dream of the perfect fettucine alfredo that they had in a restaurant long ago. I have tried many different types of tomato-based sauces, including the amazing and delicious Alla Crazy Bastard that I have written about here, and the V version of a Gordon Ramsay sauce that we've made several times over the course of our relationship when we have leftover vegetables and tomatoes. Again, the tomatoes are always the base of the sauce, but I'd be hard-pressed to think of too many other similarities.

I have also become a recent convert to olive oil and garlic-based sauces, mostly due to the euphoric experience of putting that first bite of Mario Batali pasta in my mouth on our mini honeymoon in August. Though I have not yet perfected it myself, Mr. V has become a master in it, especially when mixed with wild mushrooms. To die for, seriously.

Now that I've gone and made myself hungry, I submit my rebuttal to Mrs. Child. While the perfect delicious pasta sauce doesn't take as much effort as deboning a duck or roasting a chicken, the pursuit of it has led me to many happy hours trying, tasting and seasoning. The mark of a good meal is one that you enjoy, and so if you have satisfied your guests, you are a good cook.