She Cooks, I Clean

Shannon loves cooking, and when she’s in the zone, it’s a wild event of creation and discovery every time – imagine Doc Brown (from Back to the Future) meets Gordon Ramsey. And when she’s really in the thick of it, when the embers of her muse have ignited some new inevitable masterpiece, the knives start flying and the spices start flinging, and boy I do mean flinging.

After each session, after the family has tucked in and we’re drunkenly grinning from the sheer delight brought on by whatever concoction we’ve allowed her to serve us, the kitchen sits, still and bloodied as if having played host to only the fiercest of battles. What I’m trying to say is, the place is a wreck.

I have learned it’s best to stay very far out of her way and really only ask if she needs anything.

During her cooking session, I try to stay close by. I’m usually found perched on a stool at the bar that overlooks the kitchen area, although I’m always quick to help. These sous-tasks usually wind up as minor tasks like de-boning chicken or shredding cheese, but even still, I have learned it’s best to stay very far out of her way and really only insert myself to ask if she needs anything (she hasn’t made me answer her, “yes chef!,” but I imagine it’s coming). Personally, I don’t consider myself in possession any cooking skills beyond the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich or microwave popcorn, although I must say - I am king of the grill! What can I say, I guess even woke husbands can fall into some gender normative tropes.


The Scene of the Crime

Please, allow me to paint a picture, the scene of the crime if you will. There are usually no less than 5 pots or pans strewn about in various states of wrung-out, whether splattered with oil or thick with crusted-over sauce. I imagine nearly every spice and seasoning we own is out of the cupboard, their lids as mislocated as that Paul Simon CD which ended up in the Jagged Little Pill jewel case for the entire decade of the 1990’s. Dairy sits open and exposed on the counter, the butter sagging under the swelter of room temperature with milk and creams gently curdling in their cartons. Grease is on the floor. Grease on the cabinet. Grease is on the stove. Grease is even on the bottom of the pans.

I imagine nearly every spice and seasoning we own is out of the cupboard.

The knife and utensil drawers are barren, their residents having relocated to either the countertops or submerged stealthily beneath a thin line of suds occupying on half of the kitchen sink, the other half a morbid grave of onion peels, garlic mash, and lemon rinds (these I can only imagine she wants to be pushed through our disposal). And then there are the dishes from the meal itself along with with the spent cutlery and remains of uneaten proteins.


Cleaning Up

Admittedly, there are times when an involuntary sigh escapes as I survey the carnage and do the quick math on the time it will take to set this stage back to first position. Regardless, I throw on an apron and start getting things in order: leftovers stored first, then scraping the dishes into the garbage. Next, it’s on to stacking plates and bowls while running hot water for the non-dishwater items. I am as organized and methodical in my cleaning prep as Shannon is controlled chaotic in her cooking.

Also, please don’t think that Shannon always just waltzes away from the wreckage, a taunt on her lips as if a villain leaving a hero to be consumed by some elaborate mechanism. Although I repeatedly insist she’s absolved of any responsibility, having more than fulfilled her obligations for the evening, she will often help with the cleanup, usually stowing leftovers or wiping down counters. I haven’t quite figured out if she does this out of love or if she just doesn’t think I’ll do a good enough job. Either way, I’m prepared to be ok with it and am happy to accept the assist.


Why Does This Matter

On the surface, the concept of she cooks, I clean is one of equal distribution of household duties, and that in and of itself is reason enough to enter into the arrangement. Honestly, this post started out looking to cover this very topic, (and I do want to talk about that in the future), but as I’ve written, I think I’ve discovered it goes deeper.

I’ve come to realize that my cleaning enables Shannon to be a spontaneous creator!

I come to realize that by knowing she doesn’t have the added concern of cleaning up, Shannon remains free to experiment and create with the awed potential of a child with a box of crayons (no, the BIG one.. with the sharpener) and the hugest sheet of blank paper. She cooks without abandon, free to grab whatever color she needs to draw the stroke she’s imagining on her now simmering canvas.

In the end, I don’t clean up out of an egalitarian duty of spreading out the chores equally, although I suppose that does play some part in it. No, I’ve come to realize that my cleaning enables Shannon to be a spontaneous creator, especially an artist who is always yearning to break through the surface. It helps to turn something as potentially mundane as cooking dinner, into a work of art (ok, that comes off more pretentious than I really mean it, but you get the idea). Shannon gets to nourish her family and provide amazing meals that are easily restaurant-quality, but most importantly, she’s free to enjoy the act of creating.


Putting It Into Practice

How would you translate this to your own marriage? What if you’re the one who cooks? Does that mean she should clean up? And what if she doesn’t want to clean?! Your algorithm is broke, and you’re full of crap, Dave! She SHOULD clean up, you said so! Now, where can I leave a negative comment?

Seek out things that make her come alive and do what you can to clear a space for her to do it.

As I’ve said before, what works for us may not work for you. Each relationship is different and you two will need to chart the path through your own waters, but I would encourage you to seek out things that she’s into, things that make her come alive and work towards doing what you can to clear a space for her to do it. What if she truly enjoys pressure-washing the driveway (true-story, and more on that to come later)? How about running the hose for her, or working out the extension cords so all she has to do is aim the nozzle and squeeze the trigger! It doesn’t even have to necessarily be household-related. If she enjoys painting, then help her set up her supplies, or maybe look after the kids while she can have some time to herself (again, remember: no kids, so I’m definitely not an expert here, but you get the idea).

Dave was born in Hawaii, grew up in San Diego, and wound up in Orlando, FL by way of both High Point, NC and Memphis, TN.

He is a husband of 24 years to his wife, Shannon, and is a crazy cat dad. When he’s not rambling on about life here, he can be found writing music for film and TV, playing music, or teaching music at Full Sail University.

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