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Family Eats

I married a breakfast guy. He also has a very genuine appreciation of dinner, a healthy respect for lunch, and a love of the culinary arts in general, both process and product. Conversely, I am not a foodie. This is one of those things you put in the opposites-attract bucket and move on.

Some background: Before marriage, or shall we say, during our courtship, we ate out a lot. When we dined in-house, it was at Scott’s house and in his kitchen. The beauty of this was it gave my future husband a chance to show off his extensive collection of cookbooks. But what the 25-year-old me didn’t realize was, that having all those cookbooks did not necessarily represent a willingness to use them. Forty-something me gets this completely.

In the first year of our marriage, my husband and I pretty much fended for ourselves when it came to eating. He claimed he could live on cereal and I believed him. I usually headed for the gym after work and didn’t even think about dinner until it was too late to cook. Phew.

The first official family dinner I ever prepared as a new bride was a dish I called stuff on rice.

It consisted of a can of diced tomatoes, chopped frozen onions, too much garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, more onions, and not enough shrimp. These ingredients bubbled in a pot for about an hour while I drove around Richmond looking for fresh okra for my Oklahomaborn husband, trying to decide if I should still call my creation “a gumbo” if I was unable to include the vegetable known for its gooey stickiness. Yum.

When I arrived home, sans okra, I slopped my homemade concoction over white rice and called it dinner. Scott, very wisely, asked for a second helping of stuff on rice. I gave him all the shrimp.

By naming it stuff on rice, I allowed myself a certain flexibility. Next time, I reasoned, I might try using not enough chicken. Later, when “creole” worked its way into the title, sausage became a variable. I also figured out that canned okra would suffice.

Within an hour, I went from momentary elation (I’m no chef, but this isn’t half-bad!) to utter trepidation (oh my God! I’ll have to do this every night for the next 60 years).

Then came the babies. They required diapering and bathing and snuggling. All things my husband was perfectly willing and able to handle. He was outstanding, in fact, at a number of parenting skills that I lacked. But somebody had to feed our children. For reasons I will never fully understand, breastfeeding worked for me. I was the new millennium poster mom for breastfeeding. Oh, and the babies were darn good at it, too. High on that success, I guess transitioning the entire family to the next level (nightly dinners of solid food around the kitchen table) just seemed like the natural thing to do. Predestined, I was, to be the family cook.

Now when I catch a glimpse of Scott’s cookbooks (they’re stowed in the same kitchen cabinet as the allergy meds and the Tylenol) the memories flood in: the love he poured into planning menus; the effort he put into his hollandaise sauce (when he could have just ripped open one of those little packets like I do); and the days it took us to wash the pots and pans that were the result.

For all questions food-related, this family cook turns to the Internet. Our family foodie, however, still reaches for a cookbook. And one in particular has the best ever recipe for Belgian waffles – a family breakfast favorite that requires, among other things, separating eggs, using an electric mixer, and knowing the difference between folding and stirring. These are just some of things my kids have mastered while cooking with their father (the breakfast guy) while the family cook just smiles and takes it all in.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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