I did Latin in­stead of do­mes­tic econ­omy so, un­for­tu­nately for my hus­band, I could just about boil an egg when we mar­ried

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - THIS LIFE -

I’M SURE I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE who finds beauty halls in glam­orous de­part­ment stores dif­fi­cult to ne­go­ti­ate with­out feel­ing a bit sheep­ish. All those bright lights seek­ing and find­ing ev­ery blem­ish in my face, in stark con­trast to the ul­tra-shiny, not-one-hair-out-of­place, per­fectly groomed cos­metic ad­vis­ers. It’s no won­der I slink past, hid­ing my smudged mas­cara and mis­matched foun­da­tion. When I scrab­bled up enough courage to ap­proach one such paragon of god­dess-like beauty for ad­vice, she pointed out that I was us­ing the wrong shade of foun­da­tion with such wide-eyed alarm­ing con­cern that I felt I had com­mit­ted a mor­tal sin.

But for me, that sense of in­tim­i­da­tion was noth­ing on the scale com­pared to how I felt when it came to stand­ing in front of the butcher’s counter, my un­trained eye star­ing at the dis­play of cuts and joints spread be­fore me, try­ing to fig­ure out one end of a cow from the other. Or could it be part of a sheep? I re­ally hadn’t a clue.

I felt truly out of my depth and pan­icky be­yond be­lief be­cause of my lack of ba­sic knowl­edge.

My prob­lems be­gan with the di­vi­sion of house­hold chores when I was grow­ing up. I was much more at home wield­ing a pol­ish­ing cloth or a vac­uum cleaner, while my sis­ter reigned serene in the kitchen. I could have a novel in one hand, you see, while the other hand buffed ca­su­ally around the fur­ni­ture or moved the vac­uum cleaner a gen­tle few inches across the floor. Wrestling with the in­tri­ca­cies of the gas cooker would have re­quired all my con­cen­tra­tion.

In sec­ondary school, I chose to study Latin in­stead of do­mes­tic econ­omy. Over those five years, I be­came ac­quainted with the finer works of Ovid and Livy, and the prob­lems faced by Han­ni­bal as he crossed the Alps with all those ele­phants. Those who opted for do­mes­tic econ­omy were in­doc­tri­nated into the art of be­ing a proper house­wife; aka do­mes­tic god­dess. Rule num­ber one, to have a de­li­cious meal ready for your hus­band as soon as he ar­rives home from his hard day at work.

Un­for­tu­nately for my un­sus­pect­ing hus­band, I was one of those who could just about boil an egg when I glided down the aisle. I’m very for­tu­nate that I had such a prac­ti­cal, lib­er­ated mother–in-law, be­cause she taught all her sons how to cook, see­ing it as a ba­sic req­ui­site with­out which no one, male or fe­male, should ven­ture out into the world. My hus­band grew up in an en­vi­ron­ment where she moved around her kitchen with ease, show­ing them how to cook hearty, suc­cu­lent din­ners for the masses with­out break­ing a sweat, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously throw­ing to­gether de­li­cious ap­ple tarts and mak­ing per­fect cus­tard from scratch. Fair dues to him; in the first flush of mar­ried love he took my se­ries of culi­nary dis­as­ters on the chin and swiftly took over the cook­ing.

Ex­cept that the first time my moth­erin-law came for din­ner, I was anx­ious to prove my­self and cook a meal sin­gle­hand­edly. So I stood at the butcher’s counter watch­ing them cut­ting, quar­ter­ing, weigh­ing and slap­ping on wrap­ping pa­per with a con­sum­mate calm that dis­heart­ened me.

The woman ahead of me in the queue rat­tled off her re­quire­ments with a knowl­edge that I en­vied, bandy­ing about terms such as short loin, rib eye and flank with such a fa­mil­iar­ity she could have been chat­ting about the weather.

When it came to my turn, I pointed to what I wanted and hoped for the best. It was nice and lean all right, trim and ten­der, and it slid apart un­der my knife. But tast­ing it was some­thing else. One sliver and I needed a litre of cold wa­ter to quench my salty mouth. I had un­wit­tingly bought a piece of ham, which should have been boiled or baked, but cer­tainly not stuck in the oven to roast.

I’m glad to say I’ve picked up some ba­sic skills since then, but I’m still a fully paid up mem­ber of the tribe who be­lieves that life is too short to stuff a mush­room. I don’t see the point in spend­ing hours in scrupu­lous prepa­ra­tion, be it grat­ing and grind­ing, blanch­ing and mar­i­nat­ing, when the meal is scoffed in ten min­utes and all you’re left with is a gi­gan­tic pile of wash­ing up.

To my credit, how­ever, I cook on Sun­days. For the fam­ily at large. My hus­band peels and chops with­out break­ing a sweat and I shove things into the oven and move them around and re­mem­ber to baste, and hope for the best. And I haven’t poi­soned any­one yet or set the kitchen on fire. I love it be­cause it’s more an op­por­tu­nity for a re­laxed gath­er­ing around the ta­ble than any test of my culi­nary skills. When the fam­ily ar­rives, I take off my apron and tone down my flushed­from-the-oven face with a lit­tle foun­da­tion. And guess what, dear paragon of god­dess-like beauty – I don’t re­ally care if it’s the wrong shade.

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