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Chuck Dressler offered many great recipes in his 2011 Talk of the Table column, ending all his articles with his trademark “As always, enjoy the cookin’ and then the eatin’!”

November 2011

Thanksgiving is the one time Chuck Dressler does not cook. Instead, he offers his David Letterman-like spin on enjoying the holiday.

Boiled Water

10. Watch competitive or professional cooking shows together

   You’d best do some prescreening lest you kill the goose before it lays any eggs at all . . . let alone a golden one. Shows like Hell’s Kitchen or Top Chef are too negative to stimulate a man to venture into the kitchen for other than a beer. Why? First, because there are few, if any, recipes that can be tried at home. Second, there’s a negative connotation of watching someone bust their tail creating a dish from surprise ingredients like squid ink or geo-duck and then get bounced off the show. Stay away from shows like Diners, Drive-ins and Dives lest you wind up on a cross-country search for the largest hamburger in the USA (Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, in case you’re interested). Shows with Alton Brown, the Barefoot Contessa, or Rachel Ray are a better bet . . . or any show that involves a barbecue. Bobby Flay is a good choice here.

9. Suggest that you both get into the kitchen

   The point is to stimulate the I-can-help theory. Start with allowing hubby do some chopping or mixing and then graduate him to a single dish. This will allow him to share in the credit for a well-done meal. More on this later.

8. Teach your husband how to cook

   This conjures up memories of teaching my daughters to drive - or maybe I’m not long on that key ingredient called patience? Regardless, I suggest mentoring as opposed to teaching. Be helpful and not critical. Follow the training adage of “tell me, show me, let me.”

7. Encourage your husband to make his own variations of recipes

   The downside here is you find yourself saying things like, “Well, this is interesting!” Taste, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. If your husband is into heavy seasoning (salt and pepper loaded on before the dish is tasted) or spiced-up dishes, then you and your guests could be in for a surprise. There are two rules in my kitchen: 1) Follow the recipe the first time a new dish is tried; and 2) No experimenting on company.

6. Allow the barbecue to be a form of cooking

   Allow this? Come on! Humans have been throwing raw meat on the fire since a chunk of mastodon fell off the drying rack. Harvard biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham dates the breakthrough in human evolution to a moment 1.8 million years ago, when, he conjectures, our forebears tamed fire and began cooking. That makes barbeque a form of cooking! And a great one as long as you move beyond holiday fare like burgers and hot dogs. Remember last month’s Oktoberfest chicken? Have a look at this picture-perfect dish and know this is as close as I’m getting to a Thanksgiving Turkey.

5. Be supportive and avoid complaining when the food he cooks isn't perfect

   Here’s the second most important tip in the article. Nothing will dissuade the budding chef from returning to the kitchen more than having his dishes criticized. When he asks, “How does it taste?” respond with, “What do you think?” as opposed to giving your honest opinion.

4. Go grocery shopping together

   Have a menu and make a list! You do not want a cavalier approach to meal ingredients. You are not wandering the aisles in search of things that might come in handy someday. Have him read about how to select the freshest produce, the correct cut of meat, or the proper fish; then charge him with the task of selection. And when things are not quite right, remember #5.

3. Make the kitchen a more interesting place to be

   I see the point of a distraction like music knowing that, “Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast.” But TV is way too distracting. He needs to be paying attention, especially if he’s got a sharp knife in his hand.

2. Make a timetable for taking turns or for joint cooking nights

   Balance the schedules by taking turns cooking. If hubby has a busy day or an early evening meeting, it’s not wise to schedule him in the kitchen unless you want the evening’s fare to be Bubba Burgers or boxed pizza. You want the man to learn to cook and that takes time and the right frame of mind.

   And the number one step for getting your man to do more cooking? Drum roll, please.

1. Discover what he does best and praise him lavishly

   Offer up praise in front of others. Tribute once received makes it hard to ‘chicken out’ the next time around. But be careful what you wish for or you could find yourself saying, “I've created a monster!” The guy could even start writing a monthly cooking article.

   While not on the wikihow list, I suggest following the KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) method. Don’t start with exotic dishes involving hours of preparation. Start with something like the recipe below from the Heavenly Tastes of Holy Trinity by Pastor William H. Martin, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Marietta, Georgia (1989).

BOILED WATER

Pour specified amount of water in a pot large enough to hold water.

Turn stove top on high.

Allow adequate time for water to boil.

After boiling, turn stove off.

Allow handles of pot to cool before handling.

Use hot water, as recipe requires.

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