In the last few months of their marriage they try two new things: one month they do the Whole30 (takeaway: going off sugar and dairy and everything that makes anything worth eating for thirty days will not save your marriage, you’re welcome) and they subscribe to a meal-kit service and three nights a week she makes dinner. Let it be said: a meal-kit service is still legitimately cooking. It saves you the shopping. But it’s a full cooking situation. The ingredients come in a box and they do not cook themselves. Most meals have three components. Meat, vegetable, starchy thing. Per the recipe card, total time involved ranges from thirty minutes to fifty minutes including prep. Not noted on the recipe card: stress level. You get a hot-pepper symbol if it’s spicy but you don’t get a brain-explosion emoji if it’s extra stressful. So she breaks it down. She washes and preps the vegetables and puts them in bowls like you see on cooking shows or gets them ready on a pan to go into the oven. She puts together any of the sauces that she can have ready, another bowl. She preps the meat, puts that on a plate ready to go in the pan later. She goes back to her work. The husband gives her a heads-up about when he’ll be home, and she does the actual cooking accordingly. But even with instructions, the reality is that getting these things to all come out finished and hot at the exact same time is not an equation that can be calculated, and god bless you if you have the innate ability to do this, but this is the part that for her makes the whole endeavor completely unpleasant.
Plus thirty to fifty minutes is usually more like forty-five to seventy. This should be in the advertisements, frankly, at least in the fine print. For some of you, double the time. How does anyone find time to do this? How do people with children do this? This is the element that surprises her. She would rather go to the gym with this supposed extra time, and she doesn’t want to do that either. In theory she thought she had the time. Anyone could spend that much less time on the internet, couldn’t they? Her husband for sure thinks she has the time. In the afternoons, a lot of her work consists of reading, whether it’s reading student work or reading as part of being a writer. It turns out that time taken plus stress incurred of trying to get the three components hot at the same time plus pressure of wanting to please the husband equals a level of mental exhaustion that cuts into her work time above and beyond the thirty to seventy minutes. One time, as often happens, she doesn’t get the timing quite right, and she burns the mushrooms and onions just as the husband walks in, and she drops the hot pan, creating a small but permanent mark on the floor, the wood floor that her husband has laid in and finished himself. The wife, near tears, says I really don’t like cooking, and the husband is pissed about the floor, doesn’t say that in so many words, but his entire body reads I should tell her it’s okay, but I don’t want to. She messed up my floor.
Most of the meal-kit meals end up being pretty good, and the husband expresses gratitude to the wife for the effort, as well as for sitting down to dinner together with the wife, which they mostly only do if they go out or order in, which they do often enough but not every night. She has been happy to eat salad every night, hours before he gets home from work. She doesn’t like to eat right before bed, and he tends to be home from work later than she wants to eat and we don’t need to get too deep into how digestion works here but she likes to start winding down fairly early in the evening, maybe by eight, which is occasionally when these dinners are finished, at which time she likes to hang out in bed and he likes to sit on the sofa because he hasn’t been sitting there for most of the day, as she has, and why wouldn’t he want to enjoy all the rooms of his house.