When I was in middle school, I watched the show “Home Improvement” and was smitten with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. He played the character of the middle child. I didn’t need wallpaper in my bedroom because cutouts of JTT’s face covered every inch. I was in love. He did not, however, feel the same way toward me. Never once did he write me back. Never once did he fly out to West Virginia in a helicopter and whisk me away as I dreamed he would – not even after I counted his freckles and sent him hand written, original poetry. In spite of his silence I faithfully read and clipped every JTT article. One morning my mom pointed out to me that the cast of Home Improvement was on the cover of The Parade, which is an insert in the Sunday Washington Post. I never really noticed The Parade before; but considering their intriguing content, not only did I peruse the insert that day, I continued to peruse it every week.
Eventually I started fixating on the weekly featured recipes. Initially I’m sure I dreamed of cooking these recipes for JTT; but once my crush for him faded, I began to dream more broadly about the future husband for whom I’d get to cook. And so, where some girls own a hope chest, I started a teeny, tiny scrapbook of recipes around the age of 13. You see, I had never met my husband, but I already loved him. I simply could not wait to lavish my creativity and culinary energy on the man who would one day take me as his wife. Now that might seem a little silly, dreamy, or creepy and obsessive. But, you see, I’m 50% Italian. And for Italians, if you love somebody you feed them. It’s as simple as that.
Then I met Brian.
Did you ever see the movie “Curly Sue”? Sue was a young girl who could spell long, difficult and complicated words because she had been taught how to do that. But no one ever taught Sue how to spell more elementary words like cat or dog. This was our dilemma.
One evening Brian came home from work and I was thrilled to present to him my very first slow-cooked meal ever. I made Caribbean Pork Chops. Brian looked at them warily, cautiously and then sighed, “Can’t you just make regular pork chops?”
“No. No, I cannot make ‘regular pork chops.’ My slow cooker didn’t come with a recipe for ‘regular pork chops.’ It came with a recipe for ‘Caribbean pork chops.’ You know, the more complicated kind of pork chops? The kind that required more time and for me – for the first time in my life – to cook with thyme-mince my own garlic-chop my own scallions-seed my first chili pepper-and-grate my own ginger-kind-of-pork-chops?” Unfortunately Brian didn’t eat anything made with thyme, garlic, scallions, chili peppers or ginger.
He also didn’t eat:
- Anything with honey dijon flavor
- Anything with barbeque flavor
- Mexican food
- Chinese food
- Indian food
- Loose meat (no sloppy joes or pulled pork, all meat had to be in tact)
- Potato Salad
- Butternut squash soup (that’s a WHOLE ‘nother story)
- Any pizza topped with a topping other than pepperoni
- and leftovers
It was a tough first year. I wanted to be his gourmet chef and he wanted a $.99 Totino’s frozen pizza. But I’m here to say that if you’ve ever doubted the existence of God, here is a modern day miracle: Today my husband, Brian Spears, not only eats ALL of the above, he cooks it for me, too! And not only does he cook it for me, he shops for all of the ingredients himself… with coupons. And did I mention that today he thinks Caribbean pork chops are delicious?
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