Cooking as a Couple: 10 tips

Cooking as a Couple: 10 tips

Even for people who love to cook, cooking as a couple can be a uniquely unappealing proposition. Many couples find the kitchen too crowded, the opinions too many, the timing too tight, to share the reins with someone else. Becoming a well-oiled machine in the kitchen takes practice, patience, and strategy. We've found it well worth the effort. We've been been cooking and eating together for over 10 years now, and since we have just about a month left before we leave our galley kitchen in Pittsburgh for Haiti, we thought we'd share the top 10 things we've learned about cooking together as a couple:

  1. Divide and conquer. When we are both equally responsible for a dish, the result is inevitably frustration.Through trial and error, we have learned to avoid this by picking a lead for each dish. With one person in charge, the other takes the supporting role and follows their lead.
  2. Cook to your strengths. While we both love food and cooking, neither of us is good at (or enjoys) all types of cooking. Paul is a genius with meat, but sometimes feels uninspired with vegetables. Likewise baked goods involving yeast stress me out. We have learned to operate on a "consult system," if I am making a meal that has a meat component, I ask Paul to cook that part.
  3. Eat food someone else made.  Perhaps counterintuitive, but an important one for us. Since dating in college we have tried to make time for food dates each week. Meals cooked by someone else, whether in a restaurant, or a home, help keep us from feeling burn-out in the kitchen.
  4. Cook for guests. This is a double whammy. The positive reinforcement of a jointly cooked meal shared with guests is a great feeling, and it also inspires more regular and creative cooking. 
  5. Shop together.  When we're in a cooking rut, but don’t feel like going out to eat, we go on a shopping date to our local fish market, butcher, or cheese shop for protein inspiration and create a meal around one item. These unplanned dates, centered around a beautiful, fresh protein or produce have resulted in some of our best meals... and occasionally our worst, but that's another story.
  6. Cook to the other persons’ palate. There’s nothing more gratifying than making food that is enthusiastically received. 
  7. Eat local. Before we got our CSA box (Community Supported Agriculture), trying to decide what to buy at the grocery each week could lead to repetitious meals. For those of your unfamiliar, a CSA is a weekly produce box that you receive through the growing season with a beautiful assortment of local produce. Having stunningly fresh produce is a great guide for seasonal meal planning and nudge to get in the kitchen on lazy weeknights to experiment with unfamiliar produce.
  8. Freeze leftovers for lunch. Leftovers can be good, but they can also be depressing, boring and uninspired. In our early marriage, leftovers were a source of contention, I didn't want to eat leftover dinner of the same stew that had tasted only mildly delicious the first time, and Paul was determined not to let food go to waste. We found a good compromise.  With a few exceptions, we freeze almost all of our (freezable) leftovers in ramekins for work lunches. It’s an easy way of having filling and hot lunches and eliminates coming home to the dreaded 5th night of leftover beans.
  9. Make a list. We have a blackboard in our kitchen with a list of our CSA produce and other perishable fruits and veggies. This way, we can always see what we have on hand for meals.
  10. Get inspired by travel. When we travel, whether in the U.S or abroad, we like to sign up for cooking classes. We also read a pile of cookbooks before we go, and buy our favorites after the trip. It’s a fun joint project and a common way we can both connect to the places we visit.