A Manly Man’s Guide to the Domestic Arts (Part 1)

Home life as we understand it is no more natural to us than a cage is natural to a cockatoo.                                                                                ~ George Bernard Shaw

What would’ve happened to Paleolithic man had he decided to stay in the cave all day long lightly braising mammoth chops?  The women would’ve had to hunt mammoth; and you know how women are.  Instead of just driving the furry buggers over a cliff, they would have enticed their mammoth into a primitive barn stall, fed it leftovers, washed and curried it, and tied garlands of rawhide ribbons and flowers in its fur. Then, the next time you wanted to lightly braise some mammoth chops for the big game, the women would scream, “Kill Muffin?! You beast! How could you?”  and start to cry. Before you know it, you’re starving, miserable, and sewing drapes for Muffin’s stall.

Cooking, housework, and home repair for that matter, are not natural instincts for former longtime bachelors such as myself.  To put that in proper perspective, any day that I can manage to get my pants on is a good day.  Now, I wouldn’t say that I’m lazy or slovenly, it’s just that I’m not very skilled in the domestic arts.  It’s certainly not where I typically excel.  I’m a complete and utter idiot when it comes to tools and appliances.  In fact, I used my Dirt Devil back in my old bachelor pad approximately zero times; and that’s discounting that lost drunken weekend where I woke up Sunday morning to find weird hickey marks all over my body.  I’ll even go on record right now by saying that cooking and cleaning are, in fact, women’s work.  It’s just more, well, instinctual.  Cooking and cleaning just doesn’t satisfy a man’s strong masculine hunter/killer instinct.  Not even close!

Nowhere encoded in our male DNA is the instinctual desire to accessorize or housekeep. We hunt, hump, and from time to time, “tinker” with stuff. At no time do we feel the need to dust, do the dishes, or fold the laundry.  Hey, who am I to argue with thousands of years of social conditioning and domestic evolution anyway?  Hey, if the apron fits.  However, being twenty months into my domestic relationship with Kelly, well, housework might just be becoming easier and more understandable by means of osmosis.  It has become more of a learned behavior as opposed to an instinctual one.  After all, a man can only be nagged about stuff for so long before he is finally compelled to do something about it.

Sure, sure, there is the belief that all men are handy and inventive.  MacGuyver made the world to believe that he could build a swamp buggy out of an elastic band, a pencil eraser, and an overripe cantaloupe; and in doing so gave birth to the notion of an advanced, adaptable, technologically gifted uber-man.  But the real truth of the matter is that, without some guidance, we dudes couldn’t prepare a simple casserole if our lives depended on it.  At least I couldn’t.  And where this wasn’t a necessarily a problem when I lived on my own, now that I live with my girlfriend this is a bit more of a touchy subject.  For example, whenever the unsavory topics of cooking or cleaning happen to come up, I’m sure Kelly senses my imminent fear the way a King Cobra might sense the panicked heartbeat in a nervous Kangaroo Rat.

So to ensure survival, the first obstacle for a newly reformed bachelor making the brave foray into the final frontier of domestic partnership is to overcome that of the dreaded kitchen.

Unfortunately, thanks to numerous scientific researches, it is now accepted that one cannot live on take-out pizza alone.  So unless you want to offer your loved one a Bouillon cube to suck on for dinner very evening, you will eventually will have to develop some skill, no matter how trivial or mundane in order to survive.  To ensure that survival, the first obstacle to overcome for the consummate bachelor is that of the kitchen.

First you have to start with the essentials. A bachelor needs a fully equipped kitchen like he needs a hole in the head. Usually, he will just keep just these essentials on hand:

  • Buck knife
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Box of Band-Aids
  • Bottle of Jack Daniels
  • Alka Seltzer
  • Duct tape
  • A long stick
  • An empty can of baked beans (preferably Heinz)

With these few items, any self-respecting bachelor can prepare a four-course meal as well as heal from it afterwards.  However, once you move in with your partner you will need to become familiar with such strange and random implements as whisks, ladles, slotted spoons, cheese graters, garlic presses, vegetable peelers, potato mashers, and other such needless kitchen utensils that typically only confuse the preparation process. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that you can substitute an old dress sock in place of a colander if you really need to, but your honey will probably think otherwise.

The next obstacle to overcome for the newly reformed bachelor manly man is that of the actual cooking process itself.  Never mind learning to use all those fancy ass kitchen utensils, just understanding most recipes, not to mention the detailed cooking directions  provided on the backs of the package itself, is like trying to translate ancient Greek.  In the past, I’ve seen supposedly “easy to prepare” dishes that would require me to decipher and follow a set of coded instructions that involved complex calculations that would confuse Steven Hawking.  That’s not cooking – that’s high school Calculus!  More correctly, this is called “baking” and real men don’t bake.  Don’t be lured in.  Leave the cupcakes and angel food cake to the women.  Trust me.

However, as it turns out, you don’t have to be Gordon Ramsey to follow most reasonable recipe directions.  As a bachelor, you just had to make sure you have access to a telephone with over a hundred pre-programmed fast food restaurants on the automatic dial instead.  I found that learning to pre-program all those numbers in your Nokia was far easier than trying to understand the preparation instructions on a box of Hamburger Helper.  In times when you couldn’t simply order out, the microwave was your best friend.  However, in time with a little practice, you will learn how to use the more complex and confusing appliances like the stove, the blender or, heavens forbid, the dish washer.

In the beginning though, if you really insist on preparing meals for your sweetheart yourself, I recommend forgetting about the kitchen altogether and taking everything outside to the Barbecue. Outside, the tables are turned and we men are in our natural element.  There’s simply nothing that comes more natural to bachelor men than grilling meat over an open fire.  Just crack open a beer, throw some raw flesh on the grill, and stare and poke at it until it’s sufficiently burned.  There’s nothing you can’t barbecue.  Shit, you could probably grill the hell out a bowl of Cheerios if you were so inclined.  And the best part is, no matter how it turns out, your girlfriend will be duly impressed.  Heck, you might even get lucky afterwards.  The only added tip I could really recommend here should you choose to take this route would be to take careful consideration of grilling under low overhanging tree branches, awnings, or eaves troughs. And remember, spilling, or purposely adding your beer to whatever it is you’re barbecuing will only enhance the dish.  Beer is the manly man’s elan vital.

God Help Me.

(to be con’d…)

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