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Low on the hog.

He didn't expect his dear bride to take the vow of marriage with one hand on a cookbook, but neither did he expect to be served dowel rods passed off as breadsticks.

Coming into the kitchen from my morning labor of sanding a rusty paper clip, I said to my dear wife, "Where'd you get the dowel rods?"

"Those are breadsticks," she said. "I may have left them in the oven a tad long."

A tad! I couldn't make a dent in one of those things with my industrial set of dentures. Brutus, who has no trouble chewing kindling, took it out and buried it without bothering to try.

Now don't misunderstand. I love my wife as well as the next man. Loves his wife, perhaps I'd better add. And I certainly don't want to give the impression that she is totally unskilled with the skillet. If you should get that impression, that's your problem. I have enough problems of my own as it is.

It's not that I expected my bride to take the marriage vow with one hand on a cookbook or anything like that. But when the preacher said, "Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing..." I'm sorry, I'm confusing this with another ceremony, which is easy to do. But what I'm getting at, along with the vow of loving, honoring, and cherishing, there should be something about the basics of cooking, feeding, and catering. Catering to hubby's tastes, for one thing.

In all the confusion, it never occurred to me that the bride would be serving the dishes she prefers. If hubby doesn't happen to prefer them, tough. He is certainly free to serve up his own. Or to get his McMeals elsewhere.

My dear wife, for one horrible example-let me rephrase that: For one horrible example, my dear wife has a passion for liver and onions. Onions I'll go for. But I draw the line at eating the internals of an animal. I even have trouble with eggs. It's just the thought of where they've been, if you know what I mean. But when it comes to liver--and I quote from the American Heritage Dictionary: "Liver. A large compound tubular vertebrate gland that secretes bile .... "which is enough right there to turn my delicate taste buds to the wall.

One of my favorite dishes is Beans Arkansas. You know, beans, chips of crisp bacon, and onions. She doesn't care for Beans Arkansas. I made it once, in '43 or '44, to show her how. I've been waiting ever since.

She is big on tacos. I hate tacos. As I tell her, "You might as well save the shell and dump the stuff directly into my hand; that's where it's going to end up anyway." We have tacos often.

I like things well done. She likes fish still flopping and steak so rare I've seen cattle hurt worse and live.

To be fair (I'm not myself today), my dear wife's rare genes could have been inherited. I suspected this early on when, to decide if I was worthy of their daughter's hand, and accessories, the parents had invited me to Sunday dinner. When the platter of chicken finally arrived at my station and I attempted to spear a leg that had escaped the brunt of the cooking process, it shot off the platter and onto the floor.

Not being an avid reader of Amy Vanderbilt's etiquette Column at that time, it was up to me to decide whether to kick it under the table and take a stab at another piece or to rescue the thing and nonchalantly pick off the dog hair as if I'd done it a dozen times before. Fortunately, the dog came rushing over in time to resolve the issue for me.

How these genes for trichinosis heartburnosis, as they're known in medical circles, can be transferred to one daughter and miss the other one completely is "just one of those things," as geneticists will explain for a fee.

One daughter, who looks upon the can opener as the world's greatest invention, got off on the wrong gene at age four by making her dear daddy an oyster cracker sandwich. Two slices of unbuttered bread with a dozen oyster crackers painstakingly spaced inside. And as she stood proudly by, dear Daddy had to get the thing down, praising its taste at every bite. Dear Daddy couldn't whistle for the next three days.

Today, she is the one who cooks a turkey with no curiosity for what might be stored inside, like a cellophane sack of its internal organs. She is the same one who dumped a can of cherries into a store-bought piecrust only to discover after baking that there were two crusts, separated by an unsavory sheet of waxed paper. Her mother finds no fault in her.

Our other daughter, who follows a recipe to the 1/8th spoonful and baking time to the quarter-second, is regarded as a weirdo. To those who cook by the seat of their pants, the squandering of her money on a library of cookbooks it tantamount to investing in nose flute lessons at Julliard.

My dear wife, by contrast, figures if she comes within a half hour of the cooking time called for, she's in the ballpark. And if one garlic clove is good, three garlic cloves should be three times as good. I'm writing to the SmithKline Beecham people to inquire if they sell Tums in bulk.

Something else that failed to cross my cluttered mind at the' time I pledged alliance to my bride: when the wife goes on a diet, hubby goes on a diet right along with her. What he is served to sustain him is the same hare fare of lettuce and carrots, with a luscious hunk of raw cabbage for dessert.

When finally I noticed that my nose was beginning to twitch, I put my foot weakly down and grasped for something that would stick to my ribs. And do you know what that dear woman did? She made me a peanut butter pizza. It stuck not only to my ribs but to everything else on the way down.

Another little matter that came late to my attention: If she serves something to me that she doesn't serve to herself, I can depend upon its being at least four days old. "I just wanted to clean out a few things," is her explanation. And too often that also includes me.

After years of eating my dear wife's biscuits, I now take them for granite. You may remember me giving her a pair of safety shoes to wear in the kitchen when she is baking. Frankly, I'm trying to forget it. That's when I really put my foot in my mouth. (I could add that my foot would be tastier than some of the stuff I've eaten. But in deference to the stuff that lies ahead, I won't add it.)

Heaven knows I have watered my garden with the sweat of my brow to put the finest of foodstuff on the table. My stuff, unfortunately, doesn't arrive at the table without first going through the hands of the middlewoman. Did you ever hear of a carrot casserole? Or pickled beets so pickled they make your ears come together at first bite? How about potato salad made with yams? I'm thinking of installing a stomach pump right up there between the fire extinguisher and the smoke alarm.

Oh, I know her rebuttal. How about the time you soaked beet seed in cider to give the beets an apple flavor? Or how about your planting potatoes on a hill so they'd roll into your basket when you cut off the bottom of the row? And how about the stuff you bring in that wouldn't make hog swill? (I wish she'd rebut that sometime so I could come back with, "You oughta know, you've made enough of it.")

Okay, so maybe my vegetables don't come up to State Fair quality. Am I at fault for being tender-hearted? I just can't bring myself to thin those little fellers that have worked so hard to push through our biIliard ball clay soil. With two tiny radishes competing for the same spot, who am I to say this one lives, this one dies? One hour of making decisions like this can put a man on the couch for the rest of the day.

And is there anything more moving than two little carrots twined about each other? What difference does the eventual shape make? That's my closing argument-they're still 100 percent carrot.

My dear wife and I made up recently on our patio love seat, so called, while the sweat of my brow dried in the afternoon sun. In that subtle way she has of letting me know that I am fight and she is wrong, she came out with a box of cones and a half-gallon carton of frozen yogurt.

"It's black cherry, your favorite," she said.

As usual, I allowed her to make a black cherry frozen yogurt cone. But as I was eating the last of it, what I took to be a black cherry turned out to be a June bug.

With a great restraint, I said, "I'd much rather it had been a black cherry."

"I don't know how that got in there," she cracked. "But just like the yam salad, you didn't eat enough to judge."

The love seat has been vacant ever since.
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Title Annotation:wife's cooking; humor
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:1589
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