On some Sundays, cooking beats football

D.L. Stewart, Dayton Daily News contributing columnist

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D.L. Stewart, Dayton Daily News contributing columnist

On a Sunday in which my favorite pro football team was not scheduled to embarrass itself on television, my good friend Bill asked how I planned to spend that afternoon.

“I’m going to cook,” I said.

“You COOK?” he replied in the same tone he might have used if I’d said I was going to spend the afternoon crocheting doilies. Not only did his reaction surprise me, it seemed a bit sexist. Some of the world’s best cooks have been men: Wolfgang Puck. Paul Prudhomme. Chef Boyardee.

Besides, I enjoy it. I like the grocery shopping, the slicing, the dicing and the stirring. And, if all goes well, the eating.

I don’t bake or prepare any food that requires precise measurements, extensive recipe-reading, or mistakes that can’t be corrected by adding more salt. Unless, of course, the mistake is that I added too much salt, in which case I can add more water. I avoid recipes that involve cream of mushroom soup, although I’m not a fanatic about that.

My repertoire is limited to manly foods that start with meat and have lots of garlic, but no known health benefits. One of my favorites is a chicken and dumplings recipe I created. I could eat my chicken and dumplings leftovers four or five days in a row, which probably is a good thing, because nobody else in my family will touch the stuff.

My wife has mixed feelings about me cooking. On the one hand, she’s happy she doesn’t have to do it. On the other hand, she’s not so happy about she calls the “mess” I make, which she defines as anything more than a drop of olive oil left on the stove or two tomato seeds on the countertop. If there were a Nobel Prize for spotless kitchens, my wife would win it every year. I do my best to clean up after myself, but I don’t seem to be getting the hang of it. Apparently it has something to do with using cloths and towels that have been washed more than once a month.

Admittedly, not everything I cook turns out perfectly. Recently, for instance, I tried to prepare scalloped potatoes like my mom used to make. They probably would have been great if they hadn’t sort of erupted out of the pan, sending billows of gray smoke into the kitchen and creating a thick layer of black crust on the bottom of the oven. The good news is that the crust probably isn’t anything that can’t be removed with a moderately powered jackhammer.

And cleaning the oven probably will be a lot more fun than watching my favorite pro football team.

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