The Joy of (Someone Else) Cooking

My brother-in-law has a theory about distribution of responsibilities in marriage. He insists that division of labor happens early in the honeymoon phase and pretty much stays the same throughout the rest of the marriage, so his advice is that if there’s a job you definitely don’t want to get stuck with forever, do it poorly so your spouse will want to take over. I’ve never tried that trick with my husband but I have to admit that I really like it when my children gain skills which relieve me of some responsibilities, especially when they take pride in it being their own thing.

This is particularly true when it comes to cooking. I love to cook, but sometimes it’s nice to spread the joy. If I’m in the mood for chocolate chip cookies, I just ask Fritz if he wants to make some. Since chocolate chip cookies are his specialty (he has the recipe memorized, sings to himself as he cooks, and eats half the dough), he’s thrilled for the opportunity. Grub makes great cakes and omelettes and is always eager to share his skills freely.

It’s really quite nice. They get to show off their talents and I get to eat food I didn’t have to cook. Of course, if they’re not around or if they’re not in the mood to cook, I’m willing to step in. I’m quite capable. Except when it comes to Grub’s artisan bread.


Last year, when our friend Glen asked if he could crash at our house while he was in town for a few days, my husband jokingly said, “Only if you teach Grub how to make your bread…” Then a few days before his arrival, we received a few packages containing a recipe book and a Dutch oven. Glen claimed he needed the right tools to teach Grub the proper technique.


Since Glen’s visit and tutorial, family, friends, neighbors, and even his teachers have benefited from Grub’s bread making skills. The bread is perfect – crusty on the outside, light and chewy on the inside. This summer at a family reunion, Grub made a loaf each day, each devoured within minutes.


One morning, he wasn’t home when I wanted him to get some dough rising. I figured I had the cookbook right there. How hard could it be? A few hours later, he returned and was shocked that I had presumed to make the bread without him. He inspected the dough and declared that I had done it wrong. I argued, “You can’t tell just by looking. It’s not even done rising. Besides, I’ve probably made hundreds of loaves of bread in my lifetime. I think I can handle it.” He rolled his eyes and muttered something under my breath, probably something about my imminent failure.

When it was time for the second rise, I checked on the progress and realized that there had been none. Nothing had happened. The dough hadn’t risen. And worst of all, Grub had been right. I threw away the evidence before he could find it and gloat.

The one benefit of my failure is that I don’t have to make the bread. I just sit back and wait for him to serve me, and he gets heaps of praise. It’s win-win, really. Except sometimes he’s not around when I really need bread. Or he’s not in the mood to make it. Plus, he’s not going to live at home forever. If he’s going to grow up and move away, I need to have the skills to be self-sufficient without him. I needed to swallow my pride and have him teach me how to make the perfect loaf.


Under his tutelage, I succeeded this time around. Look at this beauty – perfection, inside and out!

The thing about this bread is that it takes a really long time. The first rise alone lasts 12-18 hours. So if you want bread for lunch, you have to make the dough before going to bed the night before. And, as Glen insisted, you really do need a Dutch oven to do it right. Other than that, the only other ingredients are bread flour, salt, water and yeast.

I’d give you the recipe (for all the good it will do you without Grub there to poke your dough and make suggestions like, “More water. Now a little more flour. Now some more water. Flour. Okay, that looks good.”) but Grub insists it must remain a secret. That’s how he wields his power, I guess.


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