1 family. friendly food. » The Newlywed Kitchen cookbook, interview with Lorna Yee

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When I first heard about the The Newlywed Kitchen cookbook, I joked that “If I had to write a newlywed cookbook, it would have ended with divorce, or murder.”

This week, H. (a.k.a, The Husband) and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary. While we make a pretty good team in most areas of life (we work hard on our relationship), we still need to figure out how to make a good team in the kitchen. I remember that once upon a time we used to cook together, side by side, and we got along well. We used to have fun doing so. But nowadays we rarely collaborate when it comes to cooking, and when we do share the kitchen floor, we end up stepping on each other’s toes. Our “solution” evolved to be that when H. cooks (on the rare occasions I let him), I have to step out of the kitchen, and vice versa. I would really like to go back to cooking together with him like we used to do nine years ago…

Recently, I had a chance to attend an event with Lorna Yee, the co-author of the The Newlywed Kitchen cookbook (published in May 2010). What caught my attention about the cookbook, even more than the good looking recipes, was its emphasis on couplehood and relationships as they are reflected and developed in the kitchen. The cookbook is designed to inspire couples to cook together and has food-love stories woven between the different chapters.

At the event, I couldn’t help but ask Lorna about how she shares her kitchen space with her husband. She was very kind and sweet with her reply and I wanted to inquire more. This is how the idea of interviewing her has budded. I asked Lorna and she agreed to answer a few more questions.

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A bit about Lorna Yee:

Lorna is a Seattle Magazine food writer. Her blog is The Cookbook Chronicles. Born and raised in Vancouver B.C. (Canada), she now lives in Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle, WA.

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1. Not all couples are interested in cooking together. What encouraging words would you say to them to give it a try?

A love for food is one of the things that brought my husband and me together, so for us, it is natural to want to prolong the special mealtime experience by preparing dinner together, too. If you’re not used to cooking with your spouse, it might seem unnerving to dive into a complicated recipe together. Instead, try baby steps: take a morning to explore a farmer’s market, or even just your neighborhood grocery store together. When you get back into the kitchen with your fresh vegetables and bread, why not divide up the tasks—perhaps one person can put together the salad, while the other makes garlic crostini and sets out a charcuterie or cheese plate. That way, you’re still doing things your way, but get a feel for what it’s like sharing the kitchen space with your spouse. Eventually, you might feel more comfortable giving up some control, and tackle a more complicated recipe together.

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2. There are couples who don’t know how to share the kitchen space without stepping on each other’s toes. What advice can you give them?

An important thing to remember is your spouse is not going to do everything exactly the way you do them—and that’s ok. This is a lesson my husband and I had to learn, too, given that we both love to cook and both have very strong ideas about the “right” way to truss a chicken, or make fried rice. A common thought among bloggers might be: “Well, I have to arrange the {insert ingredient} on the plate my way, because if I don’t, it’ll ruin my photo for my blog!” And sometimes, this sort of stress makes a person forget about living in the moment, and just enjoying the time he or she is spending preparing a meal. When you think about it, would you rather look at a pretty photo of a meal you meticulously arranged and executed 100%, remembering how it was later eaten in silence because feelings were hurt? Or would you rather remember sharing the bottle of wine, laughing over a little joke, and finally tasting the ragu the two of you collaborated on together? My husband and I are both strong-willed, and we did not always work perfectly together in the kitchen. But over the years, we’ve learned that complimenting (instead of criticizing) each other goes a long way in creating a wonderful evening, and strengthening our relationship.

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3. What dishes do you and your husband love to cook together?

My husband and I love cooking Chinese food together, since that is what we eat most at home. My family is from Guangdong and Shanghai, and his mom taught him how to cook Hunanese and Szechuanese food. So together, we’ve learned a pretty broad repertoire of Chinese dishes. When we first started dating, it was really fun to try new-to-us Chinese dishes that we hadn’t been exposed to before, given that our families cooked regionally. The first meal he cooked for me was about a month after we first started dating. He made a simple dish of ma po tofu (tofu and ground pork in a Szechuan peppercorn-flecked sauce), and Hunanese bacon with leeks. Since then, I’ve learned these two recipes and we prepare them regularly for casual weeknight meals.

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4. What kind of dishes do you and your husband prefer to cook separately, and why?

My husband has zero interest in baking, and I adore mixing up a gooey batch of brownies, kneading bread dough, or spreading homemade lemon curd in between layers of golden sponge cake. So I handle all the sweets and breads in the house, and he is content just to pick up a fork and dig in when it’s done. And I guess in true stereotypical fashion—he is much more comfortable in front of the grill than I am!

5. If you had such an experience, can you share a story about a time when you and your husband cooked together and it did not end well? What insight/s do you have about that experience?

My husband and I have different cooking styles—he is a “clean-as-you-go” kind of guy, and I’m content with letting the dishes pile up until the cooking is done. We’re celebrating our two-year anniversary next week, and I can honestly say it’s taken us all this time to finally learn how be more selfless, and how to try to accommodate each other’s preferences. I now try to remember to wash the cutting board and knife as soon as I am finished using it, but if I forget, he will wash them without nagging. He knows how I’m used to cooking, and he knows that I am trying. That is enough for him.

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6. What recipes in your cookbook would be easy for those couples who would like to practice their cooking-together skills?

My husband went to school in Italy for a year, so he has a particular fondness for the Italian meatballs recipe in The Newlywed Kitchen. The recipe can be found here.

There is only one Chinese recipe in The Newlywed Kitchen, because we wanted this cookbook to be more a resource for American home cooks. But this spicy, aromatic Taiwanese beef noodle soup is one of my favorite comfort food recipes, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to include it. Click here for the recipe.

Gluten-free? Shauna adapted one of my top “indulgences”—Buttermilk Onion Rings for those with celiac. If you don’t have celiac, simply substitute the gluten-free flours and xantham gum with plain all-purpose flour. Here’s the recipe.

If you are a beginner cook, the Samoa Blondies is one of the easiest dessert recipes in the cookbook. I simply adore them, and whip up a batch at least every couple of weeks! The recipe is here.

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Thank you, Lorna, for the insights and wise words as well as your lovely recipes!

There are so many recipes in the cookbooks that I’d like to try but the first one I plan to make is Lorna’s Triple-layer red velvet cake with bourbon cream cheese frosting. It is a true treat! I saw it—it was beautiful—and tasted it—it was delicious!–at a potluck I was invited to a few months ago. Lorna brought the cake and I remember it had such a delicate crumb and a luscious, but not too sweet, frosting . I’d like to make it to celebrate our anniversary (although it’ll have to be postponed by 1-2 weeks from the original anniversary date, but that’s life…).

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While working on this post, H. and I had a long talk about why we only rarely cook together these days. I won’t go through all the details—it was late at night, it was a 1-2 hours talk while we sat outside, covered in a blanket, looking at the stars from time to time. But in the end, we agreed that we both miss cooking together and decided to have a cooking date once a month. (Well, we are way busier these days then we were 9 years ago.)

But then, the other day—it was a spontaneous thing—we found ourselves in the kitchen, cooking. H. made his halibut with herbed breadcrumbs and I made side dishes and chopped herbs for him. We helped each other; it felt good.

I think that, even though we are not newlyweds, it’s never too late to start cooking together (again).

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Categories : Food books & Cookbooks



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