The Ultimate Culinary Con

pregnant while cooking

It dawned on me recently what a scam I’ve had going on for years, as someone who loves to cook. Division of labor in my house has been peaceful, actually joyful, as my husband is always happy to eat homemade food, and the excuse of preparing a meal has gotten me out of vacuuming, doing taxes, organizing, washing dishes, and countless other chores that I find torturous, but that, in value added to the home, my husband somehow equates with cooking.

The ludicrousness of what I’m getting away with was raised to new levels one weekend recently, when my in-laws were visiting from out of town. They had come to help my husband prepare the house for our baby, due in a month and a half. This latter fact, of course, exempted me from any cleaning or painting duties, as first-time pregnancies are often kindly indulged in this way; yet the fact that I was planning a few meals seemed to suggest that I was ready for canonization. “We can run to the store for you, if you get tired,” my husband offered, looking particularly tired himself in his paint-speckled glasses. But I bravely forged ahead.

As the rest of the team sanded woodwork and stripped old paint, I was tasting imported buffalo mozzarella and inhaling the perfume of fresh basil at Wegman’s. As a patch of ceiling unexpectedly came down on their heads, I serenely simmered tomato sauce that I would later turn into a seafood stew. As they ran out of supplies and made the umpteenth trip to Lowe’s, I sat at the kitchen table, listening to NPR and paring artichokes. In the few moments that I put my feet up with a glass of cranberry juice, reading the paper and guiltily listening to the huffing and puffing taking place upstairs, I was encouraged by my father-in-law, who passed through the living room, still wearing his ventilator. “Good—you should be resting!” he said.

We sat down to dinner late that night, the three of them completely spent and ravenous. They looked at the food with the gratefulness of Dickens-style orphans that had been invited to the king’s banquet. “To the cook,” they cried, as they raised their glasses to toast me. “No, to YOU guys,” I said sheepishly, hardly feeling praise-worthy after the day I had just had—and more importantly, after the day I had just been spared.

Seafood stew for 4

Sauté 3 smashed garlic cloves in a large, wide saucepan in a nice large puddle of olive oil over medium-low heat until bubbling; keep turning as necessary to cook as long as possible without browning. Add 3/4 cup white wine and raise heat to medium; simmer until wine reduces a bit and becomes cloudy. Add 3 cups diced tomatoes and simmer until saucy (it will look sort of dry when it’s ready). Taste and add salt as necessary.

Add 8 scallops, simmer for a few minutes until they start to turn milky. Add 1/2 lb small shrimp and 1/2 lb squid, cut into rings and tentacles. Stir and cook until everything looks mostly done. Finally, add 2 dozen scrubbed clams, raise heat to medium-high, and cover pot. Stir occasionally. When all clams have opened up, serve with chopped fresh parsley over buttered pastina.

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