Every relationship has its milestone moments—the ones that not only change the course of one’s life but also—perhaps even more significantly for a chef—change the look of one’s kitchen.
Yes, I did it. I made the ultimate sacrifice for love this past weekend as I bade a fond farewell to my beloved deep red Bertazonni six-burner range—and relinquishing total control of my kitchen—moved in with my fiancée, Jim.
We’d decided on the plan months before, and for the past few weeks I’ve been clearing out the old: organizing and packing up a life lived 16 years in one place. And then came moving day. In a blink of an eye every knife, pot, pan, bowl, spatula, whisk, and tea accoutrement was packed away out of sight, only to reappear hidden deep inside a box stacked high in the middle of what was to be their new home–at least for some of them. Ah, mergers! Unlike our previous cohabitating experiences with our first spouses (when we were each young and less encumbered with stuff), Jim and I faced the daunting task of combining our respective homes into one.
Figuring out which items get to stay (whose strainer is in the best condition and who loves their popcorn maker more) proved to be mostly fun and relatively quick. Except for one breakdown moment when I was surrounded by newspaper shreds and a dozen empty boxes (with five more left to unpack and absolutely no space left to put what was inside), the kitchen merger and organization day went well.
And then it came to the matter of the food. Remember when you first start dating someone how everything the new beloved does seems adorable, how their little habits look quaint? Remember how you may have assumed that the Chex Party Mix you found in his/her pantry must have been leftover from some long-ago soiree? How it never occurred to you that a certain sugar- and chemical-laden item would be part of your beloved’s daily ritual? Yes, well, once again assuming comes with its downside.
As I stood staring at the Chex Party, inorganic ketchup and relish jars, the big box of store-brand cheese, I considered my options. I could:
A) Toss it into the trash can and bathe in the feelings of self-righteous victory. (“Oops, honey, sorry—there just wasn’t enough room for all your poison!”)
B) Hide it all in the back of the cabinet and pretend it doesn’t exist (enter the opportunity to NOT have an important conversation and see the results).
C) Practice the real meaning of the word “compromise” and employ a little of my personal “trading up” technique.
I had always despised the word compromise. To me it sounded like a two-sided defeat, one in which neither party feels truly satisfied and we simply agree to disagree. Yuck. Then my darling fiancé told me the meaning, based on its Latin root. Compromise, it turns out, can be translated into “mutual promise,” or as Jim put it, “together we promise.”
Now THAT I can do. In fact, not only can I do that, I really want to do that! So how does one find a mutual promise? One thing that I knew would not be allowed into our mutual promise was any sort of judgment or fear. Instead, I decided that I would bring into our kitchen compromise the same elements I’ve brought into other aspects of our relationship: clarity of values and openness of heart.
I shared with Jim that I highly value purchasing and consuming only local or organic dairy and animal products and chemical-free foods. Jim shared with me that he values staying within a budget as well as how much he loves the spicy goodness of the wasabi nuggets in his party mix. We laughed and, as usual with Jim, any thought that I would have to take a hard stand to get what I wanted faded quickly. We decided that our compromise—our mutual promise—was to honor each other’s values, as well as allow each other’s little quirky joys, with an open heart.
Together we decided to trade up most of our dairy and meat to local, organic, or natural options (and consuming less to stay within budget). We agreed to trade up all condiments to the natural versions except those that hold a special allure for Jim or his son. As for the party mix with wasabi nuggets, it gets a prime location in the pantry— and I get to smile every time I see Jim take a big handful, knowing that our “mutual promise” is alive and well.
It turns out that I love the feeling of compromise. Who would have thought that Chex Party Mix would give us an opportunity to practice open-hearted joy? It seems to have hit the spot.
I’d love to hear your stories of kitchen compromises: What mutual promises do you and your family hold?