When Freddie and I first got together, nearly 21 years ago now, we didn’t give a lot of thought to things like meal planning. We went out a lot, and he cooked for me now and then, but for the most part, we were in restaurants for much of our courtship.
When we moved to Indiana, we kept up that habit. It was easy then – we lived in an apartment the size of a NYC city block and paid $400/month for it. We were fucking loaded (living off grad school loans and my three jobs). Then we moved to New Jersey and things changed. We downsized from a fairly palatial spread to a teeny tiny garden apartment for more than twice the rent. He went to work and so did I, but money was… different for us. We had to eat at home a lot more.
Enter: Jamie Oliver. You know him better as The Naked Chef. Right around the time Freddie and I got married, I acquired the first Naked Chef cookbook. It was a revelation – instead of a rigid list of ingredients and instructions, his book encouraged the reader to trust their instincts and wing it, when necessary.
Now, THAT is how I like to cook. None of this measuring bullshit for me! A handful of this, a pinch of that, extra garlic, more butter, cook until it’s done. How long? UNTIL IT’S DONE.
And so, Jamie Oliver became a very real and important presence in our marriage.
Fast-forward sixteen years – Freddie is working full-tilt, 25 hours a day. Jillian is in school and basketball and Scouts and cello and Hebrew school and and and and and and and all of the busy-ness that a good suburban Jew kid gets up to. I myself am back in school because I have too much free time and money, apparently.
Through it all, Jamie Oliver has been my go-to, my godsend, my guru. I have 11 of his books and they all show signs of heavy use: tears, grease stains, spatters, post-it notes sticking out all directions. They are my love and my life and if the house ever catches fire, those are the books I’m gonna save. Luckily, they’re near the front door.
This semester promises to be a challenge in almost every way. My classes don’t get out until afte r4PM every day, and most after-school activities for Jillian start around 6. It takes me about 45 minutes to get home, which means I have about a half-hour to get food on the table for people. Thanks to Jamie, I can do this. His book “Meals In Minutes” promises that I can get a full meal (plus dessert, bitches) on the table in about a half-hour and JAMIE DOES NOT LIE. In sixteen years of cooking his recipes, he has let me down only once (some chorizo soup thing that everyone hated). Without him, things would look very different in my house, that’s for sure.