Writing at the Kitchen Table
If you want to concentrate, do not sit at the table while your husband cooks.
I am sitting at the kitchen table trying to write and listening to my husband talk to himself. “Prep the vegetables and marinate the chicken in red wine and brandy,” he says. I look up and give him the eye, meaning: hush — I am working. He says, “This is Julia Child’s recipe.” He is excited.
It is my own fault that I am distracted since I am writing at the kitchen table. When the kids and I started “working from home,” I instituted a new rule: no working at the kitchen table. It is not fair to sit in AP Gov or Geometry or Speech & Debate and expect that no other family member wants some cereal from the pantry or almond milk from the refrigerator. I tell my kids that if they are in Zoom class and need to concentrate, please attend class from the desks in their bedrooms.
Right now, I am breaking my own rule. “I didn’t know the chicken had so much skin on it,” my husband mumbles. I want to give him the stink eye but I don’t want to look up in case he sees it as an opportunity for conversation. I keep my head down and try to hold onto the string of thoughts I was typing.
My husband is cutting up chicken thighs. “How’s the writing going?” he asks. I think about moving to the office but my son and youngest went for a bike ride. It seemed nice of me to sit with him while he cooks. As he mumbles, “Three cups of red wine. Here’s two…three…and then the brandy,” I consider going to look for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
I do not require complete silence to write. As a writer mom, I would never have written anything over the last ten years if I required a quiet environment. But it is still distracting to listen to my husband outline steps to a Julia Child recipe out loud while I am trying to concentrate. “Two cups of chicken stock,” he mumbles. I hear the hum of the electric can opener.
Writers who need complete silence would never make it in my house. When I write, my dog sits at my feet and barks or snorts or gets up and down ten times for me to open and close the French doors so he can go in and out of the back yard. My kids call frequently to ask what’s for dinner, or how late can they stay out, or can I help them with an essay when they get home? My husband is usually at work but today is Sunday. His mumbling increases as the steps in Julia Child’s recipe get more complicated. I hear repeated sighs.
He lifts the lid of the giant pot sitting on the stove, peers in, and mutters, “Jesus.”
I know I shouldn’t but I look up and ask, “What are you making?”
“Coq au vin,” he says and smiles.
I love that my husband loves to cook. Although I do most of the heavy mealtimes, when he gets the urge, he makes vegetable mélange, or zucchini and garlic soup, or coq au vin from Julia Child’s recipe. I watch him leaning over the counter and studying the printed-out paper. He pours some olive oil into the pot, sprinkles in salt, and mutters, “Oh.”
The timer on the oven starts to ring. The kids get home and want to know what’s for dinner. The dog nudges my leg with his wet nose and my sister-in-law texts about dropping off a missing black, puffer jacket. I look up and watch my husband dip a spoon into the pot. He takes a taste then moves his head back and forth. I hear him mumble something about more salt.
I am glad I didn’t relocate to the office. Yes, it is nice to be alone and to type and concentrate and let the flow of words come without mumbles. But I like to watch my husband’s technique. And something is starting to smell good.