“My wife cooks great Chinese food.” My husband could never resist saying this in front of other Chinese, especially people we invited for dinner.
Okay, I’ll confess, I make a mean mapo tofu. But I still considered his praise a little crazy. After all, I failed on the most basic measure of a Chinese cook — making steamed white rice.
I never admitted this before, probably because it leads to an unflattering thought — how could she possibly screw up steamed white rice? All right, let’s be clear here. I didn’t really screw it up; I just didn’t make it to my husband’s liking. And when your husband hails from a region of China known as the land of fish and rice, you’ve got a man with some high standards for a steamed bowl of white goodness. My rice — on the softer side, more like rice porridge — never cut it. Blame it on those six months I lived alone in Cleveland, Ohio and made extra-soft sticky rice for breakfast.
“Just imagine how much rice you’ll have when it’s cooked, and that’s how much water you should add,” John always used to say. I had no problems imagining molecule shapes in university-level organic chemistry. But faced with a rice cooker pot, I never got it right. (Damn that “needs more water” reflex.)
So I surrendered the rice cooker to John long ago, even as I handled the rest of the cooking at home. Why bother trying, when chances are he’s going to hate my rice anyhow?
Then came yesterday evening, when John needed to do some work in the department. I knew he wouldn’t be home until I finished dinner — or later. But our meal, curried cauliflower, wouldn’t be a meal without, well, you know.
“So I guess I have to make the rice?” I said.
“You see the tip of my finger? Just make the water on top of the rice no higher than that.”
So that evening, I rinsed the rice and added water until it was a “fingertip” above the rice. I then set the rice cooker on and waited for its click of judgment. When I finally looked under the lid, there it was — a steaming cooker filled with the most perfect rice I’d ever made, not too dry and not too soggy.
Too bad my husband came home too late to really appreciate it. He stumbled in almost two hours after I finished my curry, so I had to warm up the rice and curry.
Still, I couldn’t help but ask.
“So, how was my rice?”
Maybe I hoped for something more, because I secretly knew this was some of the best rice I’d ever made. But then again, he never called my rice “fine” before.
Fine rice? Admit it John, you loved it. 😉
Have you ever struggled to cook food the kind of food your boyfriend/girlfriend or wife/husband would love?