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Thoughts and Analysis

Illustration: Joel Bentley

Jillian Towery, “The Kitchen Bitch”, Creative Non-fiction
Illustration: Joel Bentley

Sometimes when I am walking, normally travelling between classes, I create two-sentence narratives about myself. They often sound something like this: “My name is Jillian. I am such and such years-old and I (fill-in-the-blank-accomplishment/event-here).” Some of these sayings have included in the past: “just finished my first 10k jog,” “can parallel park a car in Washington D.C.,” “teach gifted kids creative writing,” “think I have met the man I am going to marry.” Today's narrative, as I was walking between classes, was: “My name is Jillian. I am 25 years-old, and I am married to a kitchen bitch.”

Let me explain. My new husband (let us call him Napoleon, not because of his stature, but because of his ambition to conquer things) who happens to work in the same office I do, had just corrected me on my food preservation technique. Rushing off to teach a class, I had left one corner of the celery container only half-closed. Napoleon, viewing this aberration, blocked my exit, gently removed the container from the fridge, and patiently explained how such an act could not only spoil the contents therein, but may result in spillage—causing him to forgo his anticipated celery stick with peanut butter snack. As I said, “My name is Jillian. I am 25 years-old, and I am married to a kitchen bitch.”

However, as in the course of all relationships, I am just as guilty as he. Our story begins in the 1980s: decade of shoulder pads, power suits, and the tail end of second-wave feminism. This decade also happened to be the one in which I was born, and as I played with my ice dancer, veterinarian, and CEO Barbies, my mother would pass her wisdom on to me. Her wisdom: good women don't resign themselves to becoming full-time housewives (c.f. slaves to their husbands) after marriage. Women who did so threw their lives away. And so, at age eight, I logically felt a sort of righteous indignation as I would make Kraft Dinner for my six year-old brother as he watched cartoons. Mashing the butter into the noodles, I swore to myself I would never marry a man who would make me cook and clean for him (as my brother apparently did that day). If a marriage was between two people, then both had to do the work.

This resolve worked for the most part, except when I moved to Montana for two years to attend a school made up of mostly young evangelical Christians. As many people do, I learned to adapt to this culture, which was very much unlike my own. In this case, I learned to cook. There, the best way to a man's heart, was to make a perfect pie. And so I learned to make pies—rolling out crusts, fluting edges, and designing small lattices or leaves to place on top. I also learned to cook meat, steam rice, and chop vegetables. However, all of my newfound cooking skills were not enough to acquire a man. I acquired a university degree instead.

I met Napoleon, six years after my failed pie baking experiment; I had recently graduated and had a promising future as a teacher. However, I had some reservations about him after our second phone conversation when I brought up the “v word”—vegetables. Napoleon had never really understood vegetables. His culinary expertise was rather, how shall I say, crude, and centered around what I considered a dirty word, “casserole.” Yes, Napoleon enjoyed his casseroles. I cringed and instantly saw our future lives—Napoleon lazing in front of the television while I created some sort of amalgamation of lard, baco bits, and Cheetos for our dinner. Did I mention we were both 300 lbs in this fantasy?

However, in spite of my hesitation, Napoleon continued to woo me with his wit and a remarkable culinary transformation. On our second date, he took me on a picnic, filling a basket with grapes, cheese curds, and marinated chicken, settling in a park where a jazz band played in the open air. One morning, he cooked me a vegetable omelet in my family's home in Pennsylvania, taking care of everything from chopping the spinach to doing the dishes. We listened to a public radio station out of New York City; the late summer leaves were lazily swaying with the breeze; I was beginning to fall in love.


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