Food Fights: I Love You But I Hate Your Cooking | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 813
June 13, 2024

Food Fights: I Love You But I Hate Your Cooking

Food Fights: I Love You But I Hate Your Cooking

Forget the bedroom: the kitchen is where relationships are made and broken. Journalist Ella Quittner reveals the many ways the kitchen causes problems in our love lives, and what psychologists say we can do about it. Plus, listeners call in with their own culinary feuds; writer Crystal Wilkinson recalls the kitchen ghosts and family recipes of her Appalachian childhood; and we make Pakistani-style Potato Stuffed Naan at home.

Questions in this episode

"I’ve been trying to make rhubarb scones but I can’t quite get the batter ingredients right. How should I fix that?"

"Why don’t baking recipes use internal temperature as a measure for doneness?"

"Why is The Grateful Dead the perfect musical soundtrack to cooking in the kitchen?"

Screen Shot 2024 06 13 at 8 56 05 AM

Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio and I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Today we're cooking up trauma journalist Ella Quittner shares the biggest kitchen battles we have with the people we love, and why we have them at all.

Ella Quittner: Is it that I don't want you to get involved with my meal prep, because I don't like the way it feels when you try to exert control over things that I haven't asked for help with? Or is it I feel really stressed about sharing space with you? And now you're using my kitchen aid and I feel like I need to helicopter chef over you while you use it because you might break it just like you break everything because you messed up my closet when we started sharing. Like is it that?

CK: Food fights at home that's coming up later in the show. But first, it's my interview with writer and poet Crystal Wilkinson. Her memoir is called Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts. It's an ode to growing up black in Appalachia. Crystal's family has lived in the small town of Indian Creek, Kentucky for five generations. Crystal welcome to Milk Street.

Crystal Wilkinson: Thank you. It's good to be here.

CK: You wrote, “sometimes the dead appear in my kitchen”. Is that just memories of grandparents and people cooking. Is it something more than that?

CW: Well, that's a hard question to answer because I think in some ways, it's it's both. I think it is memory but you know, I think memory in some ways can become tangible, you know, often talked about when I'm especially like, if I'm kneading dough, or I'm doing something with my hands, you know, I look down and muscle memory, which I think is somehow ancestral memory takes over and I I see my grandmother's hands doing the same motions, because I watched her so carefully.

CK: Yeah, that's an interesting answer because I always think about, you know, people we've lost in what remains after they're gone. And people say, well, it's just memory. But that's a pretty powerful thing, right?

CW: Yeah. I mean, I think it's in the body. And you know, I felt the same during the pandemic when I was gardening. Like, there's a certain way my grandmother hoed, or my grandfather pitched hay, so I think that I have those same movements, which is part of the lessons learned, but I can see them in those movements.

CK: You talked about slavery. But you talk about small towns slavery. Just describe from your own family history, what, what that was like,

CW: Yeah, I mean, I think especially what rural slavery looked like on a small farm. You know, in my family's case, the more wealthy part of the white ancestry of my family who were enslavers had up to 20 slaves. And then the smaller farms might mean that you have one or two people that you have to work alongside with to put out a crop.

CK: And then I didn't realize this happened but after the Civil War, sometimes land was deeded to people who had been enslaved. You said the Wilkinson’s, your family got land along Indian Creek Road when they were freed. Is that right?

CW: Yes, that's right. You know, and don't get me wrong, there was still always an issue of power and who was in control between the enslaved and the enslaver. But yeah, that's how my family got some of the beginnings of the property that was owned was for it to be passed down. And by that point, the families were commingled. And many of those children were the enslavers children too. So, we're talking about familial ties.

CK: You write, there is always a squirrel or rabbit, a bucket of fish, a chicken with feathers, a hogshead and so, growing up, there was a lot of game around.

CW: Yeah, I was just, you know, I think I was my grandparents, I think thought I was strange, because even though I always grew up there, it wasn't like, I wasn't accustomed but I was always horrified and disgusted every time like, ahh, you know, because mainly because I had named all the all the animals but there was always something you know, I'd come home from school and there'd be a grandfather would gig frogs or kill squirrels or a whole hogshead in a big galvanized tub sitting in the middle of a table or covering all four burners on the stove.

CK: So, sorghum, you said, your grandfather made sorghum in a mill across from the house. So, you press it to get the juice out and boil the juice down, is that the basic method?

CW: Yeah, yeah. And I just remember how green it was almost like pawns gum green. It was just really bright green, and then you'd watch it thick. And he had these huge paddles that he made that he would skim the top off with, until it turned this deep, beautiful amber color, you know, and I miss these things after all of my oohing and awing about hog killing time, I spend some time now trying to find a hog killing and so I can. So, I can see that again. And the same with sorghum making. Its work, of course, but there's an art to it. I think that that people aren't doing anymore.

CK: Someone said to you, I guess they were feeding you when you didn't like the food. And they said to you eat it or die. Who was, who said that to you?

CW: Oh, that was my, my aunt Lo, she's 87 now, and I was interviewing her about foraging. And when I had talked to her, I had just fixed a mess of dandelion greens. And I thought, oh, Lord, I don't like these like there's a bitterness to it. But I mixed them with some other greens and, and I remember having polk my grandmother would mix them in with the turnips and the kale. She never cooked a whole mess of polk by itself. And when I was interviewing, Lo, she was name and all these other kinds of things that they used to eat. And I said, well, was it good aunt Lo and she paused for a long time. And she told me later, she was remembering sometimes of poverty of how poor they were. And she said, eat it or die. That it wasn't about the taste that you that's what you ate to survive.

CK: Taste was irrelevant, I think.

CW: Yes. And so many of the foods that we love our comfort foods where our ancestors struggle foods, or survival foods, you know, chicken and dumplings, it's comfort food for me. But I think at some point, probably in my grandparents childhoods, that this was what you could make like you had a little bit of flour, you had a little bit of lard, maybe not the whole chicken but some parts of the chicken and you were able to make something wonderful to feed 10 mouths or however many mouths you had to feed.

CK: I think I think you agree with me you like fluffy dumplings as I do. But there's also not just in this culture here in America, but in other places in the world, the sort of strips of dough that are cooked that are much denser. So, were there, are two kinds of dumplings people made with chicken and other things.

CW: In my family, it was all the fluffy dumplings and biscuity kind that had like kind of a pillow to it. Although I've come to find out that people’s wars over food has to do with that, that struggle and comfort and how again how struggle food becomes comfort foods, like all the people that have those fights about you know, you never put sugar in the cornbread that that makes a cake and they just lose their minds.

CK: I I've said for years, not because I'm from the south, I'm not but southern cornbread is not supposed to have sugar in it. But once in a while I'll see a southern cookbook and they put a little bit of sugar in it. So, what's the rule? No sugar under any circumstances?

CW: I think no sugar. Well, I would say if you're going to fix a big poun of cornbread or a skillet of cornbread, you'd need no sugar, and you need no flour.

CK: Really, you don't use any flour at all.

CW: No flour. No cornmeal purists. (All right) but I do put a little bit of sugar in my cornbread if I'm going to fix it with chili or sometimes with a pot of beans. Just a little bit of sugar.

CK: So, you know, I, I read this, and I go like, because I spent quite a lot of time as a kid on a small farm. But how do you grasp what your childhood was like versus how kids grew up today? Do you, can you make sense of that? You think actually, your childhood it wasn't better? How do you reconcile the two?

CW: I mean, I don't know if it was better if it was what it was. And I think I'm constantly trying to reach back and grab parts of it or to reconcile it and and to pass it on. Like I think that's one of the reasons why I felt the urge to write this book because, you know, one, people don't often think of black people as living in Appalachia and two, you know, you think of Appalachian cuisine as a particular thing and a particular way of life. And, you know, I think that it's, it's possible to pass those parts of the culture on to the next generation.

CK: We haven't really talked about Appalachia at all. So, could you describe your grandparents farm?

CW: Yeah, so we lived off the roads. You would turn off the main road and go across a little bridge and lots of hills and curves and winds and then you'd go on up the holler. And you would come to my grandparents’ house, which set up on a little hill. One of the most welcoming feelings was they would both come out the back door to greet me. It was such an isolated place that my grandfather would say, you know, there goes old Joe's truck, like he would hear the car going down the road and know whose car or truck it was. And I think that's one of the things this book too in addition to being grief and food. I think it comes out of a certain homesickness. And yeah, I think I'm, I'm still after all these years, I graduated from high school at 16 and left, went onto college. And I haven't lived at home and all these years, but I'm still homesick for home.

CK: Crystal, what a pleasure. It's, it's been really fun talking to you. And thank you so much.

CW: Thank you so much for having me on.

CK: That was Crystal Wilkinson, author of Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts. Now it's time to answer your cooking questions with my co-host, Sara Moulton. Sara is, of course, the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television. Her latest book is Home Cooking 101. So, Sara, we're doing this segment on how people navigate arguments in the kitchen with their significant other. And you've been doing this a long time, but I don't think your husband does much cooking so you're basically in the kitchen by yourself most the time, right? I

SM: I am. And then he comes in, he swoops in and does massive amounts of dishes.

CK: Well, that's not a grievance.

SM: No, no, no, but there is grievance.

CK: Oh, well, let's get to that.

SM: It’s mainly about my equipment or tools. I won't let him wash wine glasses anymore. We don't have fancy ones. But he'll break them willy nilly. He'll break everything willy nilly, so I don't let him watch something. If I care about it, he may or may not sometimes use my knives to open boxes. So, it's really more about handle my tools with care. And if I get any kind of pushback, I just say to him, well, next time I use your turntable, I'm not going to clean the record with the dust doohickey thing. And I'm not going to use the lever to lift the arm from the record, so I might scratch it.

CK; Ouch. Oh, this river runs deep. I can tell yeah.

SM: it really does but yeah, it's not usually about cooking. It's about tools.

CK: Well, that makes sense.

SM: So, Chris, question back at cha. Do you and your wife fight about things in the kitchen?

CK: We don't really fight much in the kitchen. The only thing is tools is putting knives in the dishwasher,

SM: That’s a minefield.

CK: And just last night actually, I took a knife, it was in the dishwasher again. Took it out in the handle fell off.

SM: Oh no.

CK: So, I'm going like

SM: A good knife?

CK: Yeah, I offered this up as proof of my point of view, which is you should never put a knife in a dishwasher. And then she said, oh, you're probably going to tell me this proves that you shouldn't put dishwashers. And I said, yeah, that's pretty much the sum total of it. But I didn't get anywhere. I think the problem is, if you actually believe you're going to convince your significant other of the error of their ways. You should probably get a divorce because that is never going to happen. They're never going to go you know what, Sara, you're right. I really should take care of your tools better. Right? (Right) It's never going to happen (no) So, you have to decide that you're going to die in this mountain or you just going to move on, and the answer always is you need to move on.

SM: I agree. I agree or

CK: buy a new knife.

SM: You don't have to agree with me. As a matter of fact, I know you completely do not agree with me but it makes me so happy if my knives don't lose their tips. Could you just do it for me?

CK: I think you just have to pick your fights.

SM: Yeah, well, that's that is true about everything

CK: Pick your fights (Yeah) Anyway, let's move on.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who is calling?

Caller: This is Steven Kozol from Wilbraham, Massachusetts

SM: And how can we help you?

Caller: So, a couple months back, I was trying to make a rhubarb scone and I found what I thought was a simple recipe, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, heavy cream, and the rhubarb. I thought scones were supposed to have eggs. So, I decided to substitute part of the volume of the cream with an equivalent liquid volume of an egg. But when I added the egg cream mixture to the dry, it ended up like a batter, so it wasn't shaggy at all like the recipe said I ended up having to add three fourths more cup of flour to get it to a workable dough. So, my science question is kind of what happened with my eggs substitution.

SM: Did you weigh or measure the flour

SM: I've got a gram scale that I use for baking. If the recipe was written with grams, and you measured the grams, then the liquid amount there still should be somewhat of a range for the liquid amount. Flour will absorb more depending on what time of year it is. (okay) And what you just described was my favorite recipe, which is essentially a cream scone or cream biscuit. Where the cream does double duty as the butter and as the liquid. So, flour, sugar, a little bit of salt, heavy cream, was that it and the baking powder? (Yes) it would have worked beautifully. I don't think it needed the egg. I don't really know why it was so liquid, except the amounts must have been off.

CK: How much flour did the recipe call for?

Caller: I think two cups, two cups.

CK: Usually for two cups of flour in a buttermilk biscuit recipe, you might use seven eighths of a cup of buttermilk or something. So, the cup a quarter of heavy cream to two cups of flour sounds like there's too much liquid in the original recipe to me. Your real question is, and I don't think we've answered it. If you substituted an egg for the same volume of cream. Why did you end up with such a loose batter? And I don't know the answer to that

SM: was avoiding answering that

CK: Well, the original proportion of flour to cream probably was wrong. Yeah, that's what I think t

SM: I think that too

Caller: I tried the recipe again, without the egg and it did what it was supposed to it became shaggy,

CK: That doesn't make any sense to me at all. I don't understand it. But by the way, this idea of scones and eggs. I mean, I don't think eggs are absolutely essential. But I would say if you wanted to make it richer, I would dump the egg white and throw the egg yolk in it. And I probably wouldn't I wouldn't change the amount of heavy cream.

SM: I would just go with the cream.

Caller: Okay

SM: Let me ask you this. How did it taste? Did you like it?

Caller: I preferred the version with the egg. (It's richer) without the egg it was very cakey

CK: Do the recipe throw an egg yolk in and add a little more flour or a little more cream to get the right consistency.

SM: I always start with less liquid and then add more as needed.

Caller: Wonderful.

CK: Anyway, great question. Excellent.

Caller: Thank you I really enjoy your show.

CK: Take care. Thank you.

SM: Thank you.

Caller: Bye. Bye.

SM: Bye

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are here to answer your culinary questions. Give us a call anytime. Our number 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or simply email us at questions at Milk Street

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hello, this is Rebecca from Montgomery, New Jersey.

SM: Hi, Rebecca. How can we help you today?

Caller: So, I've trouble perfectly cooking my baked goods like cakes and breads. And I was wondering why recipes don't use internal temperature as an indicator for doneness. Is it possible to use temperature or do you have any other tips and tricks to help?

SM: No, I think it's absolutely possible. What are you looking to take the temperature of just like a regular chocolate cake?

Caller: Yeah, I was like for chocolate cake especially because I can't tell if it's golden brown.

SM: Roughly you're looking for 200 to 205. And you put the instant read into the center of the cake not touching the bottom. You know (right) Yeah.

Caller: And how about like a sourdough loaf?

CK: Yeah, sourdough. A typical white bread like an enriched bread is like 192 195 and say 195 I used to make a sourdough all the time. It was about 205. I found that if it was under 205 the bread was a little sticky inside. You know, I wanted to cook it. So, 205 to 208 with a rustic bread and 195 with a typical enriched like white bread is what I use, yeah. And by the way, it's a great question. cheesecake, for example, which everybody over bakes like 145 right to one 145 to 150 is sort of the sweet spot, but that's a great cake to use with a Instant read thermometer because you can't press the top to see if it's done, right.

SM: No. (All right) Okay, great.

Caller: Thank you so much.

SM: Alright here, Rebecca, we're glad we were able to help you so quickly.

Caller: Yes, thank you. Have a good day.

SM: Take care.

CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hey, Chris, this is Brian calling from Cincinnati.

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: So, Chris, listen, I think that you have done more than anyone to sell your listeners on Aleppo peppers, guitar and pomegranate molasses but my question has nothing to do about any of those things. Questions about music specifically music that I think that you enjoy, particularly. So, a couple of weeks back, I was in Connecticut for a great trip with some friends and family and I was cooking. And I asked my friend to put on some music, he chose the Grateful Dead.

CK: Okay, great guy.

Caller: And well, that's so I'm not a Grateful Dead listener. I know you are. And it was just a fantastic choice in the kitchen. So, in the spirit of aleppo peppers, za’atar and pomegranate molasses, I want you to pitch me and help me to understand why the Grateful Dead was such a perfect soundtrack for working in the kitchen?

SM: Ryan, let me just say he's going to pitch me too.

CK: Well, first of all, if you're a deadhead, I'm not sure you care necessarily about pitching the world on it. But I will do it. And by the way, this is my favorite call of all time so I just want you to, so we're starting at a really good place.

Caller: I think this question is for everyone, Sara. So

SM: I agree Ryan

CK: Here’s the issue.

Caller: But it was great. It was a great, great night.

CK: Well and the reason it was great is like Milk Street, you go around the world, and you discover these different tastes, the different ingredients, these different ways of cooking. And so, every recipe is a changeup, right. So, if you listen to the Dead, you can listen to the early years, like with Pigpen, listen to the Chinatown shuffle, and Mr. Charlie and all those sort of bluesy, you know, Delta kind of stuff going on. And then Chicago, kind of, you know, bluesy rock and roll. And then you can do Franklin's tower or Dark Star, Eyes of the World. And it's a little spacey, or, you know, a little jazzy or he, they did a lot of jazz. And then they did sort of ballads, and they did Working Man Dead, etc. So what's so great about that band in the kitchen is it weaves country music, with rock'n'roll with blues, with jazz with improv, and you get all of that. And every time you get a new song, I mean, not all their songs are fabulous, but most of them are, you're a different place. It's like you pick up the Aleppo pepper, and then you're into the lemongrass, and then you're into the molasses, you get something different. So that's my pitch. It's always something different. Whereas if I listened to any other band, it's pretty much all the same thing you know, I mean, not entirely true, but mostly true, the dead have more diversity of sound. And the last thing I'll say is, Jerry was one of the great singers of all time, it's not that he had a great range. He didn't. But he had a great emotion. He always said he would never sing a song he didn't believe in. So, you get that connection with the band, which I think infuses you with a certain amount of energy and goodwill and happiness. And if that's not a great commercial for the Grateful Dead, I don’t know what is, there you go.

SM: Is that all?

CK: I think that's enough. I think it'll the Grateful Dead will take you to places you don't expect. That's the great thing about the Dead. See Sara's still looking at me, like quizzically.

Caller: Let me see if I can frame this for Sara, when I'm cooking by myself, I usually put on classical because it engages my brain on that subliminal level. But I'm not so engaged as that I'm trying to predict the lyrics or recognize the song. And so, I like Chris, I like what you said and that it's sort of moving in a way that's familiar, but in some way and engaging but also somewhat unpredictable. And so it didn't grab a hold of that active part of my brain that I really liked and so it really surprised me that I can listen to lyrical music and not find myself completely distracted.

CK: Well, what's what's going on with the Dead is very different than most bands. It was all about live recordings, right? They never like recordings, they like to play live music. So, every time you heard them play a song, same song in a different venue. It was a different song, I would say as a backup plan however, I think Italian opera like Traviata you know some of the obvious ones I know that makes no sense whatsoever, but (it doesn’t) because you get that whole range of expression much like the dead so I would say if you don't like the dead try Traviata. You know, Sara's got this look like he's completely lost it.

SM: I don't think I've seen Chris this happy you know, in a long time. Ryan, you are his favorite caller. Thank you.

CK: February 1970

SM: He’ll be nice for the rest of this recording

CK: On February 1970. Filmore East, late show my first show. There you go.

SM: There you go. Okay, that was a great call. Ryan. Please always call back.

SM: Ryan. You're his favorite. You're

CK: You're my favorite. Thanks, man.

Caller: Thanks, guys.

CK: Take care.

Caller: Thanks for the great work.

CK: Sure.

Caller: Take care.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up journalist Ella Quittner on why the kitchen has become a battleground at home. That's up after the break.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Right now, I'm joined by journalist, Ella Quittner who's here to help explain the food fights we have with the people we love. Her article for The New York Times is called, I love you, but I hate your cooking. Ella, welcome to Milk Street.

Ella Quittner: Thank you, I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having me on.

CK: So, like what's going on with the kitchen you know, it's like, maybe in the 60s and 70s, the bedroom was sort of like the power room in the house, right.

EQ: You could say that.

CK: A sexual revolution. In other times, maybe like in the Victorian days, maybe the parlor was sort of where all the fun stuff happened, or the problems occurred. But now the kitchen is sort of the place where people's identities come out. It's a shared space. It's really where you figure out how to compromise or not. So, is that what's going on? Is the kitchen kind of like the place to dissect a relationship or put it back together?

EQ: I certainly think so. I mean, it's definitely a place to dissect the relationship, especially in recent decades, as domestic roles have evolved, and they continue to evolve a common dynamic has emerged, which is, as people are sharing and pitching in more and more on various kind of culinary tasks, they might realize that they really love each other, but they just like, hate the way that their partner cooks.

CK: So tell me about the article in The New York Times, how did you research it? How to how did you figure out what was going on?

EQ: Oh, gosh, this was really funny. When I got the assignment, I thought, what a kind of archaic or what, uh, you know, vague topic, I can't imagine I'll find anyone who has a story to share with me. And then the second I started asking around and chatting with folks that sort of reporting it out, I realized not only does it apply to pretty much everyone I've ever met, and everyone they've ever met, but it also completely applied to me, you know, this kind of conversation about dynamics and relationship dynamics, and how they emerge when you're standing over a hot stove together, applies to every single one of us. I mean, I'm sure you have your own kind of version of the stories.

CK: Oh, no, no, there's no problem. Well, I'm not a good example, because I've spent my whole life you know, in the culinary world, sure. And have, as you can imagine, very strong opinions about how to use a knife and how to do everything else. And my kids, you know, I’ve got six kids, they, they always remind me, Dad, you always come in and go, like, can I just make one suggestion? So, I had to learn to just stop giving any suggestions. I just unless there was going to be an explosion or something. Somebody's going to lose a finger. But let's start with why you were surprised. So, what were a couple of the things that you encountered that surprised you? I mean, obviously, some people have different diets. Some people are messy. Some people are clean. Were there some things in the kitchen that you did not expect to hear?

EQ: Definitely, I definitely heard a few stories that were outside the box. And I think more broadly, it surprised me to learn that so much of this sort of culinary fighting has nothing to do with food has nothing to do with the chili you’re making or how much dressing you're putting on the salad or if you're watching Grey's Anatomy reruns while you eat dinner. It has everything to do with other kinds of dynamics in the relationship and how they're emerging in the sort of high pressure but frequent setup which is cooking together, making a meal together or sitting down to eat together. As far as more surprising anecdotes, I think, the one that made me raise my eyebrows the highest was probably a story I heard from a couple who is no longer together, although they're still great friends, and several months into the relationship Pasha decided to get really into bread baking. And at first it was you know, sort of fine or just a hobby or kind of a guy rolling up his sleeves and getting into flour blends and things like that. But it sort of consumed him, turn their refrigerator into just like a nightmare like a losing Tetris game of quart containers. There was dough all over their apartment. His ex-girlfriend Sophia, who I also interviewed for the piece told me about going into the bathroom and seeing dough on the little, you know, holder for the toilet paper, there's dough on their couch, there’s dough all over the kitchen. She told me this story at one point, she came home after a long day of work on a Sunday. And she lifted up the covers to their bed because she just wanted to go, you know, have a nap and decompress. And there were just all these quart containers of bread rising under the duvet using the human environment that was supposed to sort of bring her comfort as a way to proof his dough.

CK: Well, I have to admit, we have two refrigerator freezers in the basement. And one of them is, I have to say, almost entirely devoted to flours and so at least it's in the basement.

EQ: Well, let this be a lesson to you, Chris. Just keep it in the basement. Don't bring it to the bedroom.

CK: Well, no, I actually have to show how insane I am. I actually have an electric dough proofer, so I don't need to put things under coverlets in the bedroom (perfect) you know, the bedroom, or the living room or some other room in the house it's less a question of whose room is it? But in the kitchen, I think there is some sense of ownership like, is this a joint room? Is this you know, is this one person's room and the other person that gets to use it occasionally? I mean, there's a sense of who's in control here, right? Because you have to unlike a living room, you've got to organize ingredients. How do you organize your spices? Where do you put the knives? Do you have a standing mixer? Does that go out on the counter? There are all these decisions which don't occur in other rooms in the house. The bedroom has a bed, you know, but the kitchens got unlimited number of things. When you roast the chicken, do you wash the chicken before you roast it? And is the other person upset because they're worried about E Coli in the sink? You know. So, I think that's part of the problem. The kitchen is a complicated space. And there is a sense of ownership or who owns which part of it,

EQ: Right. It's like who gets to decide.

CK Who gets to decide,

EQ: I do think that it comes down to this idea of Big C little c culture that one of the psychologists I interviewed spoke about. And what what the psychologist said was, you have your Big C culture, which is where you come from your kind of ethnicity or background, what part of the world you're from what you grew up eating all of these things. And then you have your little c culture, which is all of the idiosyncratic things that your family members or whoever you grew up with did while you're cooking and eating. And that can define what comfort food looks like and tastes like it can define if any foods are taboo to you, what celebration food looks and tastes like. And I think that figuring out a way to kind of enmesh those together as partners feels as important as anything. One of the psychologists I spoke with, she said, this metaphor that I thought was pretty apt, which is that you know, when you combine households, there's this anxiety that arises from becoming a sort of smoothie of a couple instead of a chopped salad of a couple she said ideally, that balance between independence and togetherness is more like a chopped salad where you've cut up all these little elements. But that if you kind of turn it into a smoothie where it's suddenly indistinguishable, whose independence is what then that can kind of create that panic. And some of these problems arise that that need to be communicated around.

CK: You know, the thing that I think, you know, especially resonates, at least for me is that when you get older food, and the role of food in your life goes back to how you were brought up.

EQ: Oh, absolutely. And I laugh because it reminds me of my own parents, like my mom likes these very light, vegetable focused meals. And I think when they were kind of early on in dating, there was a lot more of that sort of chopped salad dynamic happening where they would try to pitch in with what each other liked, they had a lot of restaurants in common that they like. And I think the older they get, you know, whenever I go home and my mom's kind of like, I can tell she's getting ready to maybe have a little salad she wants to maybe have a little tune on it or something like that. My dad will come into the kitchen while she's trying to like assemble this very California produce and ask if they should make burgers for lunch, you know, just zero, just zero mal intent or anything like that. But I can tell she sort of feels like it's this razor-sharp personal attack, right. And that's so his family and his culture. And I think my mom grew up in a household that was a little bit more utilitarian around food. So, I think it's true. You know, as you get older, you have to work and communicate to keep that chopped salad thing happening.

CK: I guess I have another question, which is when you talk to the psychologists, whomever. Did they have any suggestions on how couples who have arguments about the kitchen and how to cook etc. The best way to resolve these other than just ceding to your significant others, culture, or way of cooking?

EQ: Absolutely. I'm so glad you asked that because the solutions that they suggested And that advice that they gave, I thought was so prescient, but also so obvious. I was like, why am I not already doing that? The first was, you're having this really myopic reaction because this is not about the food. This is about your anxiety. This is about your relationship dynamic. So, recognize that your kind of having overblown feelings and reactions about that and step away and do not address it right this second. The second thing was that communication is super key. So basically, just having, you know, a talk outside of the kitchen outside of that situation that's triggering to you. And trying to kind of pinpoint what the relational dynamic is that's arising is it that I don't want you to get involved with my meal prep, because I don't like the way it feels when you try to exert control over things that I haven't asked for help with, like, I really value my independence, and I've moved into your house, and now you're telling me how to cook and I'm like, what's mine? Or is it something about, I feel really stressed about sharing space with you, and now you're using my KitchenAid and I feel like I need to helicopter chef over you will use it, because you might break it just like you break everything because you messed up my closet when we started sharing it. Like is it that. One psychologist I spoke with Dr. Solomon had great advice, which is that a couple should have conversations like these on a walk, she loves the idea of that kind of symbolically, you know, giving some energy like you're moving away from the problem and toward a future that doesn't look like both of you solving with like sauce all over the walls.

CK: How do people with very different culinary backgrounds from different countries work it out in the kitchen.

EQ: So, I interviewed someone named Michelle, who talks about this a lot. She basically explained that she learned to cook as a way to kind of channel her nostalgia that she was feeling for her upbringing, which involved a lot of Korean food, her mother and other family members cooking a lot and showing their love to her through these burbling stews. And these flavors in this _____, and she really missed it. So, she learned how to cook a lot of delicious Korean dishes and use the flavors and spices and things. And that reminded her of that time in her life. And then she met her partner. And she got an introduction to what she called white Canadiana food, which she said was best exemplified by something called orange salad that he requested that the two of them make when they were hosting, I believe his family for Thanksgiving. And it was, you know, one of these

CK: Right. Mandarin oranges

EQ: Yeah, ___Jell-o, Mandarin oranges, Cool Whip, etc. And she said something that I thought was really beautiful. She said, his comfort is like three ingredients in a pot. Mine is like 10 or more. And I think that too what we were discussing earlier, it's about kind of recognizing that relational dynamic, like you can't communicate about it. And then try and meld your needs and interests until you recognize what it is is going on. Because I don't think any rational person would say, oh, you guys should just eat the stuff that you view as comfort food, or you guys should just eat the stuff that he views as comfort food, and just completely cut out one of your needs or wants or categories of food that you enjoy. I think it should be both where you're each bringing stuff that you love into the relationship and you're introducing one another to things that you love. And maybe they fall in love with them too. Maybe you fall in love with their stuff a little bit, too. Maybe you don't, but it makes you happy to see them happy. So once a week, it's the Jell-o salad. You know, I think there's all sorts of ways that you can figure out how to incorporate those kind of lifestyle preferences that are different into your day to day as a couple that lives together. But I think the first step is just sort of recognizing exactly what's going on and chatting about it.

CK: Ella, thank you so much. I feel a little better about my time in the kitchen. Thanks.

EQ: Thanks, Chris. It was so nice to chat with you. And I appreciate you having me on.

CK: That was Ella Quittner her article for The New York Times is I love you, but I hate your cooking. The bedroom is usually depicted as the most intimate room in the house, but I say it's the kitchen. It's the perfect battleground and cooking together has to be the ultimate test. Now in our house, it's one chef at a time. She listens to Taylor Swift while cooking and I of course play the Grateful Dead. The good news is that the kitchen is also the place where you can resolve your differences and then just move on. As the song goes. Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places. If you look at it, right. You’re listening to Milk Street Radio coming up we asked you to call in with your food fights. We'll share a few of your stories that and more after the break.

I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now let's head into the kitchen with JM Hirsch to talk about this week's recipe. Potato-stuffed naan. JM how are you?

J M Hirsch: I'm doing great.

CK: So, you were recently as you know, in Pakistan, but you ate nan potato stuff not and I remember talking to someone who had a restaurant in Afghanistan, and they also served it there. So, naan gets around.

JM: You'll find it in India as well. You know, it's kind of this ubiquitous flatbread, which, you know, we see examples of this all over the world, of course, you know, its flatbread, that is used as the daily bread, but also as a utensil. And it's an essential part of the culinary scene. And that certainly was the case in Pakistan. I was actually really shocked by how ubiquitous these little bakeries are and little being the key term there. Because generally what you'll have is Pakistan is very much a street food culture, you will have an array of shops where you can buy all sorts of foods. And there will always be a separate business that's making an in a tandoor oven right next to all the other food businesses, they all work together. So, when you order your meal at one, you get your naan from the naan shop right next door. They're everywhere, and they are eaten at every meal. And to me it is the perfect bread because it's tender, it's chewy, it's got a little bit of crispness to it at the edges. It's warm, because literally you eat them as they pull them out of these tandoor ovens, they are so good, I really couldn't stop eating them.

CK: So, were they essentially identical to an Indian naan or it was the flavorings and the filling very different, but the bread itself was very similar?

JM: The bread itself is very similar, I think where there's a lot of variation is in the stuffed versions. And so, we had Aloo naan which is potato stuffed naan. And it was really very simple. And actually, surprisingly simple. They take the basic dough for naan which is simply flour, yeast, water, salt, and they take a mixture of cilantro and mint, cooked potato chunks, and some shredded cabbage, red and green, and some chilies. They mash all that up. And they just literally stuff it right on the middle of a round of the naan dough. And then they pleat the naan up and over the filling. And you think well surely that's going to rupture and blow out all the fillings. They really don't. They flatten it, they roll it out. And then the most amazing part and the part where I would burn my hand every single time if I tried to do this is when they stretch the filled naan over a straw stuffed pillow. And then they use that pillow to reach deep into these blazing hot Tandoor ovens and smack the naan onto the sidewall and it sticks. It's amazing. And it cooks within, you know, a minute at most, and then they just use a metal rod to kind of hook it and pull it out. And wow, they are so good. And I'll tell you all of the naan I had were amazing. The aloo stuffed with those tender potatoes and the spicing was wonderful. It was really just so delicious. It's a meal unto itself. I was really smitten with these.

CK: I have a question about the tandoor oven. Obviously, it's been around a long time, is it a particularly efficient way of doing a lot of flatbreads, like naan because you're slapping it on the inside of the oven.

JM: It really is. And part of the reason is, if you've seen these, generally they are buried in the ground. So, you don't actually see the tandoor which is shaped like a giant vase really. But you don't see that because it's buried in the ground, which means it's incredibly well insulated. So, when you crank up the heat in those is very intense heat that cooks very quickly, you know, one of the shops I was at, they said they will serve 2000 people an afternoon. That's a lot of people and that is a lot of naan and they can crank through them so quickly. It's really amazing to watch.

CK: and then translating this here we go. Yes, because you've really set yourself up for failure here now with a naan oven. How do you do this at home?

JM: Well, there were a couple things we had to switch up to make it work at home. The first one was the dough itself. You know, one of the things I noticed in Pakistan is it's very hot and the dough tends to be made first thing in the morning, so it slowly proofs in a very warm environment for a long time. The result is deliciously tender dough. Now, we don't exactly have those same circumstances here. So, we added a little bit of yogurt to the dough to keep it nice and tender and you don't have to let it sit out in the sun for hours. That was the first thing, the second thing is we really needed as you noted, an intense source of heat to cook these quickly. And we actually found that a cast iron skillet worked pretty well it's not going to be quite the same as a tandoori and buried in the ground, but it does a respectable job.

CK: I have to go to Lahore immediately sounds so potato stuffed naan from Lahore, Pakistan, you can do at home in a cast iron skillet, and its flour, water and a bunch of skill. Thank you, JM.

JM: Thank you. You can get the recipe for potato stuffed naan at Milk Street

CK: This is Milk Street Radio earlier in the show journalist Ella Quittner explained why we fight about food with the people we love. Inspired by my conversation with Ella, we asked you our listeners to call in with your own kitchen battles. Here is what you shared.

Caller: Hey, Milk Street this is a Cleo ___ from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. And our prime conflict in the kitchen is that he doesn't think I put enough pasta in the pan.

Caller: Not in the pan. It's in the pot to cook and it’s not always but sometimes. But mostly the sauce is delicious so who cares?

Caller: Well, all right. He's being generous right now. But he wants more pasta all the time.

Caller: leftover.

Caller: Whereas I think, well maybe sometimes we want leftovers but maybe sometimes we don't.

Caller: So, I have a teenage daughter, enough said you know how they are at that age. They like blueberries but they don't like blueberry pancakes. It's the same thing.

Caller: One son will eat everything and everything. He's the most adventurous eater I know. So, number two will eat no beans and no seafood. Number three will eat beans, but will not eat seafood or meat. I myself don't eat meat. My husband would be happy to eat chicken three meals a day but not if it's heavily spiced or to garlicky.

Caller: I probably in 42 years; we've eaten out 10 times. But no matter what I cook, how much time I spend doing it. I never get one thing saying, geez, dinner was good. I have to ask.

Caller: When I make stocks, they're not necessarily up to his clarity standards, but I don't need them to be.

Caller: I find myself splatch cooking on Sunday, one very complicated vegetarian recipe but preparing three different meals. The only night of peace is French toast for dinner night and I'm just more than a little discouraged.

Caller: We both love to cook. We can't really stand being in the kitchen together at the same time. But the thing that drives me the most crazy is that she insists on quote unquote soaking things in the sink. And oh, that's right. I forgot I'm the one who worked from home. She's a teacher. So, she leaves the stuff in the sink, and I can't do anything in the sink the next day until I clean the stupid dishes that she dirtied.

Caller: And then the thing that really gets me til then unceremoniously takes the remainder of the coffee from the percolator and just pour it in the sink that's full of plates and bowls and dishes and yucky chicken thigh bones floating amongst the oily coffee. Eeow.

Caller: Chef's knives left in the bottom of the sink drives me insane. Let's not even talk about loading a dishwasher.

Caller: He has two methods of food storage either wrap something in foil and don't label it so nobody knows what it is. or toss it in a cereal bowl and put a little bit of cling wrap on top. Which of course never works.

Caller: So, my first big food fight was with my now ex-husband, he had picked out a package of just regular lunch meat ham, the kind that gets, you know, processed and formed into a loaf. And then I was like, oh, we should also get some prosciutto. And he was like, we already have ham. I was like, this is different ham though. Like, this isn't the same thing. And he looks at the price per pound, and he says, there is no way I'm paying that much for effing ham. And he's like, and there's extra fat on it. And I almost lost my mind. Because if you just look at prosciutto, you know what is different from sandwich ham. And the fact that he didn't get that the fat was valuable, also annoyed me.

Caller: You are a person that owns an astounding number of knives. Like so many knives that when people come over to the house, they take pictures of the knives in our kitchen. And you will offer me unsolicited advice about how I'm holding the knife. What am I doing with a knife, what I'm cutting with a knife, etc.

Caller: But the real question here is why am I banned from the kitchen when you're cooking?

Caller: You're not banned from the kitchen. Stop looking at me that way.

Caller: I am always trying to help. Whether you want it or not.

CK: Thank you to everyone who called and shared their kitchen dramas. That's it for today. You can find all of our episodes in Milk Street or wherever you get your podcasts. You can learn more about us at 177 Milk There you can become a member get all of our recipes, access to all our live stream cooking classes, free standard shipping from the Milk Street store, and lots more. You can also learn about our latest book which is Milk Street 365 the All-Purpose Cookbook for Every Day of the Year. You can also find us on Facebook and Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Instagram is at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and kitchen questions and thanks as always for listening.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, senior editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis, audio mixing by Jay Allison and Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole Massachusetts. Theme music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX.