February 12, 2014 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: Husbands(or mates)-in-the-kitchen

My friend Kirk chats with me while his wife Jessica works in the background. (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)

Before I tell you about the fun I had with my friend Kirk in the kitchen when I arrived to interview his wife Jessica — and ask about your husband-in-the-kitchen stories — I should mention that back when I was single, I watched Kirk and Jessica with admiration, hoping someday I’d have a marriage as connected, respectful, loving and mature as theirs.

But on to the fun part.

Kirk, you might remember from the Let’s Talk Food on apples last fall, had read my column on early morning cooking and told me I needed to come by and check out how Jessica does her cooking.

When I did very early one Saturday morning, I was surprised to be greeted not by Jessica, but by Kirk.

“He’s not usually up every morning,” Jessica said at one point.

Oh, but he was this morning. Jessica got as far as telling me what I shared with you Tuesday — what she was making that a.m., a bit about the therapeutic nature of cooking and how she usually cooks on Sundays — before…

“I try to be the weekend breakfast guy,” Kirk explained. Jessica turned back to the stove while Kirk told me all about how he likes to make lots of pancakes (from scratch, mind you) and what their two sons’ preferences are, etc.

After a while, I asked Jessica how they came up with the idea of cooking ahead.

“We were getting home later and later,” Kirk answered. “We were literally leaving the dinner table and going straight to bed.”

So Kirk suggested they try cooking ahead, something Jessica had actually done before they had kids.

“When she was pregnant, she had the brilliant idea three months out we would double the recipe and freeze ahead in bags meant to be one meal for the two of us,” Kirk explained. (To take a minute from teasing my friend Kirk, let me point out I love how he frames Jessica’s idea as brilliant.) “After we got home from the hospital (after the birth of their first child) — on nights we didn’t have something one of our friends had provided — we would go to the freezer and pull something out.”

Then Jessica got a chance to get back to telling me about how she uses Ziplist.com, which gave me another Let’s Talk Food.

“You can add your own recipes, too,” she explained. “I have a lasagna …”

“It’s not just A lasagna,” Kirk interrupted. “If you told me I could have just one thing to eat the rest of my life, it would be my wife’s lasagna.”

That’s when Jessica told me Kirk’s not usually up every morning.

“I can decide what I want to do with this time,” Jessica said about — well, most of her mornings. “We have speakers in the kitchen (as she said it, Kirk went and turned them on) or I can play movies on the laptop.”

When I asked when Kirk usually joins the party, Kirk suddenly got all shy-ish. “I’ll let my wife answer that.”

“When I get the boys up, I get Kirk up,” Jessica said.

The next exchange is perhaps my favorite, when I had to bury myself in taking notes to capture it all — not unlike furiously scribbling Post-It notes when my husband comes up with amusing comments on my cooking, like in the Bad Muffin story or the Leftover Mash-Ups column.

Something about Jessica explaining about getting up at 4 or 4:30 Saturday mornings to pick recipes for the week and making grocery lists before waking her menfolk must have made Kirk self-conscious.

“The official rule …” Kirk started to say.

“Are you kidding me? You’re going to bring this up?” Jessica said incredulously. “It doesn’t happen!”

“The official rule,” Kirk persisted, “is whoever cooks doesn’t clean. But that’s not always adhered to … which means Jessica ends up cleaning when she cooks, but not vice versa. She’s very good about cleaning.”

Jessica clarified The Rule: “It’s just basically that Jessica cleans.”

“Yes, I don’t pull my weight,” Kirk said with an exaggerated hangdog air. “Thank you for coming this morning, Maureen.”

We all laughed as I told them how much I related, how I adore the husbands-in-the-kitchen thing. After I got more out of them for those other Let’s Talk Food columns, the couple got to talking about cooking in their early days of marriage.

Most of the cookbooks Jessica used to flip through are now housed in the first nice piece of furniture Kirk built, as today she goes mainly to Ziplist. Time for leafing through books and magazines is greatly reduced as a working mom.

“It was a treat that I got to sit down and look through something and say, ‘Ooh, I’d like to make this,’ ” she said.

But when they got married 13 years ago and moved to Germany three weeks later for a work assignment, they had way more time on their hands.

“One of the reasons I greatly adore my wife,” Kirk said, “is she’d literally open one of those cookbooks, point without looking and say, ‘We’re going to make this.’ There were some hits and some misses, but they were mostly hits.”

Jessica, from behind him, busy at the stove again, said: “Did I really do that? I don’t remember.”

I typed away, smiling.

What are your tales of husbands — or mates — in the kitchen? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re easy to sign up for, and free. Over the next few days, Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!