It has been a while since I have shared a Monday Mark Memory, but tonight's popped into my head so I figured it was meant for me to share with you! Tonight I will share the memory of the first time I made dinner for Mark.
I think we had been seeing one another officially for just a few weeks and I offered to make him dinner. As far as I remember there are two conversations that could have spurred me offering to cook. You see, I would not consider myself a cook. I did not grow up learning family recipes and practicing all types of domesticity. I was not offering to cook Mark dinner because I was confident in my skills, or because I was prepared to wow him with my culinary talent.
When Mark and I started going out, we almost always had to actually "go out." Mark managed a sober living house with Serenity Village, and was not allowed to have female guests in the house. I wasn't exactly on board with allowing Mark to pay every time, so if he asked me out I always had to check my budget. Mark asked me how much "fun money" I had budgeted. I told him that I would take cash out $100 and use it as my spending money. I swear that he almost hit the floor when I told him that the $100 budget was my monthly figure. So, it is possible that I offered to cook dinner to save the money it would cost to go out. Or, it may have been that combined with the fact that I had called Mark after heating up a bowl of spaghettio's for the guy my sister was dating at the time. I kid you not when I say that Mark said "so you can cook your sister's boyfriend dinner, but you have never cooked for me?" I was not sure how pouring something from a can to a bowl qualified as special, but here we were.
So, I picked an evening that I would make dinner. I looked up a recipe and even prepped the whole thing the night before. It was some sort of tortellini alfredo cheesy baked thing. The problem was that the original directions said to bake it for 50 minutes. However I had kept it in the fridge overnight so it was extra cold, and it took almost 3 hours to bake all the way through! Once it was finally cooked, we ate it. It was fine but nothing extraordinary. There may have been nights we ate whatever I cooked for dinner and Mark must have thought back to that night as a red flag. I cook so I don't starve, and that is about it.
Now in the years we were married, I cooked most nights, and I can follow a recipe just fine. But Mark, boy could he cook. He used to manage an I-hop and I would joke that I was going to download the menu so I could order breakfast in the morning. He had this incredible talent, or at least what I consider a talent, to finish everything at the same time and to clean up the entire kitchen as he went. I would watch in wonder. Then I would eat, and I swear there was something special about it all. To this day I haven't eaten fried chicken, or baked mac and cheese as good as Mark's (sorry Jaalisa). He didn't cook often, but I was always reminded by the kids that my pancakes aren't as good as dad's, that his burgers taste better, you aren't as good at tossing a pizza crust, and why are my eggs different than his. But over the years I learned some different meals, and there were a few that Mark really loved. Some of his favorites were tacos, parmesan chicken, pepper steak, cajun sausage potato and green beans, beef stew, and the dish I only had the chance to make for him once, my grandma's famous baked beans. I always knew when he liked what I made that night because there was something different about how he said "thanks for dinner baby." Now there was a learning curve with cooking for Mark, things like how a meal wasn't complete if there wasn't a bread, or that breakfast includes white rice, or the perfect amount of mustard for a sandwich, or how concerned he was about the proper cleaning of vegetables, and of course the level of seasoning required to make sure the food was not "white people food." Most nights I would just tell him that he should have cooked, but I also learned that a big way Mark felt loved was when someone cooked for him, so I cooked. I even tried to learn how to cook things I knew he would like, such as greens and corn bread, and over easy eggs.
Tonight I cooked a meal that I think he would have liked, even if none of my kids liked it. There are nights that I struggle to make dinner, mostly because if I am honest my appetite is still pretty hit or miss. Most nights I wouIdn't make dinner if it weren't for needing to feed the kids, because I am just not hungry. I promise I am working on it, and I always try to eat when I feel hungry so I don't waste away! This week I planned dinners all week and it gave me the boost I needed to put in some extra effort. I made Rosemary Chicken Thighs with oven roasted fingerling potatoes and asparagus. Of course, I added biscuits, because a meal is not complete without bread. I even cleaned the kitchen as I cooked and thought about how he would be proud. The chicken did take a bit longer than I expected and it reminded me of that night I cooked him dinner and had to keep checking to see if it was done. Of course, I would be overjoyed to be able to cook dinner for Mark one more time, but for now I will just cherish those nights when I am reminded of when I could.