At a dinner party the other evening I sat next to a young unmarried woman who made an astonishing revelation.
"I never cook," she said.
"Never?" I asked.
She said she didn't even have what you could call a kitchen.
"Not even a microwave?" I asked, thinking that she might consider cooking things in a microwave not really cooking.
"No. No microwave. I have a refrigerator, but all it has in it is dog food, nail polish and champagne."
I had an idea that if I were single my refrigerator wouldn't have much more in it, and wouldn't have the nail polish. I didn't even know that nail polish had to be kept cold.
I asked the young woman how she managed. "Do you eat out all the time?"
"I eat out a lot. Or I bring home take-out food."
Evidently she lived alone with her dog. I should say, because it's to the point, that she was a very attractive and slender young woman. So the take-out food wasn't going to her figure.
I hope it isn't sexist of me to admit that I thought a young woman who didn't cook at all was very unusual. Would I have thought it less unusual if a young man admitted that he didn't cook? I suppose so. This shows that I haven't entirely given up my stereotypical thinking about men's and women's roles.
But even a young man living alone, it seems to me, would do some cooking. He would probably scramble eggs for breakfast and open a beer, and for dinner, sometimes at least, I could see him grilling a hamburger or opening a can of chili. I have a recipe I call Abandoned Husband's Chili, which consists of a can of chili and a bottle of Mexican beer.
I would be happy to substitute champagne for the beer. When I retire I intend to drink champagne for breakfast every morning. But the idea of eating out or bringing home take-out food every night depresses me.
This young woman is, of course, a professional, and I have an idea she does a good deal of eating out with clients, the cost of which she can write off as a business expense. Still, it seems to me she would be inclined to entertain at home now and then.
It has been a long time since I was single, but I believe single young men still expect, at a certain point in a new and promising relationship, to be invited to the young woman's abode for dinner and whatever--the whatever usually including champagne or vin ordinaire and candlelight.
I wonder what a young man would think if his date invited him in some evening and he found that she had nothing in her refrigerator but dog food, nail polish and champagne. Would he be disheartened? Or would he think that because she obviously didn't invite him in to feed him she must have something more intimate in mind.
I'm not sure I would want to guess what a woman like that was up to.
Still, if that young woman should read this, I wouldn't want her to think that I am making fun of her life style. She sounds quite fascinating to me, and not that different from my wife.
Just making a guess from the length of her shelves, I would say that my wife has 500 cookbooks. She has cookbooks for every kind of cuisine in the world, including, I wouldn't be surprised, New Guinean. She must have one of the world's truly great cookbook libraries.
Yet she does less and less cooking. Being a professional herself, she gets home too late to prepare dinner for two from scratch, and because we can't both survive on a steady diet of Abandoned Husband's Chili, she relies more and more on packaged microwave dinners, which she merely pops into the oven. Almost before I can open the wine, the dinners are ready for the table.
I am not complaining. I find most of the microwave dinners tasty enough for me, and certainly ample enough. I am not a gourmet.
Yet I sometimes wonder what is the purpose of all those cookbooks. She would no more part with them than she would part with her dog or her shoes.
Oh, well, if all she kept in the fridge was dog food, nail polish and champagne I suppose I'd love her just the same.