Kitchen Couples Clash

Forget sex on the kitchen floor, couples in the kitchen these days are more likely to be cooking together. But the question remains: Who is on top?

In an interesting article titled “He Cooks. She Stews. It’s Love.” (registration required), The New York Times looks at couples cooking together. It’s a new age—men can be responsible for dinner just as much as women. But despite equality, it’s not always smooth sailing in the kitchen.

It was a nice fantasy while it lasted … the modern couple would share the work. Husbands would take an interest in casseroles. Wives would slap slabs of meat on the grill. They would read cookbooks and watch the Food Network together. The kitchen would be a peaceful domain equally ruled by two people…. Instead, wedged there in the kitchen together, they fell into a power dynamic just as unequal and emotionally fraught…. Instead of a partnership, some couples say that their relationship in the kitchen more closely resembles a tiny dictatorship.

They’re called Kitchen Alphas—those who, rather than sharing the kitchen, prefer to rule it. Derek LaVallee, wine columnist for The Hill, is one such Alpha to his wife’s Kitchen Beta.

‘I can’t watch her cook,’ Mr. LaVallee said. ‘I’d say things like, “I can’t believe you’re julienning the carrots that way!” And then I’d think, “Did that really just come out of your mouth?”’

Even the professionals are weighing in on this one. “If there’s a power struggle, it will come out in cooking together,” said Dr. Marion F. Solomon, a couples therapist in Los Angeles.

Not even professional cooks can avoid this problem, because ordering around your sous-chef is not exactly the same as ordering around your husband.

Rebecca Charles, the chef and owner of Pearl Oyster Bar in Greenwich Village and an admitted alpha, said: ‘Giving orders is fine in a professional environment, but at home it’s a little inappropriate. I can be a little bossy. Resentment can build, and before you know it you have a pot flying at your head and you don’t know why. Couples cooking together is probably the second leading cause of divorce next to home renovations.’

What do you think? Are you a Kitchen Alpha or Beta—or has your household found true kitchen harmony? (and does it include takeout?)