For a couple of years, Brendan and I have batted around an idea for a TV show called “Cougar Kitchen” — scripted, but imitating a reality show, with a sexy, bitchy older woman and a sexy, obedient but slightly seething younger man.
The cougar in question, a toned, sultry actress in her 40s, would wear babydoll silk negligees with stiletto feather mules. She would perch on a stool with her legs crossed, smoking a cigarette and holding a wineglass, her hair loose and wild around her almost-bare shoulders, as if she had just arisen from bed and would return there as soon as she’d eaten her fill – three bites, because she’s always watching her figure — of the feast her paramour was being instructed to prepare for her.
“Chop it rougher, baby,” she’d say. “Large dice! I didn’t say mince!”
The much younger man, wearing only boxer briefs and an apron, would be played by a 20something actor with cut-glass musculature and satiny skin and the pouty, smoldering hotness of Tim Riggins on “Friday Night Lights,” but with clean hair and a tan.
“You want large dice?” he’d say to his mistress. “I’ll give you large dice.”
And then the camera would cut out for a while, as if it had toppled over in the heat of their passion. When it came back on, she’d be splayed on the counter, spatchcocked where he’d left her, panting and slitty-eyed and spent, and he’d be chopping things into large dice, his apron unsullied, his hair adorably mussed.
Suffice it to say, this scenario generally does not play out in our own kitchen. When Brendan cooks, for one thing, I do not presume to boss him around. Also, I do most of the cooking, and I don’t wear negligees when I make dinner, and I don’t smoke.
Also, unless something happens to remind us that I’m almost 20 years older than he is, something very specific and outside the usual course of things, we almost completely forget about it.
At the beginning, when we first got together, we were self-conscious about being around other people in public. Would they treat us weirdly, look askance, make unflattering assumptions about us? In fact, they did, but only people who knew us, a few friends and family members. We have never, not even once, encountered any awkwardness or judgment from strangers. Everywhere we go, when we meet people, they instantly get that we’re together, and they don’t seem to think anything is amiss about it. It’s not that I don’t look older than Brendan: I certainly do.
Once in a while, in the late afternoon, if we both get our work done early and feel like going out, we go to the New Orleans place, 2 blocks away, for Happy Hour. We sit in a booth looking out at the street and order plates of spicy barbecued chicken wings with ranch dressing along with silver tequila cocktails made with passion-fruit juice and hot Thai pepper slices. We devour the wings, attack them like hyenas, and leave neat piles of stripped bones on our plates. We drink the first cocktail and get our order in for the next one, and a dozen oysters, before Happy Hour ends at 6:00. If we forget, our waitress reminds us.
Last time, we ended up sitting there for 4 hours, several rounds of drinks, and, later on in the night, a shared plate of mixed barbecue with coleslaw and fries. We were talking, as I recall, about our work: what we’re writing, what we want to be writing, how we wrote when we were 13, how we’ve both experienced the depressing horror of writing badly for an extended length of time, and how I’m not Brendan’s mentor, not in any way at all, even though I am technically ahead of him. It’s the same as it is with cooking: he knows what he’s doing.
At the end of the night, our waitress brought the bill.
“How long have you guys been together?” she asked us.
“Three and a half years?” we said in almost-unison.
I wondered if maybe now was the time we’d find out what people really think, looking at us together.
“Well,” she said, “you just match.”
Cougar Kitchen Frittata
Make sure you each have a fresh mimosa. Have your smoldering, half-naked young man chop into large dice the following: 2 small red potatoes, 1 red onion, 1 red pepper. Have him grate 2 medium carrots and half a cup of gruyere. Instruct him to beat 6 eggs, well. By now, the butter he put into the large cast-iron skillet should be almost melted. Make sure he stirs all of the salted, peppered, spiced vegetables frequently with a wooden spoon while they soften and start to caramelize on low heat. This will take a while. Have another round of mimosas. When the vegetables are cooked, tell him it’s time to pour in the beaten eggs. Turn off the camera for a while.
When the eggs are set but the top is still wet, turn the camera back on so the audience can watch him sprinkle the cheese over it and run it under a hot broiler. When it’s golden-brown and puffy and tender, have him serve you a small piece while he devours the rest to keep up his strength, which he will need.