what i learned

You Spent Five Years Hiding That You Can Actually Cook

Blackout series. Illustration: Jules Julien

Michael and Keisha Rovner have been married over five years, but Michael didn’t know that Keisha is a talented cook until they began isolating together.

Michael Rovner: It’s not like the subject hadn’t come up. When we were first dating, we’d go to food festivals and on restaurant tours. We’ve had thousands of conversations about food in the last five years. She came to the relationship with zero kitchen appliances, pots, pans, knives, cook books, kitchen tools, dishes, or even cutlery. Never did she mention family recipes from her childhood that she couldn’t wait for me to try even though her mother has been cooking and baking almost daily for a large family for over 40 years. Before quarantine, I’d never even seen her toast a piece of bread.

Keisha Rovner: His cooking was the main reason I agreed to marry him. His enthusiasm to feed us, from recipe research to menu planning, to shopping, and the way he tries to get everyone involved—it’s like he’s selling us the specials. I even enjoy watching him trying to disable the smoke alarm. From the very beginning, I said, “I don’t cook.” But I didn’t mislead him, really. I just never wanted to participate.

Michael: For the last five years, I’ve been slaving away while she sat on the sofa looking at her phone. There have been so many times over the years where she’d beg me to make her a snack, and she’d say, “You know I’m useless in there.” I’d throw something simple together or do some little twist like put mayo on the outside of grilled cheese to get it crispier in the pan, and she’d act like I was Gordon Ramsay. She was a fan of MasterChef, but I assumed she was tuning in purely for the competition rather than watching how food came together.

Keisha: Before quarantine, my days at work ended at eight or nine, sometimes later, so by the time I got home, I was too tired to think about cooking dinner. I figured, Have at it, my dude.

Michael: Suddenly, a week into quarantine, she whipped up homemade mac and cheese (without a recipe). It was like witnessing someone pretend to need a wheelchair and then get up and do laps around a track.

Keisha: It was kind of more like a covert operation. I didn’t say anything before I made it. I just did it. It wasn’t a big reveal. We were in the middle of a pandemic, so I thought, Now’s the time. I wanted this mac and cheese, and I was the only one able to make it. So I told him I know how to cook. It felt great, just a huge relief.

Michael: In retrospect, I think the clues were there all along. When we used to go to restaurants, Keisha always ordered better than me. It got to the point where I’d frequently just have what she’s having to prevent diner’s remorse. At home, she’d usually taste whatever I had cooked and could tell me what would make it taste even better — directing me like I was some line cook.

*A version of this article appears in the June 22, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

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