Kitchen Confidential

My guy Scott dined with his friend Kate and her fiance Steve. No biggie. She’s an old friend, she’s taken. Nothing to worry about. I’m not jealous. It’s cool. Till he adds, “She made this puttanesca sauce from scratch. It was really good. It had peppers and tomatoes and basil. It’s a family recipe. It was really good.” Yeah, you mentioned that already.

Think, Carin, think. Launch a witty comeback: “Well, I make good homemade desserts. You like my cookies.”

Witty or lame, either way.

“Yes,” he says laughing. “You make excellent cookies. I just thought it was cool that she made this sauce from scratch. It’s nothing.”

Nothing? Nothing? It’s not nothing. You wouldn’t have mentioned it if it was nothing. It’s something. It’s my relationship crumblin’ like Jericho.

I almost never cook for Scott. We hang a couple times a week, and Teflon rarely hits the stove. On weekends we go out. On weekdays we order in. I don’t make a meal, I make a call. He’s happy. I’m happy. Happy meals all around. Then this puttanesca girl comes into the picture, flaunting her sauce in front of him. Throwing around her tomatoes. I know, I know, she’s engaged, she’s a non-threat. But she planted a bad seed. Now Scott knows he could be dating a woman who cooks, a domestic diva who serves meals that aren’t ordered from a menu and entrees that aren’t referred to by number.

I’m hotter than the average bear and one heck of a catch. There’s no reason some random girl’s cooking should make me insecure. It’s illogical. Inconceivable. Yet, inevitable. ‘Cuz I make tacos from a seasoning pack, turn a box of Bisquick into pancakes and get my pasta sauce from a jar, folks, from a jar. I don’t have a family recipe; I have Paul Newman.

I have no choice. I have to pull an “Iron Chef” and prove I can make a marinara as good as the next girl. Now, Scott never said anything of the sort. He never mentioned the sauce again. I think he forgot about the sauce. But I can’t let it go.

Yes, guys, this is how girls act. We’re competitive. We’re crazy. We’re cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. If you happen to say, “that girl’s in good shape” or “this woman at work is smart” or “Jennifer Garner is hot,” we flip. It’s not that we actually think you’re going to leave us for that girl; it’s that you are obviously taken by that girl, and we want you to be that taken with us. It’s OK if you think another girl is fit or smart or cute, as long as you think we’re fitter, smarter and cuter. We don’t want to give you the room to think there’s someone better out there. We want you to like us.

Of course, you’d probably like us a lot more if we just didn’t act so crazy.

But we do. We’re meshugenah; we’re out of control.

I’ve convinced myself that once Scott tastes my sauce, he’ll think I’m the best thing since sliced challah. So I wake up early Sunday morning, take my ingredient list and my cute tush down to the Santa Monica’s farmer’s market. Tomatoes — check. Garlic — check. Olives — check. I grab a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, I even ask the booth guy the difference between shallots and chives. I’m one babe of a ballabusta.

I chop and mince and dice and drain. I season and simmer and stir and — ugh! Just burned myself. But I’m determined. I can stand the heat; I’m not getting out of the kitchen. As I cook, Scott volunteers to help, which is sweet and fun and only makes me want to impress him more. I’m wearing a sauce-splattered shirt and a garlic stench I won’t ditch for days, but dinner is finally served. Scott goes on about how amazing my meal is. I taste my masterpiece. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. If that whole best way — man’s heart — stomach thing is true, I’m toast. I ask Scott for the truth.

“Is it as good as hers?”

“It’s just different…”

“Different how?”

“It’s hotter…”

“I’m sorry, hotter?”

“No, spicier.”

“Spicier how?”

“Carin, you’re crazy. Your sauce was great. I love that you made it for me. It was really sweet. But she’s Italian. She’s been making sauce for years. So her’s was a little better. It’s like you with Jewish cooking — there’s no way her kugel is as good as yours.”

He’s right, and not just about my blue-ribbon kugel. I get a little crazy, but only ‘cuz I care. I freak out about little things I think are important to our relationship, but what’s really important is Scott digs me. It doesn’t matter who cooks for him, what matters is who kisses him. So after dinner, I show Scott you don’t have to be Italian to spice things up.

Freelance writer Carin Davis can be reached at