Cooking Woes
November 28, 2012 4:21 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I constantly fight about cooking. Are we both being too inflexible?

My boyfriend absolutely loathes cooking. He doesn't even feel a sliver of satisfaction at having cooked something for himself when he does, and makes enough money that he can eat out for every meal if he wants. He complains that it takes too much time, and he would rather work an extra hour a day to afford premade meals by a personal chef than spend that hour cooking.

I love to cook, and come from a lower-class background where it was an absolute necessity. However, as a grad student I don't have a lot of time to plan/shop/cook during crunch times, so I often participate in eating out even though I feel guilty because to me, it's bourgeois and spoiled to let others do my cooking for me.

I've tried compromising, saying that I'll cook if he cleans, but he often refuses and says he'd rather pay for every meal out than do the cleaning.

We try to eat healthy when we go out, but I know even a healthy meal at a locally-owned organic restaurant might have hidden mischief in terms of calories and sugar and whatnot. He refuses to believe that what he's eating isn't actually healthier than what we eat at home when I cook. (And to be honest, maybe it is just as healthy, but I'm suspicious after reading some things about "healthy" entrees at chain restaurants).

Sometimes this feels like a big issue and a potential dealbreaker. He can be flexible about some other things, but is absolutely intractable about this.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (50 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a little confused about what the issue is. If you do actually have the time to cook, then cook. If not, let your boyfriend be generous and go out. You won't be in school forever.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:30 PM on November 28, 2012 [13 favorites]

it's bourgeois and spoiled to let others do my cooking for me.

If that's your primary objection to eating out, I'm having trouble being sympathetic. It's his money, and (assuming they're locally-owned restaurants), the money is staying in your community, supporting low-income waiters, dishwashers, cooks, busboys...

(If they're chain restaurants, then he's lazy and has bad taste, so DTMFA.)

he often refuses and says he'd rather pay for every meal out than do the cleaning.

Sounds like he should eat out alone and you should cook and clean for yourself, and join him for meals out when you feel like being bourgeois/unhealthy. Or volunteer to do both if you want to cook and eat with him. Have him buy the groceries and wine and dessert if you want a little more reciprocity.
posted by supercres at 4:30 PM on November 28, 2012 [29 favorites]

You are allowed to split responsibilities for taking care of food needs. But you are allowed to take care of that your way (cook and clean), and he's allowed to take care of it his way (pay people to cook and clean). As long as he's not being financially irresponsible (i.e. going into debt for it, saving slightly less money doesn't count), it's not your place to be so bothered by it.

If his choice of restaurants offends you, that's a separate issue. But having a personal chef is a totally valid solution (which I've seriously considered, being of higher than average income, and lower than average inclination towards cooking).
posted by ethidda at 4:33 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sounds like if you want to cook, you're going to have to do your own clean up. I think that's reasonable. You need to look at it as "cooking is my hobby" rather than "cooking is a labor I perform for the household". Because your boyfriend doesn't actually *want* you to cook. You're doing it for you, not for him. Which is fine! But it doesn't mean he should be on the hook for the cleaning.

Or maybe you guys could hire someone to clean?

(It's also possible he just prefers restaurant food to your cooking and is using the cleaning thing as an excuse?)
posted by phoenixy at 4:36 PM on November 28, 2012 [15 favorites]

Well, it sounds like you both have baggage. I come from a working class background too, but now that I have more money, I eat out when I feel like it, within a budget. That's fine-- no reason to feel bad. The people who work at restaurants need money too. It's not spoiled.

On the other hand, your boyfriend is acting kind of spoiled-- I mean, c'mon. Cooking and cleaning are a part of life, unless you really have the budget for a personal staff. I'd be annoyed and probably just start cooking and eating my meals alone until he grows up a little. (I am okay with cooking but don't love it, and I still realize it's part of a balanced and responsible lifestyle for someone with my income.)

The truth is that if you ever join finances in some way and you don't have loads of money, a SIGNIFICANT portion of your income will go toward paying for meals rather than cooking and cleaning for yourselves. I've gone back and forth between eating out somewhat frequently and cooking for myself and the markup on restaurant food is pretty significant. It's money that could be going toward other things (even other lifestyle indulgences that you both enjoy). And if that's a dealbreaker, it's not such a crazy one. I wouldn't feel very serious about someone who refused to compromise on this kind of issue.

It really does depend on how much money he has. If he has a very high income, that can be part of a high income lifestyle-- but if he doesn't and he just can't get past this, then it's true that it will be a drain on his resources.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:38 PM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

You're right. It's probably not healthy to eat out for every meal. I'd also be concerned with how such a habit might cut into family rituals if and when you choose to have kids--so you guys are never going to share a dinner at home with them? And if you do, the cooking and the dishes are all your responsibility? What about the really great family bonding moments you might have with your kids in the kitchen? Or even with him--my husband and I have had great conversations chopping vegetables together, for instance.

But maybe that's because I grew up poor, too.

It seems like a major mismatch of values to me. For what it's worth, my husband grew up in a family wealthy enough to eat out (or order in) nearly every night, but since we live together, we alternate cooking and washing dishes in order to save both money and our waistlines. We still eat out about once a week--more than I normally would, but less than he would. It's mostly the inability to compromise that's troubling to me, but I think there's a lot wrapped up here that might speak to a deeper incompatibility.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:38 PM on November 28, 2012 [10 favorites]

From the way you write about this, I suspect you didn't grow up eating out much, and you still feel uncomfortable/special-occasion-y when you go to restaurants. I could be wrong, but it sounds like you feel like you don't have control when you're at a restaurant, and you're at the mercy of the menu. Eating out at restaurants is a skill — one that increases with practice. Face the restaurants bravely! Get in the habit of letting your server or the maitre d' know that you're concerned about calories and sugar, and trust them to guide you to smart choices — you're the customer, you're in control, and at a good restaurant the service staff is delighted to accomodate you if you make your desires known clearly and fairly.

As someone in a relationship with a large income disparity, I can tell you this: the money thing is not the same as the eating out/eating in thing. You're going to have to address your concerns of bourgeois consumption sooner or later, or the relationship is doomed. Do what you need to do to have a level-headed and unemotional conversation about finance between you and your boyfriend.

Also worth noting: Saying you'll cook if he cleans isn't a compromise: you get what you want, he not only doesn't get what he wants (to eat at a restaurant) but he has the additional burden of doing a chore.
posted by firstbest at 4:38 PM on November 28, 2012 [15 favorites]

This sounds more like your hangup than his, and I say that as a person who would much rather spend an hour cooking a nice meal than spend that same hour at work. If you're the one who's insisting on home-cooked meals, it sounds like you'd be welcome to cook them. The "you do the cleaning and I'll do the cooking" deal doesn't sound like a great compromise for him if he'd rather neither of you did the cooking.

Why not split the responsibility for both meals and cleaning, and let him take you out on his nights while you cook on your nights? If you're under school duress on one of your nights and he feels like taking you out, you can give in to your bourgeois tendencies and let him (I'm assuming from the way you talk about his income and the dining experiences it affords that he's treating for these meals out.)
posted by contraption at 4:39 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

You need to look at it as "cooking is my hobby" rather than "cooking is a labor I perform for the household". Because your boyfriend doesn't actually *want* you to cook. You're doing it for you, not for him. Which is fine! But it doesn't mean he should be on the hook for the cleaning.

It's not her hobby, though, it's the way she takes care of herself. It's a labor she performs to conserve resources. Him going out to restaurants in this circumstances isn't really a "hobby" either, even though it can be treated like one.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:40 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm assuming you live together? Either way, just stop eating dinner together as much. Tell him if he wants to go out for dinner he's welcome to, but you're going to stay in a fix something for yourself. That's what I would do if my SO insisted on eating out every night (which I find pretty gross despite coming from a reasonably affluent family).

Every once in a while he can take you out for dinner and you can cook him a nice homemade meal. Just stop feeling like you need to eat every meal together.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:41 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

If he has the money and is not suffering from health issues because of it, I say let him be. Eating habits are incredibly difficult to change.... this may be something he has been used to since childhood.

I sympathize for him because I have similar habits. I also came from a poor family, but with both parents working two shifts, there was no time for cooking or shopping. From my perspective, having home cooked meals is a privilege. I find it difficult to respond to friends who comment on my eating habits.
posted by WCF at 4:42 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's not her hobby, though, it's the way she takes care of herself. It's a labor she performs to conserve resources. Him going out to restaurants in this circumstances isn't really a "hobby" either, even though it can be treated like one.

Well, OP says that she "love[s] to cook" and it seems implicit in the question ("he'd rather pay for every meal out than do the cleaning") that the boyfriend is paying for the meals out. If he's not, and if the cost of these meals out is substantially higher than it would be to eat in, then of course it's unfair of him to insist that they both eat out all of the time when she can't afford it.
posted by phoenixy at 4:44 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not her hobby, though, it's the way she takes care of herself.

Sure it is. OP says she [heteronormative, sorry] loves to cook. He has a service-economy mindset: his time and energy is worth more than it would cost to pay someone to do these things. I'm not saying he isn't spoiled, but asking him for extra labor so that OP can do something she prefers (cooking versus eating out) isn't a compromise.

Really, the ideal would be for him to hire a housekeeper who can clean up after meals. But that's likely to be even less money-efficient.

Agree with the above poster about eating out at restaurants being a skill: you don't have to act entitled to get something that conforms to your dietary needs. Just ask.
posted by supercres at 4:45 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thing is, even if he can afford to eat out for every meal, he's still expending resources on it. It might be fine for her to say, "awesome, I'm time-poor, treat me to dinner!" but like I said, I wouldn't feel serious about him in the long term if we were going to share a household or finances.

And it's still unfair for him to insist that they both eat out all of the time. Her cooking and him cleaning isn't a compromise, but neither is... always eating out.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:47 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would probably be unhappy with going out for every meal. Why?

- it can actually take more time. You have to get there, you have to wait while your food is cooked, then go home afterwards
- there's more pressure to be 'nicely' dressed. Not sweatpants and an old tshirt.
- long term, it would be a resource drain.
- you don't get as much variety - you can't just say 'Oh, I want this random dish that nowhere around here makes'
- you can't control what's in the meal (Calories, etc.)

That said, I do realise some people just hate cooking. If it was me, I'd see if there was a compromise that doesn't involve a restaurant - say, a chef student who came over and cooked a meal at home. Or one of those places that'll deliver a week or two worth of frozen meals that only require putting in an oven, and it's also cheaper.

Or, you make your meal and he eats out.

Timewise and money wise, if you earn enough, it MAY be more efficient to pay someone to cook for you. I plan to use the same efficiency reasons as rationale behind hiring a cleaner, once I'm in a situation to need one. But remember to quantify your preferences too :p
posted by Ashlyth at 4:48 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

The only real compromise (aside from him paying someone to clean) is them each doing what they want to do alone. But that kind of sucks.

And since someone else mentioned sharing finances: it's totally reasonable, if and when you do combine finances, for eating out to come from his share of the disposable income (assuming it's never your idea); his allowance, as my wife and I put it. At the same time, though, a new chef's knife would come from yours. That isolates each of you from the other's preferences (mostly you from his).
posted by supercres at 4:50 PM on November 28, 2012

Well which is it, is it always at-least-secretly unhealthy or is it bourgeois and "spoiled"? You seem to be inventing ways in which he never gets to do what he wants (and works to be able to do), and your reasons are always the basis upon which decisions are made. Note that you don't mention how he responds to eating your cooking.

Couple this with your apparent class issues and it may just be that you two will never be happy together. Eating is pretty fundamental, but I wonder if this is really a dealbreaker for you in terms of lifestyle goals if you're basically a "spend as little as possible, always" person. "Bourgeois" is a pretty over-arching political reason to not do things, so I'm sure there are other luxuries you aren't interested in that he might be, such as a cleaning service.
posted by rhizome at 4:59 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Her cooking and him cleaning isn't a compromise, but neither is... always eating out.

Agreed. The compromise, if there is to be any, is she taking X days where she cooks AND cleans. And then he takes X days where they eat out at restaurants. We are within walking distance of three of four nice restaurants and it's a nice walk. And you can satisfy specific cravings. (My partner is a fantastic cook, but we're still experimenting with how to make the perfect Eggs Benedict. In the meantime, we go out a couple of times a month to THAT SPECIFIC RESTAURANT where I can get the "perfect" benny.)

As for variety--a lot of people don't actually care about variety for food.

To me, it just sounds like OP is unreasonable. Sorry, but I DO hire a housekeeper, weekly, and she is totally willing to do dishes from the last few days (the few times I've been sick or had a large party). And it's probably still "spoiled" seeming to many people. OP's bf can hire a housekeeper. OP can cook the few days before the housekeeper comes. (Or all the time, and do dishes half the time.)

My partner comes from a family with multiple kids and very tight budgets, where I was the only child of an only child for 12 years. He makes less money than I do, and he has never hired a housekeeper. When he moved in with me, we split the chores. I'd clean the house, he'd do the yard work. Except I hire someone to do it. He knows my finances. He knows I can afford it. And he knows that's the only way I'm willing to keep the house clean and that's fine by him.

Would he rather save it or pay for his siblings' tuition with the "splurged" money? Maybe. But it's NOT his money; it's mine. And I get to take care of my half of my relationship responsibility my way. After all, I've worked hard, and made my life choices specifically so I would have money and enjoy a standard of living I currently do. Now, I'm just enjoying the results of my hard work (and good luck). I would take offense when people call me spoiled, just because they made different choices.
posted by ethidda at 5:00 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds like he's willing to pay for services and you'd rather do them yourself. The eating out thing is a thing -- but hey, if he wants to eat out, let him eat out. You can cook for yourself and go out with him on special occasions. Since it sounds like the problem is you don't have time to cook and clean, don't do the cleaning. Let him hire a housekeeper.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:13 PM on November 28, 2012

I've actually been chatting with my husband about this stuff as the conversation here has developed and I think so many of these emotions and class impressions run deep. Like you, OP, my instinct is to label these behaviors negatively--fundamentally, I was raised on the belief that people contribute to the household's function through hard work. Under this pretty working class belief system, you don't shirk work if you're physically able just because you can afford to do so; you contribute in an active way because cooking and cleaning are things we all do to take care of one another. There's also a certain communalism of finances--the assumption is that all parties are invested in saving money and that money itself is treated as a shared resource. This would be important for me were I in your position because, since he's someone who grew up wealthy, he likely had opportunities you never had (for instance, family connections leading to higher income; less debt from school, etc.) and often these opportunities are reflected in lifelong income disparity. So either you spend money you don't have to live a lifestyle you can't afford, or you do the physical work of cooking and cleaning all the time, or you let him pay for you always even though it likely goes against your value system (again, one based on a foundation of shared labor and shared commitment to the likewise shared financial pool).

I'm not sure what the solution is here, but mostly what I want to say is that I empathize with you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:16 PM on November 28, 2012 [15 favorites]

Yes, it could come from his share of the disposable income. But that means either they're eating separately most of the time, or she's always cooking and cleaning for him, or they're always going out to eat-- none of those sound fun or fair. Even eating out half of the time and her cooking and cleaning for him half the time doesn't seem fun or fair, and I don't know that it would actually make either of them feel good.

I've adjusted to a lot of bourgeois consumption issues since I was a kid (I eat out pretty frequently, actually), but I don't think I'd be happy with this one. I agree with Ashlyth that going out to eat means less control, more resource drain, less variety, and it's also time consuming. I really enjoy eating out and I'm comfortable with it and still, I would get tired of always eating restaurant food. A lot of restaurant food is unhealthy (cutting down variety even more) and as someone else mentioned, if they have children, either they're always going to be taking the kids out to eat, or she'll end up at home cooking and cleaning for the kids, because he won't do it. (Or, he'll decide he can help, which would be nice.) Variety, health, access and time (as well as home-bonding) are all my personal values, but they're values I wouldn't necessarily want to change. I don't think the OP should or has to.

The only thing I can think of that might actually bridge the gap is hiring an actual personal chef, so that they have more control over their meals and time. Otherwise she's going to be eating out way more than she wants or she's going to have to treat something that for a lot of people is a basic part of family bonding and household upkeep as a "hobby." I don't really enjoy the daily grind of cooking, but it has many advantages, and if I either had to give it up or take care of all of it by myself because it wasn't important to my partner then I wouldn't feel happy. Assuming that all our values are relative, they're both making emotional claims about food, and hers aren't inferior to his.

ethidda, I think that going out to restaurants and hiring a housekeeper are kind of distinct. Going out to restaurants means either they eat separately or she's always going out to restaurants. You hiring a housekeeper probably doesn't mean he has to spend portions of every day doing something that you want to do.

Some of the OP's excuses might seem flimsy, but I don't understand his either, like "time-consuming"-- restaurant dining takes a long time, possibly more than shopping/cooking would over the course of a week, depending.

If this were a question about a lower or middle-income boyfriend who wanted to order in (cheap) takeout for every single meal because he didn't like cooking or cleaning, I think the responses would be kind of different, even if he could technically afford it. Plus actually eating out for every meal is pretty idiosyncratic. And the knowledge that he likes eating out doesn't actually say much about his relationship to food-- does he love elaborate restaurant food, or is he indifferent about food to the extent that he doesn't care about variety and just doesn't want to cook it? I guess there are a lot of factors in terms of relationship to food. It's okay to not feel serious about someone because you don't share basic philosophies about living.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I guess I'm also operating from the assumption that most people value eating together as a couple. If the OP doesn't, then eating separately is viable, but if she really wants a partner who will collaborate with her in this area, he doesn't sound like the one right now.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:22 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I get your objection to eating out, but I don't understand the objection to the personal chef, if he can afford it. Here's why:

- you can control what goes into what they make for you, so it's as healthy and as varied as you specify
- you can have them shop and do prep and leave you with the finishing cooking, so you still get to do something
- cleanup is greatly reduced if everything is prepped and you only have to wash one pan and plates

Maybe it's still "spoiled" but I would do it if I had the money, and I like to cook, too, but it's the meal planning that I hate.
posted by slow graffiti at 5:23 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, in our marriage we have some incompatibilities around food that are much, much more minor than yours, and I have at times felt really sad about it. Food and cooking are important to me, and for many people one of the main things that family life is built around (loose definition of family here, mine is the two of us and a lot of pets). Food and cooking are apparently important to you, too. Wouldn't you love to cook a big, fabulous meal and have your partner belly up to the table with gusto, brag on your cooking, look forward to having people over for dinner at your house? Request special dishes of yours? Yeah. Think about it. It's pretty important.
posted by HotToddy at 5:24 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've tried compromising, saying that I'll cook if he cleans, but he often refuses and says he'd rather pay for every meal out than do the cleaning. ....he would rather work an extra hour a day to afford premade meals by a personal chef than spend that hour cooking.
So he also tried compromising - you don't want to go to restaurants, he doesn't want to cook, he will spend the cash on having someone cook at home so you know what's in it and so on but he doesn't have to do the actual cooking or cleaning. What about this was not acceptable? Or did you not see this as a serious option?
posted by jacalata at 5:26 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's an actual compromise: GOOD QUALITY FROZEN FOOD. (For best flavor, bake it in the oven, not the microwave.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:19 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am surprised by how many answers there are telling you to just suck it up and let him take you out or get a personal chef-- it's clear that this is something that genuinely bothers you, and whether or not eating out every meal is what he prefers, it's not what you prefer. This is a tricky issue, because it's easy for him to argue that eating out is the "better" thing to do in some rational way when not only is that not necessarily the case (as others have pointed out above), that's not necessarily even the thing that's important-- what's important is that it makes you uncomfortable. Can you make it clear to him that you'd like him to cook for or with you every once in a while not because it makes more sense or it's something he enjoys but because it's something that would actively make you happy?

It might make more sense to him or be more appealing to him if he could think of it as doing something to make your life better, and if he really understood that sometimes a home-cooked meal is just more pleasurable to you than a restaurant meal. You could ask him to cook with or for you as a favor to you, not just because it's necessary to eat dinner, but because you like to eat home-cooked food.

You might also try to take this attitude toward going to restaurants with him-- remember that it's something he enjoys, and try to take pleasure in his enjoyment of it. The people telling you to compromise don't seem to realize that you already are giving in much more than he is-- it may not read that way because going to a restaurant doesn't look like a sacrifice, but it's clear that in these circumstances, it feels like one. This, of course, only works if you're both the kind of people who are willing to do things sometimes just to make each other happy, but it might also be the case that if he spends more time cooking and gets better at it, he'll find it more pleasurable for its own sake.
posted by dizziest at 6:31 PM on November 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

Yes, you are both being too inflexible.

You have a nice system if you stop arguing about it. He provides meals through restaurants or a personal chef; you provide meals by cooking and cleaning; you both get variety and you both get your preferred way of eating part of the time.

There is nothing immoral about not cooking. I can see how you might feel that way (as PhoBWanKenobi was talking about upthread), but really: Who is hurt if he works an extra hour and spends the extra money on a cook?

That said, always eating in restaurants can get tiresome, and if he complains when you cook and clean, I would tell him to STFU.
posted by feets at 6:38 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I love to cook, and grew up poor. Eating out meant Little Ceaser's or chain buffets on special occasions. My husband and I used to cook regularly, but now we have a toddler and if the choice is spending our 2 hours a night of family time cooking or ordering in and having a relaxing night together, then yes, we'll order in every workday. When she gets older and can participate, we will cook again, but right now, more time with her is what we're spending our money on.

Do you think maybe your resentment stems from the fact that he "easily" pays people to do unpleasant things while you can't? If so, I'd urge you to consider the fact that he works hard for his money, and gets to decide how to spend it. And if you don't think he deserves his money, I think you have bigger issues than cooking.

It's totally reasonable to expect your partner to share in the household duties. It's controlling to dictate how he fulfills it.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

It could be that your love languages are as tied up in this as your backgrounds. Is your love language acts of service? And maybe his is quality time or receiving gifts (for some people a dinner out counts as a gift).

If that's the case then not only is he not performing acts of service (showing you he loves you in a way that resonates with you) but he's also really put the kibosh on your ability to express your feelings through acts of service too. He's all but said acts of service have no value in his eyes. And it's hard enough when you speak a different love language, but possibly a dealbreaker if he's not open to finding value in the language you speak.
posted by headnsouth at 7:50 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is related to what dizziest mentioned, but I think you should approach this as a relationship issue, and not as a division of chores/money issue. You're not asking him to help you cook/clean because it's superior to eating out, but because cooking and cleaning together is important to you. I think this is why eating out half the time feels like an uneven compromise, since it seems like he doesn't give the same emotional weight to eating out that you do to staying in.

To put it another way, I think you should separate the issue of how often you eat together and what portion of that time you eat out vs. cooking from the issue of how much time/labor you contribute. If you have less money, then he's probably going to contribute more to joint expenses, but that doesn't mean he gets to buy the power to unilaterally make these decisions. That is, unless you're okay with a relationship where whoever pays for things is the decision maker.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:11 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that any of the following apply to your boyfriend? I speak from the perspective of someone who eats out a ton of the time.

In my view, eating out equates to more control over what I eat. I like cooking but have a limited repertoire and I live near a gazillion restaurants with every meal imaginable. (If the only restaurants near you are chains, this may not apply.) While I was growing up, my mom worked and did not enjoy cooking and so I got in the habit of eating restaurant food or other take-out or quick-pickup food for many meals. I can understand where you could call this lazy, but I would defend my mother (who was busy with things other than cooking) and myself. (I am also busy and eating at restaurants supports the economy and also generally provides me with better-tasting food than I could make myself--probably healthier food a fair amount of the time too.)

Eating out also works great for me since most of the time I don't go to expensive places, so it can be cheaper than cooking to pick up pizza or a salad or falafel or a bagel or whatever. And I really enjoy eating out, like in a hobby sense, and don't really spend much of my money on anything else, so if it's ever a splurge, it's a really enjoyable one.

My boyfriend is much more of a cooking type so I try to compromise and we eat in some nights and out others. I definitely agree that "he cooks and I clean" would not be a compromise for me, because I would generally prefer to eat out, and I am also very busy with a full-time job, freelance job, and part-time school.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:36 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Been there, opposite gender but same intraction.

Money now and in the future totally aside, you sound like you like cooking, at least sometimes. If he's totally not into that...

But one hobby isn't everything.

OTOH, maybe sign up for cooking classes together so you can figure out what each other likes.
posted by porpoise at 9:30 PM on November 28, 2012

God would I be pissed off if I were you. His complete unwillingness to compromise would be a major turnoff to me, and honestly a red flag for future issues. And to everyone who is emphasizing that this is your hobby, so he shouldn't feel any obligation to clean after you cook, I say bullshit. It's not like you're asking him to clean up after your home-brewing, and he doesn't drink. You are cooking your "family" a meal. Doing the cleanup after you cook him a meal is just fucking nice (yes, even if you actually enjoyed the cooking) and displays good couplesmanship. Perhaps it's not him getting exactly what he wants every fucking night of the week, but that's what relationships are. I mean, obviously it's his money and he can do whatever the fuck he wants with it. But it shows that, at least in this area, he does not consider what would make you happy to be worth participating in at all.

OTOH, you definitely need to get over the guilt-at-eating-out thing. Your two attitudes are at the complete extremes, which is what's causing such a problem here. Perhaps if you moderate your position he might be more likely to do the same. I would be interested to see what would happen if you suggested some type of weekly meal plan, perhaps where you cook three days a week (with him cleaning) and you go out four days a week. Perhaps you would offer to treat one or two times that you go out. Emphasize not that you think it's snobby to eat out all the time, or bad for your health, but that cooking and being together at home is important to you.
posted by imalaowai at 10:22 PM on November 28, 2012 [12 favorites]

How is he on other aspects of housework? I'm assuming you don't live together but have you observed him doing any cleaning at all at his own place? I'm wondering if his refusal to help with food preparation and cleanup extends into general laziness to the point where, if you stay together, you'll end up doing everything for him while he doesn't lift a finger.
posted by hazyjane at 10:56 PM on November 28, 2012

Cooking for two is little more effort than cooking for one, same with cleanup for two.

Eating out for two is twice as costly.

You want to cook, cook. If he offers to pay for eating out in order to avoid the dishes the ball is in your court ... accept eating out or do the dishes as well!

Doesn't seem so hard!
posted by jannw at 6:02 AM on November 29, 2012

Uh, are you sure your cooking doesn't suck, and he's not willing to say so?

Also, cleaning is the worst part of cooking; cooking is making something, cleaning is being full of food and doing work when you just want to relax
posted by MangyCarface at 6:30 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Uh, are you sure your cooking doesn't suck, and he's not willing to say so?

Yeah, this could be it. This is what I would do if your cooking wasn't good and I didn't want to tell you
posted by Patbon at 6:31 AM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Cooking does take time. Time is Money.

I love cooking but it's a luxury for me to do it. My hourly wage would pay for a dinner for two at most nice restaurants. (not reeeally nice)

This means that if we've eating at just an OK place, like $15-30 a person, That I'm losing money cooking.

Coming from a food stamp background that was hard to get my head around.

So I cook less, work more, and my wife started cooking a lot more. And remember I love to cook. If I hated it like your boyfriend does, I would literally never do it.
posted by French Fry at 8:53 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had similar problems that I realized boiled down to lots of my own baggage: I felt like he wasn't "pulling his weight", that he was "exploiting the working poor", that he was "lazy", that he was creating an uber-class of "wealthy consumers". This was more around the issue of house-cleaning services, and I think there's more compromise available to you. But I've also explored my own assumptions much more thoroughly and come to see that a lot of them were defensive and immature.

You've got some good reasons for liking to cook and eat at home, but I think you might be helped, too, be re-examining some of your emotional assumptions that feed into these arguments.
posted by ldthomps at 8:58 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

One thing I haven't seen acknowledged much in these answers is the cultural and social importance of cooking and sharing a meal together. Cooking and eating together can be an important part of family life, a social bonding experience, and an act of love and caring. I don't think you are wrong to wish that he would participate in that. But, unfortunately for you, not everyone shares that value – and I suspect the number of people who don't is growing. As with any fundamental value difference in a relationship, it's probably just something you'll need to accept about the other person if you want to make it work.
posted by liquefaction zone at 10:44 AM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've tried compromising, saying that I'll cook if he cleans, but he often refuses and says he'd rather pay for every meal out than do the cleaning.

Does he expect you to do all the cleaning, since he pays for every meal out? It sounds like the issue you are trying to describe in your question has to do with his wanting to eat out all the time, but maybe it's more that he's not doing his share around the house. I can see why you would be upset if he used paying for things as a justification for not cleaning at all.

I'm a bit puzzled as to how you are saving time by going out to eat for every meal though. You could have a quick breakfast ready before you even get to the restaurant, and making a sandwich or salad is about the same. If you said "No, I'd rather eat at home today, I don't have time to go out", what would he do? Maybe you should find out.
posted by yohko at 11:49 AM on November 29, 2012

I enjoy every aspect of cooking and own a dishwasher. Husbunny doesn't cook and isn't interestest in taking it up any time soon. He's also one of those people who pretends he has no idea where any pot, pan, dish or condiment goes when we're done using it.

When I cook dinner at home, I am on my own for shopping, preparations, cooking and cleaning up. I get lots of love and praise, but this is just one of those things he's never going to want to show an interest in. That's okay, his job is to clean the cat box.

One night you do your cooking and cleaning up thing, the next night, he covers dinner. Either he's taking you out, or he's picking up something pre-made.

None of this is a political or class statement, it's honestly that the guy HATES to cook and clean up, and he'll do whatever not to have to deal with it.

Once, when Husbunny and I were still Long Distance, I cooked and filled his freezer full of homemade food. He could not be bothered to microwave it to eat it. Seriously, that's how adverse he was to being in the kitchen.

Work out something that works for both of you. Perhaps you can do all the cooking and cleaning up, and he can buy the groceries. That way it's fair, but you're each in your arena of comfort.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:50 AM on November 29, 2012

Compromise. You don't have to always go out to restaurants when you don't want to cook. Why can't you get quality frozen meals? You could even make your own when you have the time. You can get takeout from local healthier places, or eat sandwiches for dinner.
posted by inertia at 12:42 PM on November 29, 2012

Cooking for two is little more effort than cooking for one, same with cleanup for two.

I'm newly in the OP's situation (more or less) but am not finding it only a little more work to cook for two than just for myself. When it's just me, I tear up lettuce in a bowl and dump dressing on it. Clean up = put bowl in dishwasher.

When I'm cooking for two, I feel obliged to do things like wash the lettuce first and generally make a more traditional meal. Food has gotten more elaborate (not that that takes much), expensive, and dirty-dish intensive.

I have about 4 hours in the evening and if 90 minutes of it ends up food related, I get really annoyed but the reality is that I'm doing it to myself. I doubt he cares if he lives off canned soup the rest of his life but I'm pickier. He's not going to change, or maybe I could make him change, but the damage that would do to the relationship isn't worth it to me. This is my problem, not his, and in your question, OP, the problem is more yours than his- he's willing to eat out OR eat at home so long as he doesn't have to deal with the meal making. You only want to eat at home AND he has to change his behavior.

You've made your needs known. He's made his known, and the obvious compromise of eating out half the time doesn't work for you. Is it a dealbreaker? Do you need someone to cook with? He might not be the guy for you.

However, dining out doesn't have the back story for everyone that it has for you. Is everyone else inconsiderate? Do people whom you respect have a different take on it than you do? Before you decide to die on this hill, maybe take apart some of the assumptions you ascribe to dining out. Are there other ways to look at it that will still allow you to honor your values?

I sympathize. I have similar class/cultural triggers that are real obstacles to allowing people in my life, (including my SO), to be themselves without me being judgmental. I'm not talking about running guns or anything, just different priorities about how they spend their time and money that I have had a hard time not getting on my high horse about. I owe AskMe a big debt of thanks for helping me reconsider a few of them.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:48 PM on November 29, 2012

Yeah, I would be concerned that this was his awkward/passive-aggressive way of saying he didn't like your cooking very much.

Also, NB: working hard and earning enough money to enjoy various things in life that you would otherwise be unable to afford does not equal being "spoiled". It is called being "successful".
posted by elizardbits at 12:57 PM on November 29, 2012

The way I see it, the BF is making no concessions to the fact that his partner wants to make food for the two of them (whether it's to save money or that she genuinely enjoys cooking). Assuming that she can put something together that isn't inedible, he is not being gracious or accommodating. Sure he can afford to eat out every night, but is cleaning up after having a home-cooked meal made just for you that difficult to agree to? My BF will help with the cleanup, even though he *hates* having to wash anything by hand.

Quality frozen meals? That's like military intelligence.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:18 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

but is cleaning up after having a home-cooked meal made just for you that difficult to agree to?

Once a month? Not a big deal to ask for clean-up help.
Seven days a week? Definitely too much to ask.

Imagine if he enjoyed scattering sand all over the living room floor* every day after work. It takes, what, 20 minutes to sweep and vacuum up? No big deal, right? You wouldn't mind agreeing to do that EVERY DAY AFTER WORK FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, would you?

I honor how sacred cooking and food is to so much of metafilter, but insisting that Boyfriend is Just Wrong for not sharing that value isn't productive or reasonable.

And it's especially too much to ask if the OP cooks like my family members do, using every damn pot in the kitchen and not cleaning up as she goes.

*assume hardwood floor

posted by small_ruminant at 2:21 PM on November 29, 2012

I don't know if you (plural) are being too inflexible, but it may be that you're incompatible. I think of someone as inflexible if they're unwilling to compromise on things that aren't important. Someone who refuses to compromise on things that are crucial to them is another matter, but if your current eating preferences are important enough to both of you that they are the hill on which your relationship might die, you may be incompatible. (Unless eating together isn't important for either of you, in which case, go your own ways most of the time.)

Since this seems to be an important issue for both of you, my advice would be for both of you to reflect on, write down, and discuss what you find (a) objectionable, in terms of your personal values, (b) impractical, in terms of cost in money, time, and effort, and (c) attractive about both cooking in and eating out. That will help you clarify where your differences are a matter of deeply held values and where they involve judgments about what's most practical. It will also help you determine whether you can work this out on your own, or whether couples therapy would be useful if the relationship seems to be serious. Once you've drawn up your lists, have a serious conversation about it--probably not over dinner, though, given the subject.

I'm sympathetic to your point of view: I could afford to eat out several times a week, but after a long day at work, the last thing I often want to do is to drive to a restaurant and take an hour or more ordering and eating a meal. For me, it's not the cost or the sense that it's "cheating" to have someone else cook for me that's the issue; rather, I like cooking, but I also like having the time at home relaxing that cooking affords (listening to the radio, watching Jeopardy, chatting with my wife, talking on the phone, etc.--all things I can do while cooking, except for particularly tricky bits). On the other hand, I realize that not everyone shares that view of cooking, nor do they necessarily share the idea that going out to eat can be stressful when you just want to be home relaxing. Fortunately my wife has similar views, and while I do most of the cooking, we agree about where we stand on eating home-cooked meals together as a family.

On a practical level, we plan out our meals in advance and work leftovers into our meal plans (sometimes cooked in bulk, frozen, and then thawed out when needed), so that we need to shop only once a week and always have something on hand to prepare quickly if we don't feel like cooking after a long day in the office. However, that only works because we agree on the fundamentals.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:14 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

For some reason I feel compelled to add, in response to the OP's question and to several answers: the idea that you can work an extra hour to pay for a meal out, or that you're losing money by cooking rather than working, only makes sense if you're on an hourly wage. For those of us who are salaried, the equation looks different: if the hour (which is a lot of time for a skilled home cook to make a decent meal, by the way) you would have spent cooking is spent reading, playing video games, or answering questions on AskMeFi, it's not saving you money. And if it's spent working, it isn't bringing in an hour's worth of extra income, unless the sum total of those hours over the course of a year makes a significant contribution to your annual raise, bonus, or whatever.

(Oh, and computech_apolloniajames: you can have quality frozen meals--if you prepare and freeze them yourself, at least!)
posted by brianogilvie at 7:21 PM on November 29, 2012

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