The Right Woman, Part 1

recipe/1: PRESCRIPTION 2: a set of instructions for making something from various ingredients 3: a formula or procedure for doing or attaining something < a ~ for success>. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition


Don’t ever ask him any questions; don’t negate him or what he does, or tells you; put his comfort first, ahead of your own, ahead of the children. Don’t bother him with your physical problems, and be available for his comfort even if you’re in a state of nausea, or running a temperature of 104. A. E. Van Vogt, A Report on the Violent Male


He described his wife as an invalid type. I am not sure I am quite wording it right. An adult that acts like a juvenile or a, you know, a spoiled brat type situation. Grand Jury Testimony of Bob Sendle, 1973


My divorce from Doug left me with few of his family’s mementos: two glazed mugs in which we’d mixed Tang and powdered Lipton’s to make Betty’s Russian tea; a cookie tin with packets of needles, spools of thread, and a pair of reindeer gamboling across the lid; and a small orange three-ring binder with a 1940s wasp-waisted woman silhouetted on the cover. When a button came off, I used Betty’s sewing box. Her mugs I stored in the back of my cupboard. But the binder was an orphan. Jammed into a shelf of cookbooks in my basement, over the years My Favorite Recipes’s spine split and its vinyl cover cracked.

The woman on the cover wore a jaunty toque and apron with an extravagant bow. One hand perched saucily on her hip; the other balanced a platter of pastries with steam rising from the top. My Favorite Recipes wasn’t just a recipe file. It was a domestic bible, a repository for ambitions and dreams.

Betty’s binder was crammed with pamphlets for coconut animal cut-up cakes and buffet skillets and a brochure for china from Montgomery Ward. Recipes for dove and pheasant were sure to please her husband Duane, and she saved Joan Fontaine’s menus for the dinner parties they’d throw. In peacock blue pencil and violet ink, she made notes—More like sherbet! next to the lemon ice bars. On a blank page in the back she sketched a rose garden and her sister Agnes’s chrysanthemum bed. Betty’s aspirations, refracted through the appliances she used, the dinnerware that caught her eye, the gardens she hoped to plant. And a recipe for disaster in a marriage to a man to whom she was intractably flawed.

Is there a recipe for marriage?


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