Monday, December 06, 2010

Sometimes a Recipe is Not Just a Recipe

Dear Grace,
I strive to be a Grant, I really do. But I got myself into the dog house last night over what I thought was nothing--but my wife disagrees. Here's the scenario:

I was watching a game when she came home last night from a work event. She said hello, then went to the computer and printed out something. I figured she was taking care of some household accounting; we had paid bills together earlier in the day. She came into the den and handed me the papers. I thought it was something I had to sign so I looked up from the game. It was a recipe--for mulled wine.

I hate mulled wine. She knows that, or I thought she did. I looked confused, having expected an electric bill, then must have frowned at the recipe. She said something like "What's your problem?" I was still mystified and said, sort of bemused, "I don't like mulled wine." She grabbed the recipe, huffed off, and shouted "Fine! Then I won't make any for you." She has been in a snit since yesterday and I really can't figure out what I did wrong. Was I rude? I don't even know what to apologize for--hating mulled wine? Please help.

Grace Says:

I'm sure you are a Grant. The fact that you are seeking a solution to this instead of storming off in an equivalent huff tells me that. The decision you need to make is whether you want this episode to be fair or finished.

If you seek fair, then Wife should come to you, hat in hand, and apologize for her irrational reaction to an innocuous response on your part. Realistically, that may not happen, and requiring it may only escalate this contretemps. As Bill Clinton learned the hard way, sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar. (Or, in your case, sometimes a recipe is not just a recipe.)
When considering the cigar, sometimes one must take into account how the tobacco was grown, where it was harvested, the factory in which it was processed--ok, this metaphor may be getting a bit out of control, but I am driving at the following: you don't know what may have preceded the mulled wine outburst. Wife may have had a miserable time at the work event, the household accounting session you had earlier in the day may have stressed her out, the frenzy of the holidays may be overwhelming her.

For all you know, the mulled wine may have been a version of her dear departed granny's brew that was part of the family's Christmas tradition dating back generations, has been lost for a decade, and she just located it on the internet after exhaustive research. (Incidentally, I agree with you about mulled wine; due respect to the hypothetical granny, if the wine warrants sugar and spice it is probably not worth drinking, and if the wine is good enough to drink then it should not be adulterated thus. But I digress.)

Option B is to make it finished, definitely the more practical approach, and the only one you have the ability to implement. There are two approaches here. My preferred method is to forget it and move on; if she is over it without reliving the exchange, then (with apologies to the Fab Four) let it be. If the episode needs to be revisited in order to be put to rest, approach your wife and say, "I really didn't mean to hurt your feelings about the mulled wine. I was distracted, I thought you were handing me something else, and I didn't know the recipe meant so much to you. I am sorry that my reaction was hurtful, and even though I probably won't drink it, I will help you grind the nutmeg and cinnamon if you like."

Any girl worth her Grace would forgive you under the circ's. (I mean, for heaven's sake, you were watching the game and she shoved a recipe under your nose.) If she doesn't, well, you may want to seek advice of an entirely different sort.

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