Appreciation for tomato soup.

In countless households across the United States where both husband and wife work outside the home, it’s not uncommon for the spouse arriving home first to begin preparing the next meal.

In the Henley household that pattern would be utilized except for one thing – I can’t cook.

Oh, on a summer afternoon when it’s anywhere from 75 to 105 degrees outside, I can frequently be found inhaling smoke from a barbecue grill. But while I have no trouble searing pork, beef or chicken, when it comes to preparing a roast, I’m a boat without an oar.

My sons, Caleb and Jacob, have learned to cook, in part thanks to their mother and my wife, Nancy. There’s also a certain necessity that comes with being out on their own which factored into their learning to cook.

In my case, I went from living at home, where my dear mother cooked for me, to being married, where my dear wife cooks for me. Consequently the urgency for me to learn to cook just wasn’t there as it was for my sons after they left the “nest.”

I don’t remember my mother ever trying to teach me to cook. She likely figured that me being the hard-headed individual that I was (am), trying to teach me to cook would be equivalent to throwing a rock against a brick wall – it wouldn’t stick.

As for Nancy, during our 37 years of marriage she has managed to coax me into the kitchen long enough to teach me to make knot rolls from scratch. To her credit, she has taught me to flip pancakes, although I don’t ever remember making the batter. I’ve also flown solo when it came to frying hamburgers and eggs. I also know not to fry eggs and hamburgers in the same skillet, at the same time, in case you’re wondering.

But as I mentioned, when it comes to baking a roast, preparing a meatloaf or frying a chicken, I’m lost.

That (at a loss) is exactly where I was last Tuesday night when I beat my bride home from work. I knew with her getting home after 6 o’clock from her new job, she would be worn out both physically and emotionally.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice meal on the table when she got home?” I asked myself.

And while the obvious answer was “yes,” I was stuck on what to fix.

I thought about going with my specialty – peanut butter and jelly. But that didn’t seem like quite enough on a cold winter night.

I wandered down to the basement where the canned goods are stashed. As I dug and dug, it quickly became apparent that Nancy had happened upon a sale of tomato soup. Tomato soup!

As I read the directions – one can of soup, one can of water – I concluded that even a kitchen clod like me couldn’t butcher fixing tomato soup. Of course I was wrong.

While I handled steps 1 and 2 – opening the cans and adding the water – I hadn’t given a lot of thought to how hot to set the burner. After adjusting the burner to what I thought was a relatively low setting, I went off to set the table and surf the web for a few minutes. When I returned a few minutes later to stir the soup, I could feel something on the bottom of the corning ware dish.

“Oh snap, I’ve burned the soup,” I moaned.

Fortunately, I caught my mistake before the soup or dish was ruined, or the Fire Department had to be summoned.

When Nancy got home I was rewarded with a hero’s hug.

“I was hoping for something like this,” she said. “I didn’t want to have to think about what to fix for supper.”

I’m sure in the weeks ahead, there will be plenty of evenings when I beat my bride home from work. The only question now is: How soon will she get sick of tomato soup?