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Funbag

Help! My Spouse Hates Cooking (And Eating Too)!

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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s new book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about quarterback serial killers, heist movies, insufferable nicknames for things, and more.

All right, we are now one mere day away from the Live Distraction Party in New York. I have been told that there are “a couple tickets left.” So if you’re a couple of people, get those scant remaining tickets here before they go POOF. I have promised both my wife and my mom that I will not die again after this show. Dying makes for an excellent book, but I don’t care to go through all that ever again.

Not done plugging shit yet. Defector subscriptions are still available for a buck the first month, and gift subs are back again for Christmas. Got all that? Write it down.

Your letters:

Amanda:

On the latest Distraction, you and Roth were positing that generally, Funbag readers are “domesticated” guys who cook. Well, my husband is not. Though he’s very progressive in most ways (and, in fact, the split of household chores/child rearing duties in our marriage is legitimately 50/50) he grew up in a relatively conservative, blue collar household that was indifferent to food, and as a result cannot cook and does not even particularly enjoy eating. I love my husband, but this really bums me out! I LOVE food culture and wish that this was something we could share. I don’t mind cooking dinner, but the thought of actually collaborating on it, or of going to restaurants without feeling like I’m dragging him there sounds like an impossible dream. How can I get him into food? (Feel free to address him directly as we both read this column, and Defector, religiously.)

I have a hard time understanding people who aren’t into food. I’d rather eat than do just about anything else. I spend every day thinking fondly about what I’ve eaten and looking forward to what I’m going to eat. So I think less of people who are like DOY UH FOOD IS MEH. It’s lazy, dispassionate, and downright uncivilized. Makes me angry just thinking about it.

But my anger is of no help to Amanda here and her epicurean lout of a husband. The 21st century has already taught me that trying to shame people into doing one thing or another is about as effective as Minnesota’s endgame defense. So I won’t do that. Instead, I will attempt to be constructive. I have some experience in this area because one of my children is not a terribly enthusiastic eater, and we’ve been spending a lot of time and resources trying to expand his palate. The best way to do this is to have a reluctant eater interact with food more often, to expose them to different kinds of food, and to give them their own chance to discover food wherever you can. So that means:

  • Shopping for food together, letting them pick certain items that interest them
  • Watching cooking shows, like that one British one
  • Cooking food together, and don’t worry if the other person “can’t” cook. They can still do basic shit like fill a measuring cup, or cut up ingredients, or stir a soup. None of those tasks require you to have a degree from the Cordon Bleu. You can blast music and drink beer while you do any of this prep work
  • Asking them, in a nonjudgmental way, about what they’re eating. How the food looks, smells, etc. They have to think beyond “I don’t like this” or “This tastes bad” to understand food better.

This has been a long and painstaking process for my wife and me. We do our best to be patient and friendly with our son, so that mealtime isn’t always stressful. The results have been slow to come but they’ve been tangible, so we know we’re making progress. It’s not a lock that our methods directly translating to working on a grown man, particularly if he’s uninterested, but it’s the best advice I can give Amanda right now short of telling her to threaten to leave her husband for Rocco DiSpirito.

But hey, maybe she should. Get your fucking shit together, Mr. Amanda.

Mike:

On Thanksgiving, I took a nap and had a dream that I was a detective on an island investigating a serial kidnapper/killer. The weird thing was all the residents/suspects were NFL QBs. As a NFL writer (and awake person) which starter would be the most likely to be a serial killer? Least likely? The shady guy who turned out to be a big red herring? The most helpful? P.S. Tua was the killer, which I missed because I was so convinced it was Jameis. 

Mac Jones. He looks so innocent. Why, he could be the boy next door. Such a well-mannered lad. Who would have guessed that Mac actually has a secret torture dungeon in his home, accessible only via a staircase hidden behind a false bookshelf? Who knew that, anytime a child asks Mac Jones for an autograph, he offers to take them back to his house for special quarterbacking lessons, and then locks them down there for future vivisection? Not I. Never once did I suspect it.

Least likely is Lamar Jackson because Lamar believes that murder is a violation of hippo.

By the way, NFL people LOVE to frame players as clandestine murderers. Anytime a sideline reporter does one of their shitty canned human interest tales in the middle of the action, I gotta hear how Kenny Clark is the nicest guy in the world off the field. Just a teddy bear, that one. But when he steps on the field, he becomes a winged angel of death. No mercy. No remorse. He will tear out your fucking eyeballs and then force-feed them to your own children as you hear their screams. That’s how you know when an NFL player is legit: when they have an acute multiple personality disorder that they strategically deploy to collapse interior running lanes.

Gunner:

I’ve been wondering what refs or officials from one sport do when they are watching a different sport… do they complain as much as the average fan?

Of course they do. They’re human. Every NFL ref has to preside over a game with the sober detachment of a bailiff swearing in a defendant. But then the game ends and they can act like people again. If I were a ref (never), I’d be even more obnoxious than the average fan in my free time. Everyone’s yelling at me for three hours on Sunday and I just have to stand there and take it, so why NOT cut loose at a local minor league game by hucking full beer cans at the home plate ump all game long and calling him a terrorist? It’s only right.

Kenneth:

How am I supposed to refer to a group of people that are not all dudes? “Y’all” sounds too southern. The plural “you” or “you all” just sounds stupid. I typically go for “guys” but is there anything better that’s more gender neutral, besides like “everyone” or “guys and gals”?

I used to say “y’all” ironically but somewhere along the way I dropped the irony and now use it from time to time without a wink. I don’t have a twang when I say it. I still use my normal, flat, extremely loud register. But I don’t pretend I’m Paula Deen or anything. People would notice. My kids also say “y’all,” because they learned it from the internet. They all have internet accents. Sometimes they’ll break into meme-ese in a strange accent and I have no fucking idea what’s going on.

But if you’re not into “y’all,” and I don’t blame you for that, you can use “guys” and “everybody” and “hey people” for groups. All of them work perfectly well. If you’re still not satisfied… lemme interest you in the occasional “folks” as needed. “Folks… let’s get the fuck outta here.” See? It works.

Matt:

The word “sammich” drives me irrationally crazy. Is it me?

Probably not. Everyone has their linguistic hang-ups, especially now that the internet has developed an irritating habit of taking any normal word and cutesy-ing up for no good reason. So “sandwich,” which is a perfectly good word, becomes “sammich,” and “sando,” and “sammy.” Every word needs a fucking nickname now. These are variants that people on social media use to let you know they have a personality. It’s the digital equivalent of beach house placard: “Life is better in flip flops,” etc. It’s a scourge, but it’s a logical consequence of a world where the written word suddenly dominates but most people aren’t good at writing. And even people who ARE good at writing feel compelled to mix it up a little bit, so that their voices don’t sound quite so generic. But these variants have already become their own form of cliché.

Language has evolved online into a form of modern shorthand, with sammies and sitches and seshes and what have you. Question marks no longer exist. Misspellings become memes, which then become everyday slang. I don’t hate this evolution, by the way. It’s been fun to live through, and y’all know I’ve had my own vernacular evolve alongside it. But it’s a messy process, and one that includes insufferable people doing insufferable things with words, same as they always have. Americans do be lovin’ to drive each other crazy, and here’s a new frontier for doing so. May as well get used to it. Split a ‘za with a friend and it’ll settle your angst.

Kevin:

I was a huge San Diego Chargers fan my entire life and then I dropped them like a Reagor pass when Spanos moved them to LA. I still watch a lot of football, root for players I like, or against teams I hate, but I don’t have a team. I know the NFL is a shitty corporation for lots of reasons, as are the teams and owners, but I still love watching football, so my question is… Who is the most ethical team to root for?

PS: I hope Dean Spanos has his asshole struck by lightning.

It’s the Packers. I hate handing it to them, but it’s the Packers. Keep in mind that we’re speaking in relative terms here. The Packers are not a benevolent enterprise. They still exist to make money. Their stock is fake. All of their profits go to a reserve fund, like a college endowment, that pays for stadium renovations and other needless shit. But they’re not owned by a billionaire, and they give money to charity (I think), and they give Northern Wisconsinites a reason not to harm themselves in early winter. So I guess that makes them the least of all evils.

Again though, they’re no angels. They’re still part of the greater NFL, which itself is a haven of corruption, negligence, exploitation, racism, sexism, and unrepentant violence. So who says the shithead Packers get to be Pope? All their goody-goody horseshit is mere cover for hitching the town of Green Bay’s minimal civic welfare to the bloodsport industrial complex. AND their quarterback is a piece of shit. So if you’re an NFL fan in any form, your hands are already dirty. No point in concocting proverbial “good” teams to cheer for to make yourself feel better. You’re on the Dark Side. You’re no better than the Packers, to be frank. You make me sick. Why not kill children like Mac Jones does while you’re at it?

HALFTIME!

Todd:

My kids put Swiss miss powder on their popcorn and it’s fucking great.

Oh yeah, it’s also good on ice cream. Especially with the tiny, dried marshmallows. You get that Lucky Charms effect going. My brother, who turned 50 this week (happy birthday!), was also a fan of the Dusty Miller, where you top ice cream with a shitload of hot fudge and then a bunch of malted milk powder. Now that only SOUNDS weird until you take a bite and advance directly to the kingdom of diabetes. Then it suddenly makes perfect sense as a dessert. As someone who once ate Country Time lemonade mix right from the can as a child, I approve of all powdered mixes being eaten without dissolution.

Jon:

When did you know you were done playing football? For me, I played my freshman year of high school. It sucked, I was a Guard/Tackle, and ate dirt, got bullied by the older guys in the normal hazing ways, ran so much I threw up, and survived two-a-days. We did our first scrimmage, and it sucked, just bash into guys, run it up the gut, hit dirt. In the first five minutes of scrimmage, one of the other linemen broke his arm. A week later, I was like… this just isn’t fun, I am done with this, and quit and joined the theatre group.

I quit before senior year of college. I had just spent a semester abroad in England and was working as an ad agency intern in Manhattan that summer, when I realized that I didn’t really wanna spend my final year of college trying to be all buddy-buddy with teammates who never really liked me to begin with.

Also, I had spent years before that lifting, conditioning, losing excess weight, running wind sprints on my own time, and doing everything else I could to become a good football player and not seeing any tangible results from all of that hard work. I was still a scrub. I didn’t matter to my team, neither competitively nor socially. It took being abroad and being an aspiring adman in New York for me to understand that there were a great many other places for me to go, where I’d fit in much more readily and where my skills would be put to better use. Suddenly football felt like a giant waste of time.

I never considered quitting before that. Football, and America itself, attaches a lot of shame to quitting. But once you work up the stones to cut ties with something that’s not doing you any good, confidence and clarity arrive in equal measure. I don’t regret playing football, but I don’t regret quitting, either. Sometimes it can take a while, years even, to figure out what you want from life and to have the courage to follow that want to better places. Once I was done with football, I was ready to never look back. And that’s how I knew.

Brendan:

It’s the cook’s reward and obligation, when using cheese as an ingredient, to house a slice or chunk or handful of shreds for themselves. No one disputes this. But as long as I’ve been cooking, I’ve been making baked ziti, and every time I make baked ziti, after I put the requisite plops of ricotta in among the layers of pasta and sauce, I eat one heaping tablespoon of it straight before putting it back in the fridge. Is this something other people do? And if not, am I a visionary, or do I belong on some kind of pre-crime watchlist? 

You’re not a visionary, you’re just a shameless fat-ass, which I respect. Like you, I always stuff a handful/slice of cheese into my maw whenever the opportunity strikes. I’m big trouble around feta hunks. But I’ve never had the gall to eat ricotta cheese straight. This is because it tastes pretty lousy on its own. It’d be like me eating cream cheese right out of the tub. Ricotta needs other shit with it to make sense, and even then it’s a functional cheese: usually there to keep a lasagna from leaking all over the goddamn plate. I don’t even like ricotta on my pizza. You’re munching away on a slice when suddenly you taste a fat wad of that shit and nothing else? That’s not optimal pizza to me.

The only exception I make is for fancy ricotta: the fresh kind you can either make at home (total pain in the ass) or buy at a fancy-pants grocery store. That ricotta is special. That’s the ricotta you can spread on toast and then drizzle with olive oil and salt and have it turn out incredible. I’m a big fan of that ricotta. Gonna make a point of eating it right out of the container next time I buy it, to horrify both my family and other innocent onlookers.

Peter:

Rank these types of movies in order and cite your favorite example:

1) Heist movies
2) Movies that take place over one day or in real time
3) Road Trip movie
4) War movie
5) Time travel movie

Heist movies are the top dog there. I’ll watch any heist movie and invariably be happier for it. Even Disorganized Crime. Doesn’t matter. Netflix has redeemed itself over the past year and change by focusing almost exclusively on imported, serialized heist dramas. I watched them all. I can watch any heist content 10 times over. This is especially true of Thief, which is my favorite of the bunch and a movie I plan to rewatch 500 times when I fuck off and retire one day. Here’s how I rank the rest:

1. Heist movies

2. War movies (with Paths of Glory as my No. 1)

3. One-day plot movies (Dog Day Afternoon, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

4. Road trip movies, which are usually boring as shit (One False Move being a huge exception)

5. Time travel movies, which were perfected with Back to the Future and have been rendered unnecessary ever since because of it. Every other time travel movie is just a screenwriter giving himself a migraine.

John:

Why doesn’t Logan Roy just fire all his children?

Because he can always lord over them, even from the grave. He never has to give up control of his beloved company so long as it stays in his idiot family. And that’s why Succession will be stuck in the same reoccurring plotline (his kids try to overthrow him, fail, and then lick their wounds before trying again) until it’s run its course. Someone needs to die for the logjam to break (fingers crossed for the finale!). All I know is that I want Adrien Brody’s character to be in more episodes. I mean, this was just a perfect bit of acting right here from my man. Primo shit.

Zach:

Will we ever see a COVID-era arena or stadium in video games? The NHL bubble setup looked cool as fuck, but I don’t really want to relive that era of anxiety and uncertainty playing Chel. 

I figured that if companies like EA were gonna add COVID elements to gameplay, they would’ve done so already. But I checked with Defector resident gamer Luis Paez-Pumar, who says he hasn’t seen that happen anywhere yet, save for COVID-adjusted team budgets when you play Football Manager. Otherwise, there don’t appear to be masked fans in Madden, or Zoom stands in NBA Live, or players designated as “anti-vax” on your MLB: The Show roster.

And there won’t be. Zach doesn’t wanna re-live that timeframe when he’s trying to enjoy himself, and apparently most other people don’t either. I played a good amount of Madden early in the pandemic, because it was the only sports I could see at the time. I wanted sports as I remembered them, and Madden filled that void reasonably well. But I hope I never have to do that shit again. I am not alone. No COVID sports games. Suck my balls, omicron variant.

John:

Do you believe art is more interesting than the artist?

Once again a reader has stopped me dead by asking an extremely simple question that usually comes adorned with all kinds of garnish. I find a many artists fascinating, but those magnetic qualities almost inevitably show up in their work. Jeremy Strong is the best current example of this, but there are many others.

There are also a great many artists who are NOT interesting people. Many of them are quite terrible people, as you’re now well aware of. Never meet your heroes, etc. So my answer to Jeremy’s above question is yes. Art is more interesting than the artist, unless that artist is Anthony Quinn, who was a fucking wild man.

Caleb:

I have never in my life seen a basketball team run a coherent, sensible play on a critical last possession. The play is either horribly broken, or they run iso some play and if it’s LeBron or Steph or (sigh) Kawhi, their terrible shot might just go in. Teams run successful plays the entire game and then their offensive IQ drops 150 points as soon as the time drops below 10 seconds. What gives?

Let’s use this question to watch Kawhi’s buzzer-beater all over again.

That clip never gets old. Anyway, I share Caleb’s befuddlement whenever a basketball team’s endgame strategy looks like their coach drew a fart cloud on a greaseboard. This is epidemic at the college level, where for every March Madness buzzer beater you get, you get 15 games where a shitty point guard dribbles off his foot at the top of the key as the clock runs out. I have no good explanation for this other than poor coaching, lack of time, and players wilting under pressure.

The NBA is a different matter. In the NBA, Steve Kerr isn’t gonna draw up some clever backdoor play with 3.2 seconds left on the clock when the best shooter in history is right there at his disposal. How many times have you read a postgame breakdown where the coach had a play ready for the final possession and then the lead dog on the team was like “FUCK THAT”? Happens once a week during the NBA playoffs. That’s a good thing. I like those moments where all of the strategic veneer has been stripped away and everyone on the court knows that the only logical conclusion is the ball going to best player on the court as quickly as possible so that he can work his magic. I don’t want Giannis being used as a fucking DECOY in that moment. I want him to ice that shit himself.

Email of the week!

Zach:

When I was younger, my grandpa would make soup or chili for everyone to eat while we were at his house during deer hunting season. One hunting season, he made his version of chili and stored it in the pot in the garage despite it being a warm week.  

At that time, we had a fairly large group of hunters, including me, four or five cousins, three uncles, and grandpa. Most of us avoided the chili, inherently understanding that it would both taste bad and that it had been stored in a garage for a week at unsafe temperatures. My uncle Danny did not, eating heavily from the garage chili before going out hunting one afternoon.  

I left the woods around dusk and spotted a badly stained pair of white Fruit of the Loom underwear hanging from a branch on the side of the trail. I was giddy as I hurried back to the house to find out who had shit themselves. The culprit was uncle Danny, who, while ashamed, never tried to hide what had happened. Whether it was the storage in the warm garage, or just something in the way grandpa made it, Dan reacted poorly to the chili. He felt his initial distress signals not long after walking into the woods. However, because he had just gotten dressed for hunting and had made the long walk to his stand, he decided to ignore this feeling.  

In short order, it became apparent that the storm in his stomach was not going away, so he made the fateful decision that rather than shit in the woods, he would head to the house and deal with it there. As he waddled back toward the house, pressure building by the second, Danny passed the point of no return. He was not going to be able to make it to the house and was also not going to be able to get his coveralls, jacket, jeans, and long underwear off before the angry mass in his stomach broke free.  

As he stood defeated near the edge of the woods, house nearly in sight, my 50-something-year-old uncle unloaded into his pants. He pulled out his hunting knife and slit the sides of his underwear so he could pull them off without needing to take off his coveralls. He then used the underwear to clean up as best as he could, and not wanting to carry them, flung them off to the side of the trial and wobbled home covered in shit. If he had thrown his underwear a little farther into the woods, we might never have known what happened.  

My aunt who lived across the street from grandpa came over later that night and made grandpa throw the rest of the chili out after she heard what happened. 

I kinda wanna try that chili now.