Cooking couples find a new setting for togetherness, teamwork, and talk

Terry Morton and her husband, Hamilton Morton, of Washington, D.C., have been sharing the cooking in their kitchen for 26 years; food preparation is one of their chief hobbies. But both admit that it was the Cuisinart that really brought them together in the kitchen. ``When we make pastry now,'' says Mrs. Morton, ``he puts in the butter and I put in the flour. He puts in the oil and I put in the water. I measure things out, but he's in charge of turning on the motor. Since we are both well organized with the ingredients and the equipment, we can work very fast. We find the togetherness approach works well for us.''

Mr. Morton, an architect, is the artist when it comes to visual presentation. He carefully arranges the food on plates and platters for maximum eye appeal.

Norman and Lynne Murphy, a Chicago couple, find that cooking together is ``therapeutic.'' ``After working a long day,'' says Mrs. Murphy, ``we both are delighted to prepare a meal together and find the time to talk. My husband, thank goodness, loves to cook!''

The Murphys contend that a good set of knives is about as important as any utensil in the kitchen. ``We don't use a lot of small appliances because we have found that by the time we get them out, use them, clean them, and put them back, it's a lot easier to use a simpler device. We do use our microwave oven and our conventional range as `go-togethers' for speeding up the cooking process.''

The Murphys enjoy cooking dinners for as many as 12 friends at a time and don't mind the required planning and organizing. ``When it comes down to the final hour, we always have an assignment sheet taped inside of the cupboard doors. This helps us stay on schedule, remember who is preparing what, and not to forget something on our menu. It's all teamwork, and we love every minute of it.''

Waldo and Jenny Stewart, who often share a spacious kitchen in their Dallas home, agree that two sinks are very important when two people are in the kitchen at the same time.

``We both like the idea of a big island in the center of the kitchen with an overhead rack on which to hang pots, pans, and other equipment. We hate scrambling through a cabinet or drawer to find the right utensil and like having everything conveniently in sight and at hand, says Mrs. Stewart. ``We have a separate work area where we can keep mixers and Cuisinart and can roll out dough and do other baking.''

It is here that Mr. Stewart whips up his ``conversation piece'' desserts and where Mrs. Stewart says she stays at a safe distance while he does so. The Stewarts cook throughout the kitchen: at a grill built into the island, in an oven built into one wall, in a microwave oven set into yet another wall, and on a range on a third wall. ``People can work at these different areas independent of one another,'' explains Mr. Stewart.

The Stewarts differ on clean-up practices. He likes to clean up as he goes along; she prefers to leave everything until a total washup at the end.

Shari and Richard Bryant of Barrington, Ill., are not only full-time professionals but have two children as well -- Brooke, age 11, and Carter, age 8. Mr. Bryant developed his survival cooking skills, his wife says, when he had to take on the primary job of providing dinners and snacks for himself and two children while she was away on business trips. Now they share the shopping, the cooking, and the making of brown-bag lunches for the children. And the house rule is that there are no dinner parties unless the work is shared. Mrs. Bryant creates; Mr. Bryant assists. Everyone helps clean up.

Weekdays, Mr. Bryant makes the salad for meals 99 percent of the time. Mrs. Bryant usually does the meal planning and execution of main-course recipes. Whoever is home and in the kitchen first gets the predetermined dinner started. The children set the table. Brooke pops ``ready to go'' oven meals into the regular oven so they will be cooked by the time the family gathers later for dinner.

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