For years, my wife suggested I learn how to cook because she thought I would enjoy it, and it would help her out once in a while. But I long had difficulty learning the difference between, say, a colander and a pot, although one had holes and one did not.

She and I had this marriage arrangement: I worked outside the home; she raised our sons as an at-home mom and prepared our family’s dinners every night. An outstanding cook, she made it look easy. For her, a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for 20 or more people never posed a culinary problem. My role was to clean the dishes after the meal, which was about as much joy as I could take in the kitchen.

Recently, she experienced a couple of health issues which now makes it difficult for her to continue to cook. Oh, no, I thought, how are we going to eat? I panicked.

Then an idea hit me: how about I cook for us? With a toaster, microwave and lots of canned goods in our pantry, it couldn’t be all that hard.

But, of course, I needed a lot of help.

“Your finger is bleeding,” Pam remarked once after watching me dice up an onion.

“I know.”

“Where is the piece of skin?” she asked.

“I’m not sure. It may be in the stir-fry.”

Unfortunately, when one’s spouse is a gourmand with decades of experience, gently easing a bad-boy chef-to-be into even a promising short-order cook is fraught with headaches.

“What’s this called?” I asked?

“It’s a whisk,” she said, wincing or winking, not sure which.

“Oh, cool,” I said.

I occasionally called in reinforcements.

“Tom, can you help me here with a couple of easy recipes?” I asked a longtime hedonist-to-Epicurean friend of mine.

Tom, one of the nicest people I know, was born in Thailand, and knew his Asian cooking. He once marinated salmon in some delicious home-made sauce, and I loved it. He gave me the recipe over the phone, and I tried to replicate it at home.

“How do you like it?” I asked Pam.

“Oh, it’s, well, pretty good,” she said with either a wince or wink, not sure which, after scraping off the scorched parts.

Another hedonist friend of mine and his wife came to Tenants Harbor last year to help me feel more comfortable in the kitchen. Walley knew of my bad-boy cooking incidents in college (I once had a fanciful idea to put lots of cinnamon in a pasta-chicken dish, which also caused a great deal of wincing and winking), and he felt I would respond best to recipes written to remind me of my past bad behavior in the kitchen.

He produced a take-off of a book I published years ago called “The Life of a Non-Valedictorian: Musings of an Almost Didn’t Graduate from High School Student.” The front colorful page of my book was a picture of me as a 17-year-old high school graduate in cap and gown. Walley’s version now had me with a chef hat on my head instead of a cap.

It’s called “The Radical Cooking and Meal Preparation of a Non-Valedictorian, Musings of the man who put cinnamon in Pasta.” As told to people he thought were friends.

Among the honest-to-God great recipes in the booklet, he sprinkled in some memorable sentences, such as:

  • Who knows? If the Irish survived the potato famine, what could go wrong with an Irishman in the kitchen?
  • Planning meals for a number of days can seem daunting, especially if you’re not totally at home in the kitchen, but it shouldn’t be any worse than a colonoscopy while awake.
  • Stick to the recipe (commonly referred to as “the cinnamon rule”).

The now favored and dog-eared copy of “The Radical Cooking and Meal Preparation of a Non-Valedictorian” is front and center on our cookbook shelf.

Even I admit I have come a long way. I have pots and pans now hanging like framed awards from the kitchen ceiling, am on a first name basis with the assorted spices in the pantry, and an excellent organizer and cleaner-upper. The food I cook is now mostly recognizable to family and friends.

“This is fish, right?” they might ask. It’s music to my ears.

I pulled out the long-forgotten colander last week to let the hot water and steam from cooked noodles filter out, though I forgot to wear oven mitts. At least my lightly burned skin didn’t end up in the meal like in my onion stir fry.

If I’m in downtown Rockland now, instead of spending most of my time at Hamilton Marine looking at nifty new navigation do-dads, I now wander in wonder in the fancy kitchenware isle at The Grasshopper Shop.

Yes, indeed, I have come a long way.

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing, local bookstores, and Amazon and Kindle.