If the Food Network is hunting for its No. 1 fan, I suggest executives stop at my house to interview The Hubby. He watches more of its programs than anything else on TV, including reruns of our mutual fave, "NCIS," and the endless stream of fishing shows that teach which spoon lures to use in skinny, weedy water.
For entertainment, I can count on The Hubby to provide the latest gossip on a celebrity chef or to describe a particularly enticing recipe being cooked in the kind of designer kitchen I will never own.
On the screen, Guy Fieri, with his bleached-blond locks, is eating (fill in the blank) with characteristic gusto. Watching him makes me hungry, though I've just finished noshing on Cheerios.
"If we ever travel to (fill in the blank), we definitely gotta stop in at (fill in the blank)," my husband says.
Guy -- we're on a first-name basis here -- is the host of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," a favorite in my household. And with Guy as guide, The Hubby has traveled to some far-flung places without ever leaving his brown leather recliner.
Ever eclectic, The Hubby also faithfully reports on Paula Deen's culinary evolution since she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and Giada De Laurentiis' latest take on a traditional Italian dish. He suggests ingredients from "Iron Chef," too. On occasion, he will defect to the Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food."
Now, here comes the rub: The Hubby, who's been recovering from septic shock after his esophagus ruptured in August, doesn't eat. Yep, you read right. Except for ice chips, he doesn't bite, nibble, gnaw, chew, chomp or munch food. Nothing. Nada. He gets, at least for now, all his nutrients via a food pump through a feeding tube in his stomach.
You would think that a man who cannot savor the taste of garlic or enjoy the tang of barbecue sauce would avoid food at all costs, right? You would think he'd bolt from the kitchen, pump and formula in tow, and hide as far as possible from the mouth-watering scent of a good meatloaf. I certainly would. Temptation would drive me crazy.
Not The Hubby. He revels in all things gastronomical -- in protest, I dare say, in defiance.
He not only watches all those cooking shows, but he has begun collecting recipes from magazines and newspapers. Last weekend, he showed one of our daughters-in-law soup recipes that could tease even the most recalcitrant taste buds. Carrot, apple and ginger soup. Vegetable soup with basil pesto. Yellow squash and curry stew. When he liked the photo display of a Spanish dish, he asked for a translation.
As if to make a point -- take that, adversity! be gone, misfortune! -- he also has resumed most of the cooking, a chore I've gladly relinquished. Sometimes I'm greeted at the door by The Hubby, ladle or spatula in hand, and the aroma of a fantastic feast wafting from the kitchen. You won't hear me complain.
Yet I can't figure out why a man who cannot eat has become so enamored of food he is not allowed to taste. Then again, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? To waste a perfectly precious present?
Life, I've learned, is full of irony, chockablock with contradictions, and this is just one more (tasty) instance.
(Ana Veciana-Suarez is a family columnist for The Miami Herald. Write to her at The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132, or send e-mail to aveciana(at)herald.com.)