Fight the power? With a Spanish chicken, chorizo and bean braise.

We’re in the process of renovating our kitchen. It’s an interesting time which brings out the best and the worst in both Richard and me. The best because we’ve connected over the things that we like, our vision for what the house could look like and for the life we’ll have when we’re done.

The worst because it’s highlighting our differences. It’s showing up Richard’s careful attention to detail, and need for precision and clarity, versus my broader brush strokes, bigger picture thinking and general irritation when dealing with the finer points of plumbing and electrical layouts.

But mostly it throws into sharp relief our power dynamic. Before I get into this, I should state, for the record, that Rich is strong in his belief that we are a team. In his head, I am equal to him and we share responsibility for the lives we jointly live.

At times, the reality is a little different, at least to me. My husband is a senior manager of a large team of people. He makes many decisions every day that affect the prosperity of the company he works for. He manages his time effectively and works efficiently. He has processes that he has fine tuned to enable all of this to happen as it should.

My frustration comes when effectiveness, efficiency and processes intrude overly into our home life. When I go from being an equal member of the team, to a subordinate. When I feel like another employee. Our power dynamic becomes unbalanced.

A number of years ago, Richard and I briefly separated. There were many issues we were facing at the time, but a major issue was our power imbalance. Richard was free to live his life largely as he pleased, while I felt that I needed permission to do many of the things I wanted to (I am grossly oversimplifying here, to be clear). At that time, I spent many hours in counselling, working through my feelings. There is one thing my counselor said which has stayed with me:

“If people say they never fight, I always wonder who’s given away their power? In every relationship there has to be a dominant party, and conflict arises while the power balance is established”

As a feminist, I have always raged against giving away my power. I never wanted to feel subordinate to anyone, least of all the man I’m married to. But the reality is that someone in the relationship has to be more dominant. The question is, to what degree?

I’ve come to realise that the power dynamic in our relationship is not fixed. There are times (like now) when Richard assumes a dominant position. And to be honest, when the situation demands precision, process and strong management skills (which you do when managing tradesmen during a renovation), he’s a far better man for the job than I. It’s better for both of us, and the job at hand, that he takes the lead and I do as I’m told.

The opposite is true when we have a dozen people coming for dinner. Then it’s my turn to take charge, while Rich does as I say.

Handing over power to my partner does not make me any less of a feminist. I understand that there are a number of roles that exist in our lives and I am not best suited to all of them. I have come to understand that I know and trust Richard by heart, and he will not misuse the power I give him.

Note: This post was written in response to WordPress’ Daily Prompt – By Heart. I chose to interpret the words differently, in that I know my husband, myself and our relationship “by heart”. That is to say, about as well as it’s possible to know anything or anyone. KHx

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SPANISH CHORIZO, CHICKEN AND WHITE BEAN BRAISE
Serves 4-6

This is Richard’s favourite dinner. I came across something similar when we were travelling through Spain, but have made so many changes I can now call it my own. It’s a robuse meal, that requires little more than a glass of good red wine and possibly some crusty bread (and maybe some green stuff. But Rich calls that “rabbit food”).

You can change out the chicken for diced pork belly or slices of squid. Both work equally well.

4 x chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
4 x chicken drums, skin on, bone in
4 x chorizo sausages, sliced (I went for salami style chorizo, medium heat)
2 x red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine or chicken stock
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp Spanish paprika (hot or sweet depending on your taste)
2 x 400g cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Large bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
Salt/Pepper

  1. In a large deep frying pan with a lid (or a casserole dish), heat olive oil, then brown chorizo until golden in batches. Remove from pan and set aside
  2. Reheat the pan, adding more oil if necessary and brown the chicken pieces until the skin is deep golden. Remove from pan and set aside
  3.  Reduce heat, add onions, oregano and garlic and saute until onion is soft.
  4. Increase heat, add white wine and allow to bubble up.
  5. Add both cans of tomatoes, and paprika, and stir to combine.
  6. Return chicken and chorizo to the pan, bring to the boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  7. Turn chicken over in the pan, add drained beans and stir to combine. Cook uncovered for another 20 minutes, or until sauce has thickened slightly.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir through parsley and serve immediately.
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