Tom, my husband, ranks every meal by how many items are on the menu – his menu. He reports the numbers to us at every meal.

“Tonight, I can offer five items”: chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, coleslaw and gravy, for example. His counting worries me, but he seems to be channeling it in a creative way. He does not count condiments. Praise for the number of items on the table is a requirement. We do our best.

He is an expert shopper of food deals. He buys the meat with the teetering expiration date. He always asks how much things cost. He always asks me how much things cost. I have taken to hiding my Whole Foods bags. He can tell you the cost of a yellow pepper at Hannaford.

He is one of the best cooks I know. He thinks about dinner at breakfast and plans holiday meals weeks in advance. He never uses a recipe. He is not a baker.

He reads cookbooks like he would the Bible – a passage from here and a passage from there. He has a favorite and super-easy dish that he takes to potlucks. Friends ask him for the recipe. He does not have one.

At present we have a third of a moose in our freezer. There isn’t a speck of room for a pint of ice cream. He knows how many packages of moose meat are in the freezer and how long it will last.

Moose meat does not taste like chicken. Moose meat is a local, free-range, chemical-free, high-protein, low-fat source of food. It is not sold on Styrofoam trays.

He calls me every day on his way home from work and asks the same question: “What do you want for dinner?”

I stumble through a list of possibilities: chicken, fish, meat, pasta, chicken or takeout. My suggestions seem inadequate.

When he is not home, I eat what I call “girl meals”: takeout or scrambled eggs, for example. We sometimes go to the Great Lost Bear.

Things have not always been this way. When I met Tom, he was cooking all of his meals out of a toaster oven in his bathroom. He was renovating his bedroom into his kitchen.

When he was not cooking from a toaster oven, he would buy fast food. Once when he drove up to the McDonald’s takeout window, he asked, “What’s ready?” He is a man of action.

Growing up, I knew one man who cooked. Mr. Mayhew made spaghetti – just the sauce, I think. My dad made popcorn and fudge.

Now all the men in my life are cooks. Really, really good cooks.

My friend Russ makes five-star meals out of nothing. His perfect meals fit neatly in one bowl: creamy garlic mashed potatoes stacked with seasonal root vegetables stacked with fresh fish, for example. (As far as I know, he doesn’t count.) I am his most enthusiastic eater. Thank you, Russ, for making me happy.

My friend John, who’s the middle child of 13, cooks until the last possible second and doesn’t sit down until everyone is served.

My friend Frank cooks like it is his last meal on earth. Knives fly. Things get burned. It’s loud.

Last week, I had chicken soup made by my 14-year-old nephew.

I could go on.

Next Thursday when it’s my turn to give thanks, I know what I’ll say. Men are feeding us, and I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, boys.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

filed under: