HUBBY has taken up a new hobby and like usual he hasn't gone in by halves.
Overnight he has become a man possessed.
It's just my luck this new obsession doesn't involve anything remotely useful or practical, like painting the house, mowing the lawn, fixing the cracked tiles in the bathroom or building a roof for the dog's kennel.
And no surprises it's an indoor hobby that involves his favourite tools of trade: the remote control and the couch.
For reasons best known to himself, hubby has become addicted to cooking shows.
And I don't mean just a quick glance as he walks past the telly or resting for a moment on the edge of the coffee table, casually listening to a recipe for beer-battered calamari.
I'm talking fully engrossed, non-blinking eyeballs, don't-talk-to-me, no-one-allowed-to-walk-in-front-of-the-screen viewing.
Thankfully it hasn't progressed to weekend "cooking show arvos" with the boys where he invites his mates around to watch the program, share a few cold ones and yell at the television, "C'mon ya loser, whisk that egg, grease that tray, make that souffle rise", but it does get pretty intense.
Don't get me wrong. I don't disapprove of his new hobby. It's just that all this interest in the culinary arts has come as a total surprise.
The most useful this man has ever been in the kitchen is to prise the occasional stuck lid off a jar of pickles or to taste test some slightly smelly Strasberg before I make the final call as to whether or not it goes in the school lunches.
I can't say what prompted this new fixation. Maybe it's the novelty factor of watching someone cook a meal from scratch. Goodness knows it never happens at our place. Cooking from scratch is a totally foreign concept in our kitchen where the average meal involves opening a Birdseye box, and a gourmet dinner means adding black pepper to packet gravy.
So this week when my delusional Manu asked me to step away from the oven, promising me a gastronomic delight, my tastebuds went into overdrive.
Sadly though, just as watching a couple of episodes of Australia's Next Top Model doesn't make me Elle McPherson, the same has to be said of my budding MasterChef.
Last Sunday night we all learnt the hard way that it's a long stretch from soggy grilled cheese on burnt toast to throwing on a chef's hat and serving up a five-star, mouth-watering masterpiece.
The kids and I had waited almost patiently until eight o'clock for dinner.
By the time the food was finally "plated up" we were starving. As I took the first mouthful, hubby was hovering over me and looking expectedly. Let me just say in my defence it is not that easy to offer a compliment when you're desperately trying to control your gag reflex.
Quite frankly, I think I would rather have eaten the plate.
Not wanting to offend or offer false hope, all I could manage to say was, "Are you sure you didn't fall asleep on the couch during the episode that featured this dish?"
The kids sensed hesitation and were getting suspicious that the green-grey stuff on their plates may have started out as vegetables.
At this point I did what any experienced family chef would do. It's a secret trick of the trade, never shared with amateurs who spend their time glued to cooking shows.
I turned on the griller and reached into the freezer for the emergency packet of fish fingers.
Family Taming is a weekly humour column written by Wendy Andrews.
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