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Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about relationships lately. I mean the romantic kind. And because I relate everything to food, I've realized a good deal about relationships can be remembered through the meals you eat together. I'm not really a grudge-holder; I'm friends with many of my exes. But as memories are tied up with and triggered by our senses, I associate specific meals and foods with some of the dudes of my past. It's a nice thing I think, to live surpressing memories is like denying events happened, and I'd rather not do that.

Most first dates involve eating at a restaurant; where we do our best to try to impress each other with the wisdom, daring or demureness of our menu selections. I've always wondered why we do this. Talking while eating is not exactly a flattering light to be first seen in. I guess it's common ground; we have to eat anyway so it's not overly presumptuous. But it does strike me as odd. I love watching it from afar. People say amazing things when they're nervous. I remember hearing one first date go totally south when the guy asked the girl what she thought of his first-date outfit, to which she answered "honestly, terrible. It's hard to not just walk away from you". Wow. What do you order to recover from that?

Common thirdish, fourthish dates are making food together. This is once you reach the point where you are willing to gamble the person isn't a murderer and it's safe to have them in your home. You can find out a lot about someone if you cook with them: how controlling they are; how willing to try something new; how rigid in areas of compromise. And it's an even yoke - you're on display as much as they are. Grocery store cashiers are said to know the most about human nature through ringing up food; I'd argue it's even more telling to see what they do (and what they don't do) with the food once it's home.

I've dated guys who loved to cook for the pure enjoyment of it, and guys who cooked because they couldn't stand to have meals any other way but theirs. I've dated guys with strange relationships to food, some health-crazed, some defiant to recommended diets, some ravenous nearly all the time.

I remember feeling uncomfortable around food someone else had cooked exactly once: A past boyfriend insisted that all pork was overcooked because of paranoia, and that it was much better to slightly undercook. I thought he couldn't possibly be serious. He insisted that I try it. I really didn't want to, but I really liked him, and his (lengthy) argument regarding the safety of pork seemed to be logical. So, I agreed.

It was delicious, effortlessly easy to devour in great chunks. Which I did while screaming in my head "TRICHINOSIS. TRICHINOSIS. YOU WILL GET A WORM IN YOUR BRAIN AND DIE IN AGONY WITHIN A WEEK AND ON YOUR TOMBSTONE THEY'LL WRITE: "SHE WAS TRYING TO IMPRESS A DUDE". Needless to say I survived.

One little piece of wisdom I have earned the right to impart is that nearly all men get hangry. Hangry, for the uninitiated, is angry because you're hungry. I know women get hangry too, but there seems to be something particularly silent and deadly about male hangriness. Whereas women become snappy and irritable, men become eerily still, silent, and literally vibrating with rage. And don't lecture me about generalities. It's just an observation. Take it for what you will. But I can tell you this: I will never bring up something uncomfortable or have a relationship conversation with a man who has an empty stomach. It ain't worth it. You're welcome.

Favorite shared snacks, restaurants, picnics comprise some of the best relationship memories I have. It's nice to be reminded of someone you love or loved. It doesn't need to be sad. We're often in each other's lives for a season. And there's nothing wrong with that. 


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  2. Great read! Since I started dating my husband the day after high school and married him a few years later I don't have the lots of dates with lots of foods experience... but I can say that men and their food evolve.

    The first year we lived together he'd cook, well, basically -- here was our menu when he cooked (which was often b/c I was working full-time and in grad school):

    Mon - Chicken Stir Fry with soy sauce
    Tues - Beef Stir Fry with worcestershire sauce
    Wed - Spaghetti
    Thurs - Chicken Stir Fry with teriyaki sauce
    Fri - Beef Stir Fry with soy sauce

    wash, rinse, repeat!

    20 years later he's a great chef and an even better bread baker! Of course we still argue over the Trichinosis thing (especially on this meal: What is it about some men and their slightly undercooked meat?!?)

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