I came across this article in the Guardian the other day, looking at the role food and, more particularly, the love of food as well as dietary preferences or needs, plays in relationships.
I grew up in a family of food lovers. We all cook and talk a lot about food and my inbox is full of emails to and from my parents sharing new recipes. Summer holidays in the south of France were as much an opportunity to relax and unwind over copious amounts of fresh seafood as an opportunity to stock up on case after case of rich, full-bodied French wines and 500g jars of Moutarde de Dijon. Souvenirs from my dad’s business trips were in most cases edible and I will never forget when dad joined me and my mum in London for a concert my choir was giving (and in which I was singing a solo) straight after a business trip to Paris with a suitcase full of Boudain Antillais (a spicy and star anise-studded sausage similar to black pudding that is common in the South of France) – which apparently came from the best butcher in Paris (or so my dad’s Parisian cab driver had told him).
En route from Waterloo to my flat my dad called to make sure I had some apples and onions. Once he had joined me and my mum in my student flat in Holborn, my dad immediately proceeded to open his suitcase, taking out a bulging bag of boudain, a bottle of red wine as well as a fresh baguette (perfectly folded in half so it would fit into his suitcase). What followed was a rather simple meal but one that has stayed with me for years. My dad gently fried the sausages with a few apple and onion rings. We used the baguette to mop up the juices from the pan and washed it all down with the red wine my dad had brought, all while sitting in my tiny student kitchen, the only distinguishing feature of which was that the linoleum floor was so old it would stick to your feet whenever you dared enter the kitchen barefoot.
When I was spending a couple of weeks at home with my parents for a small surgery and some rest and recuperation, about 90 per cent of our conversations were about food, great dishes we had, things we wanted to try and, most importantly, what to eat next. It should therefore come as no surprise that my first meal at home involved ceviche with fresh salmon, baby back ribs from my dad’s new bbq and a super thick velvety chocolate mousse that owed its intense chocolate flavour to some Valrhona cocoa powder (the best cocoa powder I have ever come across).
Food plays a major role in my family and my most vivid childhood memories involve the loving preparation of home-cooked meals by my parents such as my dad making pasta from scratch, sharing my mum’s Couscous around the dining table my parents brought back from Morocco, as well as, somewhat embarrassingly, how disappointed I was when, for my 8th birthday my dad baked me Fraisier (although, it being August, he used blueberries instead of strawberries) when Fraisier was clearly my sister’s favourite cake and not mine. As such, I have often wondered about the role food really plays in romantic relationships and how they are affected if a couple does not see eye to eye when it comes to the importance of food (or indeed on what to eat).
From the moment I met Alessandro it was clear how much he loved food. On our first date we trekked down THE place to eat Paella in Buenos Aires (by no means a classic Argentinean dish but boy does Alesssandro love Paella) and our first trip to Rome involved a little detour to a Sicilian bakery so I could try their famous Cannoli. As I stood outside the tube station, trying to lick the sticky ricotta of my fingers, Alessandro explained to me that he wasn’t sure he could go out with anyone who did not share his love for Cannoli.
Food has a big role in our relationship, not surprising given he is Italian. Indeed, one of our first big arguments was about food. We had been going out for about one year when we spent Christmas at my parents’ house. I think it was my sister Judith who had requested Tiramisu for dessert. I always pride myself on trying to follow authentic recipes as much as I can (provided I can get hold of the necessary ingredients) so the argument certainly did not evolve around the need for mascarpone and decent eggs, how to make the coffee syrup for drenching the Langues de Chat or indeed whether to use real cocoa or the sweetened type to dust the Tiramisu. No, our first big fight evolved around the clearly decisive question of how to soak the Langues de Chat with the coffee syrup – do you drizzle the coffee syrup or do you quickly dunk the Langues de Chat with both sides into the syrup? We both agreed no one wants a soggy Tiramisu but we could not settle on how best to avoid this. In the end we decided to each follow our preferred approach and that we would then decide which one tasted better.
In the end, there were no complaints about soggy Tiramisu (and in any event the fact that we had used a round bowl would have made it impossible to tell which technique was to blame). This argument taught me two important things: (a) never fight with an Italian about the correct preparation of an Italian dish (you would have thought that should have been obvious to me, alas it is something I need reminding of ever so often) and (b) Alessandro was clearly as passionate about food and the perfect execution of dishes as I was.
Would our relationship be different if he didn’t care for food or looked at food as nothing more than fuel? I am sure it would. We would have slightly less in common, one less passion to share, and I certainly would have a harder time justifying why I need at least 30 minutes every time we first step into a supermarket in a new to me country.
What do you think? Does food play a major role in your relationship? Do you and your loved ones or other half share the same tastes and aversions?