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Food For Thought: Love At First Bite
The particular intimacy of cooking together
Dear Readers: I consider you all my friends so I want to let you in on a secret. I have someone new to cook for.
Romance, especially one based on friendship and shared interests, is indeed a beautiful thing. One of our shared interests is food and cooking, and lately my special someone and I have spent some evenings cooking for and with each other.
It has got me thinking about the particularly intimate act of cooking together.
Food has brought people together since the beginning of time. Hospitality for both kin and the stranger is a value noted in the oldest texts of humanity. Women have, since time immemorial, built families, clans, and cultures around cooking fires. A communally-prepared meal is one of the most important ways we celebrate and would be instantly recognizable to anyone transported from the past.
But add a little romantic chemistry to the mix and you’ve got one of the hottest things you can do with your pants on. What is it that makes cooking together so sexy?
Cooking together creates a shared goal. The simple negotiation of what and where to eat is remarkably complex. What to make, how to make it, and who is going to buy and do what requires a discussion of some intricacy. It’s hard enough to plan and make dinner on your own some days, but add a partner that you’re trying to impress? Now it gets tricky. Spicy or not spicy? Does it have enough salt? Concurrence on taste builds familiarity and agreement, the kind that that doesn’t come when you’re each picking your own dish from the takeout menu.
Working together is flirtation. There’s a reason that people get hot for teacher and their personal trainers at the gym. Mirroring is a classic and often unconscious way to express our affection for someone. You do, I do, over and over again. It’s even more flirtatious when you’re teaching someone a recipe or technique - confidence and expertise are sexy as hell! The mindfulness of cooking requires us to be fully present in the moment, just as wooing a partner does. You need to listen to each other, and respond to each other, even if it’s just to keep the onions from burning.
Eating is bonding. So many classic stories unfold over the dinner table or beside a campfire. Eating alone is alienating, but when eating together the boring, quotidian, and banal can eventually unfold into the meaningful, thoughtful, and occasionally profound. If you pause to talk while the chicken is roasting or linger a while over dessert you’ll definitely get beyond “How was your day?”. When we aren’t hurried and we feel safe the constraints of the outside world slip away we talk more honestly by nature. Eating together is even said to lessen our perceptions of inequality - including economics and gender.
Cooking is sensual. Cooking and eating engage all the senses - sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste - in a way that few other activities do. So much sensual input is a powerful trigger of nostalgia and memories - perfect things to share when you’re getting to know someone better. There are stories behind your favourite recipes and those stories reveal a great deal about you. The way someone reacts to the sensual messiness of cooking - touching raw meat, getting sticky fingers, or being squeamish about a licked spoon - can tell you a lot about your compatibility. And speaking of compatibility, you know what other activity uses all the senses too? Well… you know… maybe wait until after dinner.
Contrary to what our culture would have us believe, romance isn’t vacations or fancy evenings out. Romance is the banter over breakfast, washing and drying the dishes together, and solving the perennial question of “what’s for dinner?” because that’s how we spend most of our time together. If two people can find compatibility, companionship, and joy in cooking together they already have one of the building blocks of something much more than a passing crush. Love at first bite? I’m not sure yet, but it’s sure fun finding out.