Christmas Dinner and I’ve just opened a bottle of David Bruce Pinot Noir to pair with rack of lamb and the city-dwelling boyfriend announces, “I’m not really that into red wine, it seems so heavy.” It’s as if the Grinch stole Christmas dinner. Nothing more sad than enjoying an expensive bottle of wine all by yourself. But enjoy I do, nosing out a black cherry bouquet in my glass, and drinking deeply from the translucent plum liquid.
When you’re freshly in love, wine is romantic. Even for the non-wine drinker. Everyone knows lovers bond over fermented grapes, just the way they know there will be a few romantic foods that that will go down in memory as things the couple ate when they were falling in love and seem, somehow, to get cobbled up in the courtship. For Greg and me, those foods are pizza margarita on the grill, Green & Black extra dark chocolate, anything that ends in the word “picnic,” and Segura Cava.
And perhaps there’s the rub: I’ve made a bubbly addict out of my man. “Did you buy champagne?” are always the first words out of his mouth—after he’s kissed me hello, of course. It’s true sparkling wine makes every occasion seem festive, and there’s nothing more celebratory than a visit from the man who lives 55 miles away, but while cava makes me giddy and reckless (hence I’m guessing the appeal to the BF), red wine makes me expressive, and everything I put in my mouth tastes rich and rare.
I worry a little that this little holiday announcement is tantamount to the end of romance, that it’s a sign we’ve enter the “honesty” phase, (or worse, that the BF only thinks of me as a party). I want a relationship that is like red wine, with all its complexity and flavors, its shades and possibilities, its depth, its richness. Bubbles are great, but they don’t last.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about food, it’s that you can’t serve pork belly if your audience is expecting hot dogs. And while you can surprise, you can’t force something that hasn’t been asked for. Greg’s hardly a hard-core beer-swiller sporting a comb-over and a Wisconsin accent, and I know he doesn’t really not like red wine; perhaps the guy who tells me pretty much every time I see him that he likes “simple” things is simply overloaded by the big deal I make about food pretty much every time we’re together. For me, what I serve is an expression of how I love; for him, it may just be more stuff that gets in the way of us being together. After all, all he wanted for Christmas was steak.
One thing I’ve learned is that you have to give someone the love they want, not the love you think they want. So, let my lovely man have his bubbles, for the time being. Next time, I’ll pair the Pinot with a New York strip. Or not mention the price of the bottle. Even though guile is not my nature, I can learn to tempt and invite, to allow play and possibility and simple pleasures to rule the day. The real delight in the relationship is in the simple and the unexpected—the taste of melted chocolate on the tongue of a kiss, or the simple happiness of a cold post-Christmas date of beer and french fries. I will try less hard to impress and more to enjoy the moment. I am certain, over time, my city-dwelling man and I will develop and discover—together–our mutual appetite for a whole range of surprising things.
So, to love, the most lovely pairing of all.
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