Food, Security, Love: Asking the Boyfriend to Cook

While it’s true that most of my waking hours are spent plotting food and food menus along with what next to put in my mouth—(Case in point:  I woke up next to the city-dwelling boyfriend yesterday and hazily paged through ideas for the perfect hangover breakfast undistracted by the man who pressed his case for a repeat of the previous night’s more torrid events)—it’s also true that it’s great when someone else drives. Forget restaurant food. I’m talking about having the person you’d cross continents for (well, at least a couple of zip codes) cook for you. 

When he was sappy in love with me, Greg made me sautéed shrimp served with an impressive and lovely green bean salad with Kalamatas and goat cheese he’d found in a cooking magazine the first time I visited his tiny downtown Denver apartment.  We ate at a small table and drank Prosecco from cut glass, crammed next to his studio (otherwise known as the living room) and later retired to the bedroom because it offered the only couch-like seating (convenient). There was also the time he made green curried shrimp for New Years and still later, memorable, Rick Bayless-inspired pulled pork taquitos. But besides a couple of breakfasts or two at my house, that’s about it. 

Sunday Morning Apple Galette
It has been a tiny bone of contention for me that I am the default cook in what is otherwise a lovely meeting of the minds and other important body parts with Greg. Okay, okay, I cook professionally. I write about food.  I throw epic dinner parties.  But I know my man can cook. He talks lovingly about the dinners he made for his son when he was a stay-at-home dad.  I want in on the action.  Food is love, after all.

But, Greg complains I’m bossy even when I’m not in the kitchen, that I won’t let him do his thing.  I reply that asking him not to put bacon in the chili because I’m trying to eat healthy is simply a request. Not a few of my friends suggest it’s intimidating to cook for me, to which I inwardly and eye-rollingly groan “Get over it’—the outward translation of which is an earnest:  “Anything you make with love is good for me.”  And that’s true. You can taste intention. I’d eat Mac and Cheese from a box if it was someone’s way of  showing they cared.

Perhaps it’s unfair of me to ask that Greg love me the way I love him. I plan menus designed to induce mood, cultivate togetherness, and whet our appetites for other things.  I splurge on the Mexican chocolate we love and stock the fridge with our favorite Cava. Sometimes I make what I know Greg wants and sometimes I spin that same thing into something new.  All the while I’m doing it because I love the man. 

And perhaps I’m not really asking Greg to say “I love you” with food (though I would be absolute putty in his hands if he did), so much as I want to feel cared for. MFK Fisher wrote that “our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.”   “So,” she concluded, “it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.” 

A good meal draws together many of the frayed bits of ourselves and if not erases, eases some of the emptiness we too often experience. 
Pass the Prosecco and the chocolate, baby.

Besides all this big life stuff, sometimes I just want to be surprised by what’s on the plate, by someone else’s tastes and sensibility. Most greedily, I want the pleasure of Greg’s palate, too.     
He’s Mexican, I’m Italian.  In three years, I’ve learned about white onions, to always have chiles on hand, how to make the perfect guacamole, the pleasures of pork shoulder dozen different ways and, of course, beer and french fries

Oven Roasted Potato Chips w/ Gorganzola
Last Sunday, nearly undone from a grueling semester of teaching and a higher than average number of needy students book-ended by family heartbreaks, I asked Greg to make dinner. I did it in the softest voice I have and gave him a week to think the matter over, promising I would sit beneath a halo needle-pointing or some activity similarly docile in nature in the living room while he worked his magic in the kitchen. 

The day turned out blustery and wind scattered a dusting of snow into the still dormant mountain landscape as we made a fire in the wood stove.  We had just dined al fresco for the first time the night before and now we were hunkered down on the couch getting ready to watch an Almodovar movie beneath a down comforter.

Earlier in the week, I’d picked up a fat roasting chicken and some gorgeous looking sunchokes (inspired by some I’d had at Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune in NYC in March) and Greg rubbed the bird with a spice blend of chile, cumin and cayenne he’d toasted on the stove before mixing it with brown sugar and olive oil.  The house filled with the smoky scent of Mexican spices and I smiled:  Clearly, the man can move about the kitchen.  The bird sat seasoning as we devoured oven-roasted potato chips with gorgonzola, drinking mimosas while practicing our Spanish. 

Greg’s chile-roasted chicken w/sunchokes & brussels sprouts
Later, Greg roasted the chicken and served the perfectly lacquered bird with limes and Mexican beer. I made a chimichurri sauce for the also roasted sunchokes and Greg pan-roasted the last of the year’s Brussels sprouts. 

It was perfect.
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