By Holly A. Phillips
The man I thought I was going to marry was a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy. If love were rice dressing, then my turkey was overstuffed for him.
I did everything I could to win his heart (read: cooked and baked dozens of recipes). From meatloaf and shepherd’s pie to birthday cakes and mocha chip cookies, I always had something in the oven for our time together.
But I quickly learned—when he got married—that even a perfect, medium-rare steak doesn’t make a relationship.
From a young age, I have loved food. My dad often cooked dinner in our house, as my mom worked late. While the meals weren’t fancy, my dad’s recipe for crockpot “Mushroom Chicken” holds a special place in my heart.
I have always liked cooking for myself, but when Mr. Meat and Potatoes came into my life, I relished cooking for him even more. But it was always one-sided. I can recall maybe two times, in four years, where he cooked for me.
Subsequent boyfriends spent more hours in the kitchen. In fact, some of my favorite memories involve dishes they made for me, whether they were as simple as French toast, or as luxe as steamed crab legs.
On a basic level, cooking for someone is fulfilling a need. We all need to eat, and if someone takes the time to plan it, and do it for us, now that is something special.
I know I’m not alone when I say a man in the kitchen is one of the sexiest things ever. If you cook for a living, you’re on another level—I’ve had a crush on a Baton Rouge chef for years (he may or may not have giant red dice inked on his neck).
And yes, I’m sure men everywhere want to see their ladies in the kitchen, too—all apron fantasies aside—the ability to cook and/or bake seems to be a fading tradition.
This idea alone, thinking that I was one in a million, and that I was going to fill a man’s stomach with a meal that would please Gordon Ramsay, is what led me down many a grocery store aisle.
The result? A fridge full of food that slowly grew into baggage post-breakup, and one giant trip to the dumpster.
In general, knowing your way around the kitchen is an asset in a relationship; you’re literally bringing something to the table.
When I told my friend I was working on a piece about food and relationships, she said, “You mean, how people get fat once they start dating?”
Well, not exactly, but your diet may play a part in your dating habits. I once dated a guy who rarely cooked. He ate most of his meals at Buffalo Wild Wings, and while I do love wings and beer, I also want to fit into my pants next week.
As a compromise, I cooked for us, choosing dishes he liked, but putting a healthy spin on them, such as turkey tacos or baked chicken wings. While he ate the meals I cooked, he didn’t appreciate my efforts at saving a few calories (I promise it tasted just as delicious).
Disagreeing on a meal or two isn’t a big deal, but not seeing eye-to-eye on fitness, or overall lifestyle choices is a deal breaker, at least for me. This is coming from someone who pays her trainer in homemade protein bars.
Dinner, of course, makes for a great date no matter what stage you are at in a relationship. I have been fortunate enough to have some great meals during dates at Tsunami, Ruffino’s, and Parrain’s, just to name a few.
As I mentioned, dinner doesn’t make a relationship, but starting with great food, plus good conversation (a little wine), and a fun atmosphere might make the situation easier to swallow.
When it comes to food and relationships, the same rules apply: try something new, don’t overindulge (often), and bring home the bacon, because, well…bacon.
Read more about Holly’s adventures in the kitchen on her blog, TheBitterLemon.com.