Falling in Love, With Food

There was nothing in our wedding vows about eating tasty vittles forever and forever, but there may as well have been.
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First appeared on Food Riot, by Colleen Shea

Fifteen years ago this week, I met my best beloved. I was beginning a master's program at the school where I'd done my undergraduate degree, which was located in the town where I'd grown up. I'd recently broken up with someone, and felt the other ties that bound me loosening. My plan was to kick academic ass, finish in record time, and move away. I decided, firmly and irrevocably, that I would date no one that year. Nothing was going to delay my escape.

The department organized a number of social events for incoming grad students: a wine and cheese party, a harbor cruise. The first time we all met, I was talking to another woman about the courses we had in common when I looked up and saw Future Husband across the room, looking at me. I thought, "That guy's a player and he'd better not try it with me." He thought, as he confessed later, "She's a priss; I'm going to seduce her."

He did. It was about three days before I succumbed. I didn't think he was particularly good-looking; he was too skinny; he had blue eyes, and I preferred brown. Nonetheless, I found myself deciding that as an adult, I could have a one-night stand and it wouldn't change anything. It almost didn't, except for two things: It was really fun. He immediately began showing me how eating should be more than just feeding the machine.

Our first official date involved him making me his famous Spanish rice. I think it was just rice, veggies, jalapeños, and a heaping ton of melted cheese. But it was so much better than anything I'd ever eaten before. It had fresh vegetables; none of the ingredients came out of a can. He suddenly became much sexier; life became much sexier! I really hadn't realized that eating could involve more than just remaining still and thinking of England.

When he realized how terribly little I knew about good food, he took a Great Risk. Three weeks into a relationship that wasn't supposed to mean anything, my darling invited me to his mother's house in the country. She -- now my mother-in-law -- is a fantastic cook. I threw a tantrum about being served salmon in a form other than frozen fish stick. Still, the process had begun: she showed me that coffee could be delicious, for example. And I saw a sweet photo of my darling that made me realize there was much more to him than I wanted to acknowledge.

I tried really hard not to fall in love that year. But almost every day, we worked and laughed and ate and cooked together. My belly and bum expanded; more importantly, my heart got bigger -- big enough, first to see him for the beautiful person he is, and finally to let him in. Burgeoning love for garlic and ginger and homemade enchiladas was deliciously seasoned by the realization that a good, brilliant, and hilarious man loved me -- and that I had somehow found the guts to reciprocate.

I still needed so much to escape, though, that I probably would have broken my own heart and dumped him if that was the only way to leave my hometown. In July, we had an important conversation; I said, "I'm going to South Korea in September. What are you doing?" He said, "Going to South Korea...?" He did. We did. We ate so much good food there. We returned to Canada, ate more good food, and eventually married. Almost every day, together, we eat good food. There was nothing in our wedding vows about eating tasty vittles forever and forever, but there may as well have been.

What constitutes good food for us has changed radically -- in the beginning, everything had cheese on it and now we're vegan going on 10 years. But we approach food with the same energy and adventurousness as we always have (and everything else) in our shared lives. We feed each other when we're ill and broken and overwhelmed, and when life is just cupcakes and cinnamon buns everywhere. Hafiz (c.1325-1389), slightly modified, says it best:

Our union is like this:

You feel cold so I reach for a blanket to cover
our shivering feet.

A hunger comes into your body
so I run to my garden and start digging potatoes.

You ask for a few words of comfort and guidance and
I quickly kneel by your side offering you
a whole book as a gift.

You ache with loneliness one night so much
you weep, and I say

here is a rope, tie it around me,
I will be your
for life.

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