Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Language of Love, with Gravy

Food is love
Food is fuel
Food is politics
Food is power
Food is culture
Food for thought

Feeding the Baby, Rudolf Epp, 1834

A New York Times feature on the intersection of food and romance has been circulating among my book club friends --

This is not about hot-date dinner dilemmas--oysters? chocolate? chocolate-covered oysters?--but about when, increasingly, dietary choices and their political or ethical underpinnings are deal-breakers in relationships. Can a vegan give his whole heart to someone who adores both him and Memphis BBQs pulled-pork sandwiches?

From there we’ve gone to thinking about food in our own families.

Here’s Deb Anderson-Frey’s response:

This line resonated:

“Food has a strong subconscious link to love, said Kathryn Zerbe, a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. That is why refusing a partner's food 'can feel like rejection,' she said.”

My sibs and I inherited food as a love language from our mother. (And except for my brother, we're all just a little bit fluffy -- must be a sign that we got a lotta love.) In our household, as in what I suspect might be the case for most people from my generation, mothers carry and pass along the food gene. I'll go further to say that I believe mothers carry the culture gene, and even further, I’ll assert: "mother = culture." This is part of the reason why I am worried about the fact that my only offspring are sons! But I digress...

Growing up in our house there were often jars of kim chee, takuwan, and various other kinds of Japanese pickles and condiments that might be put out on the table to complement the beef stew. My dad (originally from Lacomb, Alberta) would say, "Put the lid on that stinky stuff and put it on the other end of the table." Mom's mealtime concession to him was that she always made gravy so he wouldn't have to eat his sticky rice bare, like we kids did. Mom cooked rice nightly, even to accompany dishes that already contained potatoes, or even spaghetti! (We didn't call it "pasta" in those days.) Mostly dinner was a color wheel - a slab of brown, something green, and white rice.

One of my sisters ended up partnering with a vegetarian, and raised kids as vegetarians. When the kids became half grown, she went back to eating meat. I knew that she became a vegetarian because she loved her partner, but I was never sure if she returned to living as an omnivore out of rebellion towards her domestic arrangement, or just because she missed the taste of meat. Food is her love language, too, and her dietary versatility is probably why she is the best cook among us.

My other sister married a man who became quite suspect (by the female members of the family, anyway,) after his first extended visit with us It wasn't only because he refused to eat the borsch which was the main dish at the Chrismas Eve dinner in the vegetarian household. All together we have found that he is just not that into food. Despite this, the marriage survives, and this husband is probably the most physically fit among us. This sister admits that she is not a very good cook, and that her kids belong to the fast food nation.

I married an omnivore whose mother said that as a baby he used to "cry between bites." He relishes everything I cook. I think he loves me.

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