It is not surprising that romantic unions occur over a common love of certain foods, as dictated by the adage that the way to one’s heart can be through the stomach. Less often will you see a couple bonding over a meal liked by one individual but not by the other. Such incompatibilities, though, can provide insights into how relationships work. It was definitely not my culinary skills that urged my wife to enter into holy matrimony with me, but it was my cooking during our courtship that taught us both some relationship lessons.
When we were dating, the first meal I cooked for my future wife was my signature dish, one far more elaborate in my mind than in reality. I called it Chicken and Peas over Rice. By cooking for her in the early stages of our dating, I thought I was proving that I was not useless as a potential mate, and I was under the illusion that it was more romantic to surprise her with a homemade dish than to let her in on what to expect for dinner. I may have had this recipe down pat — open a can of soup and a container of sour cream for the sauce, split open a bag of frozen peas, boil Minute Rice, cut boneless chicken breasts into cubes. But it is stupefying that I thought it was worthy of serving to a girl I was trying to impress.
A few days after I made this meal she told me, “I hate peas, but I like you, so I ate them, and now peas aren’t so bad.” Never would I have guessed that love could edge someone towards liking more vegetables. Up to that point she had known she liked me, but by eating those peas she learned just how far she would go for our relationship. She could have easily gone the other way, thinking, “I was on the fence about whether I liked this guy and it doesn’t seem worth it to eat something I don’t like, so it may be time to call it quits.”
But that did not happen. The peas had not driven her away. However I wanted to avoid giving her any more reasons to stop eating with me. I had learned my lesson and decided to ask more questions about what she liked eating. I found out she liked Mexican and Asian food, and not long after we got engaged over a platter of Mexican-Asian nachos: a successful fusion dish with successful results.
After twelve years of marriage and the addition of two sons to our fold, I still try to impress my wife with my cooking. Although I do a lot of things wrong in the kitchen, even when meticulously following a recipe, I hope that my attempts remind her that I wasn’t such a bad catch after all. And when I take over the kitchen I always ask, even if slightly uncertain after all these years, whether she likes persimmons, or bamboo shoots.
To this day, especially when we are trying to get our two sons to try new foods, my wife says, “You know, I really hated peas until the first time your dad cooked dinner for me.”
And I reply with, “Actually, your mother did not know how much she liked me until she tried peas. Only then did she realize she would do anything for me. And look where it got her: she has me and she likes peas.”
I still make Chicken and Peas over Rice for our family of four. I know it may be unrefined, but I make it with love every time, because it could very well be one of those links in our relationship chain that made our love grow stronger. That first meal may not have been the way to my wife’s heart, but she learned that she can tolerate certain things for love. And I learned the importance of asking more questions.