I have learnt over time that cooking for someone you love, or cooking with someone you love, and then sitting down to eat together is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s strange – something so mundane, something we do every day, can also be so meaningful and special.
I think it first became a highlight when I was going out with Simon. I was not the best cook, but I searched for recipes and prepared meals for the two of us. Seeing him tuck into a dish I had prepared and enjoying it was so rewarding. He expressed his appreciation for the culinary pleasure I had given him….with sharing sexual pleasure with me. Simon was amazing – I mean truly amazing – sex with Simon – it was magnificent. And damn it – he knows it – which is perhaps why he does not want to commit to one woman.
During my teens and twenties – I did not always appreciate the pleasures of food. I was too worried about staying slim and often skipped meals, or when playing sports treated food just as fuel. I didn’t really savour the experience of great food. But that changed once I neared the age of thirty.
Once you hit thirty, it becomes very trendy to spend most of your social life around the dinner table. The Bridget Jones lifestyle holds great pleasures. I enjoyed it.
There is something very unifying about eating with people. I found that at the same time as cooking for and eating with friends – I was drawing much closer to them. We were relaxed, we opened up, we laughed, we put the world to rights, we shared and trusted and became closer friends whilst eating together. Eating with friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures – and during the national lockdowns and social distancing required to deal with the Pandemic, we truly missed that very much.
Then there is the meaningful pleasure in cooking and eating solely with and for the love of your life. Ben will not be keen on me comparing him to Simon, but the one thing they both have in common is that they savour pleasure. When it comes to enjoying a meal or having sex – both of them view these as events, enhanced by attention to detail, and to enjoy every moment of.
Simon was not a cook (although he could take care of his nutritional needs very well, and I am sure he did have some hidden culinary talents up his sleeve, even if I never had chance to see them for myself). Yet he clearly enjoyed a home-cooked meal and he also loved eating out at restaurants.
I am so glad I discovered the pleasures of daily cooking and eating together during the course of my relationship with Ben. It has been something that has become a key ingredient in my relationship with Ben. In particular, our evening meal together is always an event. Ben makes sure it is enjoyable. Lighting, music, setting the table – Ben makes sure dinner is a quality time we spend together and enjoy every moment of. I love that about him.
In fact, I had already started to enjoy this pleasure before Ben and I got together. Ben was a friend, and I was enjoying cooking for Simon (who had no interest in meeting my friends) so much, that I started to throw dinner parties for groups of friends. My cooking was steadily improving. Ben must have been at my dinner parties – maybe a dozen times or more before he ever told me how he felt about me. That must mean that he had been impressed by my cooking – surely?
Thank goodness it was only after we had got together when I discovered his interest in fine dining. I would have been terrified to cook for him if I had any idea what a food snob he is!
We had eaten out before, usually with groups of friends, but it was always at restaurants that had reasonably friendly budgets. The first time Ben took me to an outrageously expensive restaurant in Mayfair, I thought he was trying to make a fuss of me. I remember telling him I would have been just as happy eating a sandwich with him, instead of that eye-wateringly expensive meal. Ben seemed to think I had not enjoyed the meal. I was trying to discourage him from spending his money on me with things like fine dining. I didn’t want him to think I was demanding luxuries.
It turned out that Ben simply had a much bigger interest in food than I had ever realized. He knew so much more about food, techniques, ingredients, skill – it soon became apparent that actually food is quite a passion for Ben.
Ben is a much more talented, skillful cook than I am. When Ben cooks – it is never simple. Ben would never choose ready made meals from the grocery store. For that reason, I have been more than happy to take on most of the cooking for us. I know Ben likes meals made from scratch, so I have found recipes that are realistic time wise. I often freeze portions so we can still have a home cooked meal on very busy days. When Ben enters the kitchen, it is going to be a work of art on a plate, one that will have created an enormous amount of washing up! It would be completely impractical to allow Ben to cook Monday- Friday.
My cooking is a lot more straightforward. I have learnt so much from Ben and other friends. Over the past three years, I have tried to put effort into making meals I know Ben will enjoy. Recently, it has become difficult for me to prepare the kind of meals I used to. I have had a lot of nausea and my appetite has been poor. That has got worse since I started radiotherapy. At the moment, I am trying to keep my nutrition uptake healthy with veggie/fruit juices (Netta Noo has lent us her Nutri-bullet) and soups, and some drinks I have been prescribed by the GP.
Ben has started to do more cooking, and often he is cooking food which is more bland than he would prefer, simply for my sake. Or making sure he serves me a dish with less seasoning or strong flavours. I want to eat for Ben’s sake. I want to be strong….for Ben’s sake. I finished off a whole bowl of his leek and potato soup last night, and I enjoyed it. Ben even makes soup look pretty. Very kindly, some of our neighbours and friends have been doing some cooking for us – which is lovely. Ben has never been keen on fast food and takeaway restaurants. There are a couple of restaurants he would occasionally order from – a Thai restaurant and a real Italian pizzeria in the nearest town. But he is fussy about avoiding anything he considers junk food.
Just right now….cooking and eating are not as pleasurable for me as they were before this naughty lump started causing me problems. Yet what is deeply meaningful and very special is that the love keeps flowing. Our friends and neighbours are concerned about my health and from their heart, they are trying to think of foodie ways to make sure both Ben and I know they care about us. Ben seems to be finding pleasure in cooking for me, and packing in as much nutrition as he can into food that is not going to make me nauseous. The love just keeps on flowing.
So…although this is a challenging time for both of us….cooking and eating are still part of enriching our relationship together. There is so much love in this mundane yet deeply meaningful part of life.