THE FOOD OF LOVE: HOW TO SHOW YOUR PARTNER YOU REALLY LOVE THEM
How have you shown your other half that you love them on this Valentine’s Day? Perhaps with some red roses, complete with specially inflated price to take advantage of a captive audience? Or a bottle of Champagne? Or maybe some, ahem, clothing?
Or perhaps you hold the entirely reasonable view that demonstrating your love is something you should be doing every day, and you have ignored Valentine’s Day altogether. Good luck with that one – I suspect that whatever they say, your partner will not be happy that you have ignored the occasion, however noble the justification.
Maybe you will be one of the hundreds or couples enjoying a romantic meal at a restaurant this evening – if so, let’s hope you are showing your love for our local restaurateurs by choosing an independent establishment rather than a branch of a faceless chain. At least Greggs are not repeating their PR stunt of last year, when they offered a four course pastry-based Valentine’s menu which would leave most people unable to rise from the table, let alone anything else.
Despite the best efforts of the nation’s florists, research shows that our favourite way of celebrating the 14th February is with a romantic meal with our loved one. This is a really effective way of showing the world whether your relationship is still vibrant, or has descended into staleness.
In every restaurant tonight there will be several examples of ‘that table’, around which are two people eating in silence, each desperately trying to remember what the spark was which threw them together in the first place.
But let’s not be cynical about it, because in general, sharing a meal is indeed the very best way of celebrating the annual lovefest that is Valentine’s day. Not just because of the food (although I’ll come onto that in a moment), but because sitting down at the table to eat together is often one of the rare occasions when couples can actually talk to each other – assuming, of course that you are banishing mobile phones and other electronic distractions.
Food itself is a major sensual experience. American author Alan Wolfelt wrote, ‘Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate’, while one of my favourite food writers, Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, wrote, ‘Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act’. Shakespeare might have said that music is the food of love, but in reality it is often food itself which nourishes our romance.
There is one way in which you can take that to the next level. It is one thing sharing a meal with the one you love, but surely the most powerful way of displaying your devotion is to take it one step further and actually cook that meal. Another American author, Thomas Wolfe (what is it with writers from across the pond and food?) wrote, ‘There is no sight on earth more appealing than the sight of a woman making dinner for someone she loves’.
Wolfe lived in the early 20th century, when such a view of the world wouldn’t have been viewed as sexist, but swap ‘man’ for ‘woman’ in the quote and it still stands. The basic premise couldn’t be truer: if you want to perform the ultimate romantic gesture, preparing that romantic meal yourself is the way to do it.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know one end of the kitchen from another – in fact, that makes the gesture even more meaningful. It is the effort you expend rather than a Michelin-starred style plate of food which gets the message across.
Not only that, if you haven’t yet booked a restaurant for tonight, cooking at home is probably your only option, all the best tables were reserved weeks ago. All is not lost; you still have time to rescue the situation and rustle up that romantic dinner in a few hours’ time.
My advice? Keep it simple (it simply isn’t romantic sitting at the table on your own while your partner spends hours getting stressed in the kitchen). Put a bit of thought into what your partner’s favourite foods are. Create the right ambience (and that definitely means turning off the TV and banishing phones).
One final quote about this: the civil rights activist Cesar Chavez said, ‘The people who give you their food give you their heart.’ On this day of all days, remember that. It’s not too late to show them your love – to the kitchen!
This article was first published in the Norwich Evening News and the Eastern Daily Press.