Love Cooking

Of the many things I’m grateful for in my choice of mate-for-life, apart from the obvious one of her having lost her senses long enough to sign up with me for the long haul, certainly one of the biggest has to be that she has no interest in the pervasive tropes that in our culture define what romance is supposed to be, the flood of which recently crested and now mercifully is subsiding, leaving behind the debris of foil deprived of its chocolate, clam-shell containers pining for their strawberries, rose petals fallen from their stems, discarded cards (puzzle: how can a card be discarded?), and, no doubt, much less mentionable, but possibly more memorable, refuse. Having grown past my wooing years, this flood is something I watch as a disaster on the evening news that poses no immediate threat to my own existence, but that, like climate change, is a human-made catastrophe that brings good to no one in the long run. Aside from the obvious – you know, the crass capitalistic exploitation of the most basic of human desires and needs, the perpetuation of exploitatitve gender roles that mostly set their performers up for failure and disappointment, etc. – the real Valentine’s Day travesty is the abuse of food. I have no objection to the idea of romancing with food per se, but when a meal becomes a test of how well you are conforming to norms of seduction or relationship management, how much can you care about how it tastes, smells and looks? How many sublime dishes go unappreciated because they are forced to be a part of an event in which they are only a symbol of someone’s desire to prove seriousness of intent or endurance of commitment by making the right reservation on the right day for the right time? I say, if you must observe the holiday, cook something simple and delicious and offer it to your beloved or would-be-beloved as your own (or gratefully accept what that person has cooked for you, if you are fortunate enough to have it offered). Better yet, forget Valentine’s Day altogether and cook for and with love every day. Save the good meals out for when the meal itself is the occasion. And in both cases, follow Dan Savage’s advice to have whatever other fun is on the menu early and your meal late; that way you can eat yourself into catatonic bliss with the only demand afterwards to be to sleep long and well, unworried by the basil in your teeth and the sauce on your shirt .