The first time I managed to wrangle a date out of (my now husband) Brett, I cooked for him in my small apartment and promptly burned everything while I sat perched on the counter, babbling away, ignoring the food while drinking wine.
He was horrified, to say the least, and dinner was uncomfortable. He gloomily eyed the "blackened-not-by-intention" chicken and somberly sipped his wine. I sat across from him on my hands, feeling absolutely sure that I would not have a second date with this man, mainly because he was probably going to die from the carcinogenic meal. As we cleaned up, I mumbled that I had 'picked up' (read: BOUGHT. FOR HIM.) a copy of "Finding Nemo." He had mentioned in passing in a crowded and loud bar that he loved that movie- weeks before.
And I went out and bought it, never breaking the plastic. Hoping I could trick him into coming over.
He looked at me, eyes softened. And well...was mine. (Editor's Note: Um. Not in a creepy sexual way. More along the lines of- let's have a second date and then I'm going to marry you way. Ok- carry on.)
It wasn't until I cooked with his family that I realized why he seemed so bummed out over a piece of chicken. To put it simply: Brett loves food. He adores it. It is his heart and soul and the truest form of art to him. He spends hours planning meals, shopping for ingredients, concocting new marriages of flavors and textures...while I still perch on the counter and watch him, babbling. He liked me ok when he first met me, thought I was cute even, but when I thoughtlessly threw wooden chicken on a plate with some frozen vegetables...I basically broke his heart.
For my husband, food is love. To watch him talk about his time when he lived in Italy is to understand this man. He'll look off as his face relaxes and his hands absently travel to his stomach. He'll dreamily talk of how every night he would shave off salty tendrils of prosciutto and enjoy it with a local wine, watching the golden sun dip and shimmer in its fading ballet over the Tuscan rooftops. He'll describe that flank of prosciutto that hung from the worn, wooden rafters of his Tuscan home like he was remembering a gorgeous lover.
What I would give to be a salty flank of prosciutto.
This love definitely came from his mother, and any time we visit I find them in the kitchen in the early hours of the morning, drinking tea in the middle of mountains of cookbooks. It's a life I am happy that I joined, and I have been blessed to have eaten my way through two countries with his parents. Yes, sometimes I ate eyeballs. And fish with the bones still in them as they looked up at me through milky, sightless eyes. And yes, I ate a duck heart once, and now I adore a little foie gras smeared on my steak, and I am no stranger to the elegance of shaved truffle on...well, anything. And Brett cooks 99% of the time, so as long as I keep our wine filled and the conversation flowing, I have nothing to complain about.
Now I have to cook more because Brett is so busy with school. And I am so busy not with school.
And I am shit at cooking duck hearts.
This morning Brett asked me what was for dinner, and I went into full on-panic mode. "What is defrosted?" I asked warily, praying it didn't have a head or wasn't an intestine of some sort.
"Ground beef." He replied. "I figured you are comfortable cooking that?"
"I am comfortable cooking that." I answered. "Are you comfortable with meatballs?"
He laughed. "Your meatballs are great. They really are. You should try branching out a little though! You have come so far since you first started cooking. Your stuff is really good- you could try a cookbook, see what fun things you can-"
"I am anti-cookbook. You know that."
"You're also anti-maps. And anti-directions. And anti-following rule-"
"Point made. But, I really am NOT opening a cookbook. I'm not. I'll figure something out, and you'll love it." I snapped.
"I will, you're right." And he kissed me on the forehead as I warily regarded the ground beef.
In our 7 years together I have become a great eater and an ok chef. My confidence wanes in the kitchen, and I'm happier letting Brett take the reigns as I volunteer to chop, saute, or gossip. I make a few things he loves and a lot of things he questions, but eats. But, I want to try. If this is love to my husband- if this is the language between us that can quickly convey my gratitude and affection- I want to learn it. I want to Rosetta Stone the crap out of it.
Which is why I found myself plumping currants today.
And caramelizing onions.
And adding lamb with the beef and trying to...make art.
And say I love you.
Sometimes words are hollow little boxes we accumulate in life. We stack them away in the recesses of our heart where they gather dust and sit, forgotten. I chose to crack open one of those boxes- and fill it. Fill it with action and with proof and fill it with manifestations of my love.
Tonight we'll eat something I made just for him. And as I set it down with (slightly) burnt hands, it is set before him with a full heart.
And it has LAMB in it. Good God.
That is not even love.