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  • Jessica Abrams

I Want A Boyfriend Who Cooks But I Don't Want Him To Be Snobby About It

I once had a boyfriend who made an excellent penne vodka with frozen langoustines from Trader Joe's, and he wouldn't shut up about it. He thought this penne vodka, decent though it was, would cause me to overlook his less-than savory qualities: the fact that he couldn't handle intimacy and was prone to sucking his thumb in front of the television while watching Le Mans.


It's true, the first meal he made for me was this dish, eaten at his large and chunky wood table that was low to the floor and had cushions rather than chairs. And it's true I was impressed with the creaminess-to-tanginess ratio enough to contemplate reaching across the table, pulling his face to mine and kissing him right then and there. I didn't actually do that, but I did fall into a relationship with the man, only to learn that his emotional capacity was as limited as his cooking repertoire. This did not stop him from constantly bragging about that dish as if anyone with some canned tomatoes, cream, a splash of vodka and some penne, couldn't make it.


The boyfriend I had before him, so very similar in emotional capacity and inflated ego, would regularly flip through a Charlie Trotter cookbook and assemble one of the mini-monuments therein. Often there would be something foamy on which this concoction would rest, a delicate sandcastle perched in the surf (a metaphor for our relationship, if there ever was one). He bragged endlessly about these creations, often exclaiming, "Look what I cooked for you!". And while I was happy to eat the black cod on a bed of ginger mashed sweet potatoes, I would have preferred he didn't continue to stay in close touch with old girlfriends or that he took the time to acknowledge my feelings rather than assuming I was that much of a food fanatic that one bite would wash me clean of my growing anger and resentment (it didn't. We broke up after nine months)


My Italian boyfriend was a more democratic cook. He would wake up on a Saturday morning with no other desire than to buy a pork roast that "we" would cook. At the time, I was trying to find myself and I didn't think I could do it via food (I've since changed). I resented these outings, the hours spent in front of a glass case displaying various porcine body parts and the sausages they turn into. I really just wanted to be left alone to brood. But, having become more familiar with the Italian mentality since then, I now understand he was trying to share an experience with me, and in retrospect I appreciate that (I also learned how to cook said pork roast from him, as well as basic pasta sauces, so when I encountered the penne vodka dish mentioned above many years later, I was less than impressed).


Men tend to be less encumbered when it comes to admitting they love food, and most men who love food end up learning to cook it out of sheer necessity. And I love a man who loves food. It calls to mind a carnal quality, a vastness of spirit, a joyful sensuality, the opposite of which is the man with food issues (which I have also encountered: the man who "needed to" eat nuts every two hours; the man who claimed rice made him bloated. I'll never do it again).


I can't lie: I'm still easily wooed by a fancy restaurant and a decent knowledge of French wines. The difference is, now I would like those qualities to be an afterthought to an evolved personality as opposed to the foundation on which the personality rests. I want the meal to be the opening act for our love and mutual respect and not the main show. Is that asking too much? I don't think so.


In my head I picture walking in from -- where? work? A hike? -- to a man who took the time to don an apron and is happily stirring something on the stove. It doesn't matter what it is, just that it smells good and there's that instant visual of care and love. I picture a table set nicely, perhaps a bottle of wine breathing. "How was your [day/hike/visit to the climbing wall]?" he'll ask.


I'll pour some wine, give the sauce on the stove a stir and tell him.




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