One of my earliest memories of my relationship with Jon, was when we were sitting at a dinner table with his family and everyone was eating a set meal, and he and I were served the vegetarian option.
I knew he was also a vegetarian, and its one of the things that attracted me to him. But in that moment, for the first time I felt like I had a partner at the dinner table. After countless years being the only one with a dietary ‘limitation’, or the one that was constantly being apologized to, as friend forked a piece of meat into their mouths, or even worse – having a host call me before the event and ask in desperation, ‘What CAN I make you’, I had someone who understood and could share the experience of being the ‘other’ at the table.
I know it sounds weird, but there was a feeling of food compatibility that I never really knew I longed for. It was in the very first month of our life together, so I hadn’t even considered things like what we would cook together when preparing meals at home, but in that moment I could see it, and there was this sense of relief.
In a world, particularly the Western World, where we have the luxury of choosing what and how we will eat, the notion of partnering with someone that shares your food culture and practice becomes something important to consider. Before dating Jon, I was in a relationship with a man who was an avid meat eater. Cooking meals for us both was always a challenge for him and for me, because although we got creative, two different meals would end up getting made which enforced a sense of separateness. This experience fostered a belief in me, that finding a partner with similar dietary choices was critical.
The choice to go vegetarian was motivated by different reasons for Jon and I, but the results were the same. Our diet and choices matched up, and it made meals at home and restaurant choices so much easier, along with our motivation for trying out new ethnic foods. But food choices live on a sort of continuum, at least they have for me.
After finding out I had a serious gluten intolerance, I had to revamp many of my eating habits and choices. This wasn’t the case for Jon, who eats quite a lot of bread products. Then in the last couple of years, so overwhelmed by the restrictions I had, particularly when eating out, I began eating meat again. You can imagine how this changed things in our kitchen!
So here we are, over seven years into our relationship, and our food compatibility has changed dramatically. The compatibility that I thought was based on eating the same foods, has shifted and grown over the years. Its based more on our food practice then it is on the specifics over what we eat.
We are both committed to high quality fresh and whole foods, cooking more at home then going out to eat, sitting down together at the dinner table when we are both at home, and eating out at places that take food and sustainability seriously. Beyond making the same choices, its the nourishment and connection that we foster while sitting across from each other to eat that makes our food practice culture rich and deep.
My time with Jon over the years has really fed my values surrounding food. For me its grown beyond feeling connected over both being vegetarians, and has branched out into conscious choices about how we eat, why we eat together, and how the food we prepare and share together is as much about our relationship dance as it is about sating hunger.
I am curious about other couples out there. I would love to hear about your couple food practices and thoughts. Please share in the comments section, I would love to keep this exploration going.