Reason For Not Eating Out #8: Hidden Potential

I love food in film. I love food television. There has been much said about the semiotics of food in media — specifically on sex and food media. Now why is that? Well, you can read an encyclopedia entry on the term “food porn” now, and you can also check out a recent article in Harper’s magazine all about food on TV and its sexual connotations. But if you ask me, plain and simple, it’s because making food is just sexy. There has not been nearly enough acceded, in my opinion, on said potential of actually cooking together, or cooking for someone.

I recently watched Mira Nair’s The Namesake, and in one scene of the movie a young, burgeoning couple meet at the woman’s apartment for a home-cooked dinner. She gets her hands all messy. Messy messy. I’m talking about chicken dredged in flour and egg messy. Her glasses get fogged from one of the open pots (symbol: she lets her guard down/her guard dozes off in the bushes somewhere). She asks him to take off her glasses for her since her hands are all messy. He necessarily touches her face, neck, hair, and then it’s a scramble off to her bedroom. Never did she get the chance to wash her hands, though. (And I read the book which has the same scene and there is no mention of her pausing to rinse or wipe her hands.) Messy! Nasty! Icky… yum.

See what I mean? While this was, after all, a movie, we can hopefully relate to the experience of getting much closer to someone through the uniquely messy experience of cooking together. Would Annie Hall really have been the 31st greatest American film ever made without that scene in which Annie and Alvy chase evasive lobsters around her apartment floor with the pots all bubbling? Surely it would have slipped out of the top 50.

Cooking for someone on a date, or experiencing their cooking, is a world of difference from going out. It’s nurturing, while seductive. Whimsical and — let’s not forget — dangerous. It’s much more organic an interaction between two people than, say, asking what the specials are for the third time. Of course, there are plenty of other emotions revealed through the act of cooking that have nothing to do with sex, but that’s besides the point. Why skimp on the one most desirable for that third date by going out again? (That is, as long as you want your date to go in that direction.)

Eating together is formal, stiff, stuffy; one of the oldest traditions of courtship in our culture and probably most others. Cooking together, on the other hand, is more equivalent to that moment in which the groom gets to see the bride’s hair for the first time let down, unfurled in all its natural luster. The way people cook for another, past the seduction stage, can also reveal a lot about their relationship. In this day in age, we can rejoice in the freedom of cooking being either gender’s game. I’ll bet you can tell who is in control of a relationship by who’s in the kitchen the most. We’ve heard of the “backseat chef” dynamic among couples, and the power struggles that occur in the kitchen. I’m not even going to say what backseat chef sounds says to me of their dynamic in bed, but it’s all translates to there in the end.

So to romantic hopefuls, sharpen your knife skills. There’s a lot to learn.

12 Responses

  1. Andrew

    Hi Cathy,

    Our parents got together this weekend and my mom told me to come check out your blog. Looks like you have a pretty cool gig going on over here. I try to cook for myself at home a lot, but definitely not with the same variety that you seem to. I’ll be checking back and maybe I can learn something. Hope all is well.


  2. cathy

    Thanks! Ha – I wasn’t expecting to see a comment like that for this post…

  3. The Cat Lady

    Being that I am the principal chef in my own tiny Fort Greene kitchen for my live-in boyfriend, I can attest to the truth of kitchen dynamics translating to other aspects of the relationship.

    What’s sexiest to me is that, after a year of cooking my SO nightly dinners – we rarely eat out for reasons not unlike your own – I can predict with flawless accuracy whether he’ll like a new dish I’m trying based on what I’ve discovered about his palate. We’ve built a lot of trust and intimacy this way: through making a point of sitting down together and talking about, and eating, my food.

    To boot, I’m a vegetarian cooking for an omnivore, so the bar is high.

  4. Daisy

    Interesting post – I just read that scene in the Namesake on the train to work this morning. I totally agree with the points you make. To me, cooking for others (be they family members, friends or romantic interests) is another way to share a part of myself. There’s just something so relaxed about cooking for others in one’s home that I enjoy.

  5. Aoife

    Either I’m a complete domestic or this speaks to my need for control, but I much prefer to be the cook. I love cooking for people, but it makes me a little nervous to be cooked for. As for cooking together, it just doesn’t happen. I find myself delegating smaller and smaller tasks until my partner’s job becomes enjoying the fruits of my labor.

  6. Yvo

    Heh, I thought it interesting that I interpreted your “who is in control/who is in the kitchen more” as the same thing. As in, because I’m in the kitchen more, I’m the one in control (which happens to be the case). As for other aspects, 😉 I’ll not discuss that on an open forum as such. Hehehe. Good post. I missed out on the opportunity to “cook for a third date” though. Ah well 🙂

  7. mark

    You edging for your own Food TV show — Sexy Kitchen/Sexy Chicken? Could be a real winner. You know what I told you about Food TV…you have to watch, it can breed some ‘crazy’ thoughts. As they say, “sex sells”, but it certainly is more interesting from your food based angle!


  8. Joanne

    I am the main chef in my home. I want my dishes in a certain spot. I want to be in control. While the SO does do his share in the kitchen, I tend to want to put him in a more submissive role (doing dishes) I am alpha when it comes to what is ingested, but outside of the kitchen, it’s more equal.

  9. Popcorn

    I’ll never forget cooking for my husband right after we first met. It was, erm, steamy 🙂 And he still asks me to make that dish every now and then. He’ll say, “Cook that pasta thing you made when you cooked for me for the first time.” Awwww, makes my heart melt, among other things.

    Great site, by the way! I just found it today!

  10. […] I got into a bit more here, cooking for someone can lead to wildly intimate stuff. But if you’re still in that […]

  11. Check this out!

    a good of which topics you should…

    be writing about. make sure that you do not copy people’s content though. this will make you look bad, as well as get google to look down on your blog post writing to increase website traffic will only work if…

  12. jcpenney coupon

    did or things that happened to them…

    that would make a great narrative paper. have them circle the one they prefer, remembering that suspense and difficulties of some sort (even humorous difficulties) make the best narrative.the narrative chosen should cover one event only. do not try to …

Leave a Reply