Strawberries dipped in chocolate, a bowl of oysters accompanied by a glass of champagne, a three-tiered wedding cake. Whether they provide aphrodisiac properties or hold cultural significance, food and romance have long gone hand in hand. But the relationship between love and food runs far deeper than these tired clichés. Food can offer a unique experience of intimacy. It often provides us with a means of expression when words are simply not enough.
When I asked my friends what foods they associated with love, none of them mentioned fancy dinners or a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Instead, they spoke about their Grandma’s special recipe for bread and butter pudding (hint: the secret is nutmeg). Or the first meal that their Dad taught them to make. Their memories of love and food were deeply personal, more about sharing an experience with a loved one than extravagance.
Food is a way to nurture and nourish, to share tips and tricks, to bond with someone. When your Grandma shares her secret to perfect Yorkshire puddings, she shares a part of her history with you. When someone gives you the bigger slice of cake, they are putting your happiness before their own. I may sound a bit dramatic – a slightly smaller slice of cake does not seem like a huge sacrifice — but food can be a way for someone to show their love, however insignificant the moment may seem.
It’s those moments: passing a cup of tea back and forth with someone because you only have enough milk for one cup. Eating toast in bed with your partner and getting jam all over the sheets. Or compromising at the cinema and getting salted popcorn even though you prefer sweet just so you can share with someone. Even eating a portion of chips with your housemate on the way back from a night out because you’re too hungry to wait. It is moments like these – small moments of quiet intimacy – that food can bring us.