4 Incredible Love Lessons We Can Learn From Cooking

happy couple cooking
Love, Self

I'm one half of the team behind the food blog, A Mouse Bouche, which I have been co-writing with my sister Megan ("The Mouse") since 2007. We are not food professionals, we are working artists who love to eat, love to cook, and love to talk about eating and cooking. Although we write about food and share recipes, we think of it more as a blog about life... through the important lens of snacking.

"Show me what you eat and I will show you who you are." -Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I always knew that we, as a family, find it impossible to relate without talking about food. What I didnʼt know until I started blogging is that it's almost impossible (at least for me) to talk about food without without talking about relationships. Food itself is language. I looked up the word "communicate" when I sat down to write this, and one of its definitions is "to administer the eucharist." There you have it. The very word itself means to feed someone wine and crackers. Boom. 

Anyone who's ever kept a food journal while dieting knows that writing something down is a good way to make it conscious, and anyone who's ever kept a journal at all knows that writing regularly about anything over time is likely to cause you to learn about yourself. In this way, blogging has improved my love life by enabling me to see its progression... one recipe at a time.

"They talk of a 'love life,' donʼt they? Do you know the phrase, 'love life,' as if somehow this thing ran under or beside as if you stepped from one life to the other? Banality to love, love to banality. No, love is in the cooking and the washing and the milking, no matter what." -Howard Barker, The Castle

Anyone here ever read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron? In it, she makes you write "morning pages" for like five weeks, and then she has you go back and read all of them with a highlighter at hand "to mark insights gained and lessons learned." Well, I went through our blog with my mental highlighter and here are some lessons that I found:

1. Cook For Yourself

"It is your attitude about yourself that a man will adopt." -Sherry Argov of Why Men Love Bitches (a book I have actually read).

"Put your oxygen mask on first before securing others." -Every airline ever.

Say it with me now: your love life is not separate from the rest of your life. Your food life is not separate from your life. Your life is one big thing that affects everything else. This is nothing new, right? What goes around comes around, you get what you give, you are what you eat. But so often, we forget that we are, in fact, part of that equation.

"Oh, Iʼll cook when I have a reason," we may say. That really means when I have a husband/boyfriend/kids/important Elks Club meeting.

What does that mean? When someone important is around? That's what I thought.

Make this: Vanilla Sugar. Get a vanilla bean, cut it in half, and bury it in your sugarbowl. This was the first thing I "made" for myself, out of Gourmet magazine, when I was living alone and not yet blogging or even cooking at all. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single vanilla bean. You are important, so why not give yourself some sugar?

2. Cook For Yourself Even When You Cook For Others

I think every actor at some point figures out a paradox of the audition room, which is that if you go in thinking about what they want, it's no good. If your mind is on "do they like me? am I doing this right?" you won't be able to offer them what is truly valuable: you. 

If you have a good time, then they have a good time. Whenever I have stressed over cooking for a romantic partner, the dinner has not worked (see: Failed Kale). Whenever I have cooked for a partner or friend out of the joy of cooking, with ease, it has gone well. Iʼm with Ina Garten when she says to trust that your friends would rather spend time with you at dinner than sit in the dining room alone while you make mini-souffles.

I also highly recommend doing anything that can be done in advance. If you can chop the veggies the day before and store them in the fridge, it will be awesome when all you have to do is chuck the ingredients into the pan that night. Just add a glass of wine, and you will feel like a Food Network star.

Make this: Jamie Oliver Chicken in Milk

3. Question Your Cravings

"To be happy we must first let go of the coals that are burning us." -Lama Sumati Marut, in reference to "giving up" the cycle of craving that never leads to real happiness but merely to passing satisfaction that lasts only till our next urge to consume (be it shoes, sweets, alcohol, whathaveyou) strikes

Listen up here. I'm not saying to ignore your cravings or that butter is the devil's playground. I believe your body knows exactly what's good for it, and you only live once. Eat the cupcake and rejoice.

But in re-reading my blog posts, I notice a pattern. I see periods of excess (cake, meat, and muffins galore) followed by determined bursts of change (I'm doing a juice cleanse! I'm off wheat/sugar/soy/dairy for four months!).

There is always a breakthrough where I feel amazing and know how to stay that way... and then I return to old habits. If I crave gluten, white flour, and sugar, then I'll eat pasta or cookies, which I think will make me feel good. But in the end, it makes me feel bad. Similiarly, if I crave drama and excitement, I might date people who bring the drama in some way, which I think will make me feel good, but in the end, it makes me feel bad. See where I'm going with this?

Cravings are not the same as true wants. If it's a true desire, jump in, sister! But if it is a gnawingly familiar compulsion, maybe put down the Starbucks scone and make room for quality.

Make this: Life-Changing, Addictive Raw Kale Salad. Rip up leaves into a big bowl. Lightly salt and squeeze with clean hands. Let sit a few minutes, then drizzle olive oil and balsamic and toss with grated parmesan and maybe thinly sliced red onion and pine nuts.

4. Cook For Others Again (Or, Love Is A Verb)

It's a common saying among people who cook that you're either a cook or a baker. Like any actor, I scoffed at the idea that I could be typecast in this way. But in looking back over my blog posts, I see that nothing gets me jazzed like baking. I make cookies for rehearsal. I bring pumpkin breads to friends' houses for dinner. I jump at the chance to try a new plum tart recipe for our family

And so what of the fact that my (literal) bread and butter in the kitchen is what also will make me feel bad, not good if I ingest too much? Well, I say, what a great reminder that I make these things... in order to give them away. (And, yes, to eat some, I'm not crazy.)

Love is an action. It's something you give, something you do. If you want to keep something, they say, set it free! Give it away! Spread the love (and pumpkin bread) and you can reap the many returns.

Make this: Dorie Greenspan's Isphahan Loaf Cake. Beautiful. Enchanting. Made with rose syrup, rose extract, raspberries, and almond flour, it is basically a love letter in a loaf pan. 

So what I'm saying is this: feed yourself, watch your back, and share your gifts. Happy eating!

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Rebecca Hart and her sister, Megan, write A Mouse Bouche: the Hart Sisters Eat Life, a food blog for foodies and non-foodies alike. Read the article Megan wrote for Breakfast, Love & Dinner9 Ways To Celebrate A Special Occasion On The Cheap [PHOTOS]

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