Kiss the Cook 

We asked our food writers what they did for love.

Courting with Vegetables

I'm an amazing eater who will try anything as long as it doesn't involve mayonnaise, and this is due to my beloved's patient and persistent efforts. 

Years ago, my Achilles' heel was what he adored the most: vegetables. Whenever a plate of them appeared in front of me, I died inside a little. Sure, I'd attempt a few bites, but I've always liked my food rich and a little on the sweet side. My husband, Justin, on the other hand, has the preferences of a particularly voracious bunny rabbit. In his view, raw carrots are an indulgent snack. Vegetarian stir-fry is a thrilling dinner. Every time we go out to eat, he orders a huge salad. (More often than not, we have to switch plates since servers assume that the chick is the one who ordered something healthy and low-fat.) Recently, I watched him bite into a leaf of spinach and deem it "a little sugary."

This difference in our tastes can bring forth some issues at mealtime. I won't eat anything that's even remotely bitter, and he turns his nose up at most desserts. Somewhere along the way, though, my husband devised a sly and stealthy plan. He started courting me ... with veggies. First, they were roasted and chopped up small in a lush, hearty spaghetti sauce. Next, he brought together intense flavors and spices that made butternut squash soup taste like candy. After much consternation, he finally allowed me to balance out sour notes in a dish with a pinch of sugar or a teaspoon of agave nectar. On the day he smoked and caramelized brussels sprouts, I was fully convinced. If I knew it was possible for vegetables to taste like this, I mused, I would've been a fan all along. 

Soon, I discovered that there were other things I'd been missing: spiky rambutan fruits, tender pork belly, gooseberries, oxtail, raw milk cheese, and prickly pear. A world of possible new favorites opened up to me, and I'm so grateful for the intervention-with-vegetables that kickstarted it. Now that love has unleashed and expanded my dormant palate, what's often said about love rings true: It really can overcome all. — Amy Lawrence, married to Justin Fox Burks for five years

Let Him Eat Cake

When Tony and I were first married, we loved getting the Williams-Sonoma catalog. I envied the cookware and kitchen gadgets; Tony liked the recipes. Frequently, he would tear one out and leave it for me to see. Occasionally, I actually made one, including an incredibly complicated cranberry-orange cake. Man, was that a mistake.  

First, I needed dried cranberries. (Trip one to the store.) Next was the one cup and two tablespoons of sour cream. (I only had one cup. Trip two to the store.) Then I had to grate the orange zest. (What a mess that was.) The recipe had 16 ingredients, including orange marmalade and half a cup of pecans — roasted and chopped. 

Despite my struggles, the finished cake was lovely, thanks largely to my fancy bundt pan. It tasted pretty good too: a moist pound cake with a little crunch from the pecans and a delicate citrus flavor. But here's the rub: It wasn't chocolate, which for me, is the only valid reason for dessert. Not so for Tony. For the next 18 years, his request for special occasions has been the same: "I'd like that cake with the orange rind," he says. I groan, I complain. Sometimes I comply. 

Other folks must like the cake too, because the recipe is still available on the Williams-Sonoma website. Search recipes for "cranberry-orange cake" but be forewarned. You won't have all the ingredients in your cupboard. — Pamela Denney, married to Tony Yoken for 19 years

The Twain Shall Meet

My husband, Warren, and I are locked in a constant struggle between eating in or going out. In my family when I was growing up, going out to dinner was always an adventure — one I looked forward to. In Warren's house, his mom cooked Japanese dishes, or washoku, from her homeland. So Warren learned to cook, and I learned how to find a good restaurant.

Now that we've been married for more than 10 years and have two young sons, we've found a good rhythm. I'll admit that it took me awhile to understand that when Warren went shopping at three or four grocery stores, then spent two hours making dinner, it meant he loved me, not that he was trying to starve me.

Over the years he has introduced me to all of his mother's specialties: sukiyaki, gyoza, tonkatsu; dishes we both enjoyed in Cameroon (where we met as Peace Corps volunteers): koki, njama njama, whole tilapia; favorite dishes from local restaurants: curry shrimp, banana lumpia, fish tacos; and his very own creations: barbecue sushi, crawfish gyoza, and corn-meal-encrusted chicken wings.

I return the love by asking for seconds, doing the dishes, and immortalizing his best meals on what we call his tribute blog, Chop Fayn (chopfayn.blogspot.com). Sometimes I even let him pick a restaurant.

– Stacey Greenburg, married to Warren Oster for 10 years

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