to stir with love

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image via: not without salt.

image via: not without salt.


they say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. and while that’s certainly true (two words: magic bars), i think the same can be said about a woman’s heart, too. you can even take the express route if the dish involves chocolate and/or peanut butter.

it’s no secret that food and i haven’t been the best of allies over the years. but as i reported in my recap of 28 things i loved about being 28, i’ve finally found a balance between quinoa and cookie dough. because life is short, and because i’m fairly certain S’s cookie dough recipe is laced with crack.

but back to my point.

to me, food has become much more than vitamins and calories. it’s an art form (have you seen this food blog?), a reason to gather with family and friends, a wholistic experience for not only the taste buds, but for the eyes, ears, nose and hands as well. like music, food can take us back to a specific place and time, help evoke a dear memory or cherished experience from our past. but perhaps above all else, food, or rather the preparation of it, is how we share our love.

in thinking about this topic, i was reminded of shauna niequists’ sentiments -most notably in her latest book bread and wine (and if you haven’t read it in its entirely, get yourself on over to amazon STAT)

It’s not, actually, strictly, about food for me. It’s about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, listen to one another’s stories. It happens when we leave the office and get a sitter and skip our workouts every so often to celebrate a birthday or an accomplishment or a wedding or a birth, when we break out of the normal clockwork of daily life and pop the champagne on cold, gray Wednesday for no other reason than the fact that the faces we love are gathered around our table. It happens when we enter the joy and the sorrow of the people we love, and we join together at the table to feed one another and be fed, and while it’s not strictly about food, it doesn’t happen without it. Food is the starting point, the common ground, the thing to hold and handle, the currency we offer to one another.


It’s no accident that when a loved one dies, the family is deluged with food. The impulse to feed is innate. Food is a language of care, the thing we do when traditional love fails us, when we don’t know what to say, when there are no words to say. And food is what we offer in celebration — at weddings, at anniversaries, at happy events of every kind. It’s the thing that connects us, that bears our traditions, our sense of home and family, our deepest memories, and, on a practical level, our ability to live and breathe each day. food matters…(source)


and that’s why i think cooking for someone is one of the greatest things you can do to express your love for them.

you’ve probably heard of the concept of the five love languages. perhaps from me, because i whole-heartedly subscribe to their relevance in platonic, familial, and romantic relationships alike. but if you haven’t, essentially, there are a handful of ways in which we receive (and give) love best -through quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, and/or physical touch. while i believe we give/receive elements of all five, there is usually one or two categories toward which you more heavily lean. my two have always been words of affirmation and quality time. but recently, i’ve come to realize how much i appreciate a good act of service, too. little things like how S takes out the trash barrels on wednesday and brings them back in on thursday, or how he hides love notes for me to find later, or even how he changed the light bulb in the garage door light after it had been burnt out for over a year. things he does unprovoked, unasked. just because. because he can. and because he loves me.

as it pertains to the subject of this post, perhaps my favorite of S’s acts of service are his home-cooked meals. just this week, i came home to back-to-back dinners, prepared by the hands of my favorite chef. on tuesday he put p.f. chang’s to shame with homemade chicken lettuce wraps and last night, it was a garlic shrimp and quinoa dish that was so delicious i not only went back for seconds, but contemplated thirds, too.

you know, being on my own for so long, i’ve always had a hard time letting someone else do something for me. if anything, i’m usually the one doing it for them. but with S, i’ve learned that it’s okay to be taken care of sometimes. that by allowing him to perform the acts of service for me, i’m not burdening or inconveniencing him, rather, providing an opportunity for him to provide for me, and in turn, express his love. and in a season of life where i oftentimes don’t get home (and to the dinner table) until well after 8 p.m., having a meal (and a handsome man) waiting for me when i walk through that door means that much more.

somewhat related (and kind of a cute story, too), last weekend, i kicked S out of the kitchen and treated him to a dinner cooked by yours truly. i went with a tried and true classic-quinoa stuffed bell peppers with a side of roasted brussels sprouts and broccoli. it had been a while since i had cooked anything other than a microwaved sweet potato and some hard boiled eggs, but it felt good to channel my inner bobby flay again.

when i had plated the vegetables and arranged the stuffed peppers just so, i brought out my handiwork to S as he sat patiently watching college football on the couch. his eyes perked up as i set the plate before him. i playfully mentioned that this was my go-to dish to impress a man. my “woo” meal, if you will. he smiled and took a bite. after he had tasted its flavors, he inquired exactly what i meant by “woo.”

“i wasn’t sure if you meant, woo like win over or woo like it’ll make you say “woo!” (to which he yelled out loudly in a cheering fashion). because either way, you’ve done both.”

i’ve always seemed to fashion it like the former, but now knowing that it’s apparently so delicious it’ll get S to make sound effects, i think i might like the latter better anyway.

i guess what i’m trying to say is never underestimate the power of a home-cooked meal. love can be expressed a number of ways, but whether you’re more of a physical touch than a gifts person, a words of affirmation over quality time, food -and the home-cooked version especially- seems to be a language we all speak and understand.

  • Momma
    September 25, 2014

    Oh honey, you did it again! I read the title and a smile crept across my face and then as I started reading the tears began to fall and then stream down my face. Good tears, seems like I have had alot of those lately. You are an amazing, talented writer, you draw us in and you are so honest with your words. I think you have some special inspiration of late, that are bringing even more creative juices out of you! Amazing, that is you.

  • Aunt Teresa
    October 2, 2014

    I’m getting caught up on my reading. That was a fun story. I can’t imagine you aren’t anything but uber in what you set to achieve. I’m certain the meal was wonderful…. quinoa is so versatile. It’s light (and healthy) and nutty-sweet. Pairing it with Brussels sprouts is perfect! Shawna, thank you for sharing your life. You bring a wonderful perspective and it’s refreshing to read what you’re doing. Enjoy your day.

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