Are a couple’s eating habits a guide to the strength of their relationship? Novelist Kathleen Alcott reflects on lessons learned at the dinner table
There is perhaps no clearer a sign that a man does not love you than that he will not eat with you. I’m sorry to say I know this from experience, and further sorry to admit the man in question, whom I never saw ingest more than some crisp or pastry, was obligated to someone else. During the last acts of the obscure films we saw at the repertory cinemas of New York, on the subway platforms where he would run one finger down my arm, I was almost always starving. Though he was forever short on time, occasionally we made the desperate stop at a bodega, where I’d purchase a pathetic abbreviation of a meal, a suspect banana and salted cashews, and I would eat them as we walked, further contributing to the impression I was a woman who had planned nothing well. Our perverse friendship went on for a year, during a time I was licking my wounds from an awful separation, and just as we never ate together, neither did we sleep together. It occurred to me, after the fact, how telling the first part of the equation was, how indicative of all that followed. In every relationship there’s a mutual diet that evolves (or doesn’t), modified by allergies and preferences and begrudging compromises, and a set of behaviours that accompany it, and inside of all this a very readable code about who we are to each other, and what kind of unit we become or fail to remain.
My culinary skills deepened largely in service of a relationship where I occupied a very traditional female role