I had a bad relationship with food & men. Being female meant being food provider. Social rules turned to acid in my stomach. Eventually they’d pour out of my mouth as bilious words, undigested pressure. I asked shaadi boys if they could cook before their moms could ask me. No answers.

I had a boyfriend I’d meet in hipster coffeeshops that boasted antique furniture & wine lists. He introduced me to rose wine, said he was bisexual, and that it was a test. Clearly I passed. The first time I stayed over, I awoke worried. I could play the part of stylish date but the morning after? Relax, he said, I’ll make breakfast. What would he present? Silver cutlery? Obscure Swedish fish? He brought out toast covered in melted cheese, topped with raw capsicum. I hate capsicum. “Is it ok?” he asked, nervously. I took a bite. It was horrible. “Lovely” I said. There’s more to romance than taste.

A friend & I went to lunch. He placed an order that prompted me to say I was a small eater. Even for a guy with huge muscles it seemed A LOT. I smiled, remembering a college superstition that a man’s appetite is an indicator of his libido. 30min later, I realised I’d eaten all his food. He grinned. He’d heard the superstition too. He’d send me pics of his cooking when we couldn’t meet.

β€œSpend the day with me at home” said another date. He spent the afternoon cooking as we talked. He let me chop garlic. Come evening, I said I was hungry. The slowcooker would need another hour he said. I settled for leftover beef. When the slowcooked chicken ishtew was ready, I was still eating. It was a quiet pause after the drama of beef. As I chewed, I found the salt. The onions he shooed me out of the kitchen for so he wouldn’t have to see me cry. The garlic I’d chopped. I looked up. The cook must be fed with validation. “Perfect” I said. He’d ensure there was beef each time we met. That act of consideration sweetened the bitter words that passed between us later.

Learning to receive was a gift that opened me up to the joy & generosity of someone cooking for you – traits I never associated with men. Men & food feel more wholesome now.

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