How often do you go out for a meal?
In these days of food delivery apps and heavy traffic, it often feels so much easier to be at home, put on the latest season of Master Chef from one of the streaming services, settle into your favourite couch and just chill.
If you are single, it is that much rarer to go out to a nice restaurant for a fine dining experience. Most times when one goes out alone, it is to a tried and tested, familiar hole in the wall place where one knows all the staff and the menu, and one might have gone there so often that the staff probably know what you want to order before you do. Fine dining by oneself is a rare experience for most of us. It can be quite a daunting experience to go by yourself to a nice restaurant and ask for a table for one. In most places, tables for one are relegated to the most unattractive places to sit, like next to the restrooms or at some other obscure corner as if to hide the singleness.
Restaurants do make a great deal of fuss about people in relationships come over. It is very much a sweet spot for them, especially because so much of dating revolves around food and drink, where each date matters because of what it says about each person to the other.
Post the early dating period though, when one is in a steady relationship, more often than not, one would just have a quick and easy meal at home, whatever is available or fastest to make on most days, leaving the more elaborate meals for weekends or holidays and perhaps the one meal a week that is had outside, just for a change – and again, even that one meal out, is probably in a selective set of restaurants. You would have three or four of your favourite restaurants that you cycle through whenever you want a break from home cooked food. Most often, the special dining out experience is reserved for holidays and special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
We often accept it as the natural course of events. People in relationships will get into routines and stay in their comfort zones. Food is one place it is most obvious in but we do it everywhere – the clothes we wear, the way we groom ourselves, the conversations we bring to the table and so on. Thing is, these so-called natural courses are really entropy in action – that old principle that all systems decay and disintegrate, unless there are other forces in action.
If you ever find yourself thinking your relationship has been in a nice little steady state for long, just be careful – it might actually be getting into a rut, that there is increasing entropy. You need to shake it up a bit, make a few shifts so that the systems are back buzzing and alive.
Go. Eat out or do something like that. Even if alone.
As written for the New Indian Express
Food is such an integral part of relationships. What we eat, how, when and where we eat – all make a big difference. If the people in a relationship cannot quite get along on these matters, there is likely to be a fair amount of conflict. If I eat meat, and my partner doesn’t like meat at all, we might more often than not, go for the least common denominators, which would be the vegetarian. Even if we do go out to a place with more food options, will there be equal respect and space for everyone’s food choice?
Chances are that there are differences. We make so much meaning out of food. It might be as simple as, “Don’t kiss me, you are reeking of garlic!” to “You are smelling of beer! I hope you are not going to sit belching all night!” to a lot more direct criticism of the food eaten, bringing in everything from environment and ecology, to politics and economy.
It is easily one of the most loaded subjects in a relationship, and perhaps one space where people really look for some levels of compatibility before moving in or living together. When looking for a partner, food preferences are one of the first things one checks on. Is the prospective partner from a similar food heritage? Are they as excited (or not) about variety of cuisines, do they have a favourite few, and do these favourites match? What do they hate, what do they love? Are there allergies? Preferences?
Sometimes, other emotions feel that much more important than food, and despite vast differences, people do get together. Thing is, very few houses run multiple kitchens to accommodate the food habits of the people living in it. Mostly, people run their households to the minimum common program, or the lowest common denominator. If there are food allergies or preferences that limit the possibilities for some person, then the common kitchen in the house will likely be designed for that, with anyone desiring more variety having to step out for a special order or get something special for themselves delivered home.
They seem reasonable choices to make and easy enough to accommodate for some time, maybe even a few years, but over time resentment could be slowly growing on these divisions, like layers of dust settling on furniture. Why can’t there be that one meal a week as per your choices? Can’t the others compromise for a change? Should you really have to settle for this much lesser than what you know you can enjoy?
Food is never really just food. It is culture, tradition, heritage, freedom, variety, fun, pleasure, companionship, adventure and much, much more. Relationships can be built on food, and can break on food.
The old saying “A family that eats together, stays together” does have some merit in it, and when the food one eats is so different from each other, then being able to eat together and stay together requires attention to everything food means for each other – not just compromise.
As written for The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.