My husband James and I just had our one-year anniversary, and I’ve been reflecting on how we’ve influenced each other’s eating habits. James and I come from different sides of the diet spectrum. He is a “normal” American male, with a taste for pizza, pasta, burgers, and ice cream. I, however, am a diehard health foodie. Although these days I eat meat in moderation, at varying times in my life I have been vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, raw, and “pescatarian” (a vegetarian who eats fish). Talk about bringing two worlds together. . .
At the start, neither of us knew how devoted the other person was to his or her eating habits. James is a working musician who plays lead guitar in a number of bands, and on our first date on a cold night in February he regaled me with tales of getting in shape for going on tour by eating nothing but raw food for weeks at a time. Based on those stories, I just assumed he didn’t eat fast food or processed sugar. He in turn was delighted to discover that my drink of choice was Maker’s Mark bourbon, straight up. Surely I must be a rock n’ roll eater with that kind of taste, he thought.
Boy, were we both wrong. As we got closer, our true natures began to show. James often started his day with a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and a “treat,” while I drank tea and ate quinoa topped with vegetables. Right before my homemade dinners of roasted fish with kale and sweet potatoes, James would fill up on tortilla chips and fig newtons. We reached a crisis point late one night on a drive home from a road trip, when he made me go into a rest-stop McDonald’s and buy him a cookie. I seethed as I waited for the “fresh baked” cookie to rotate through the rotisserie toaster, hating the fluorescent lights and the smell of stale grease.
A turning point came in the late summer, when we had a picnic. I made beet burgers with melted cheddar cheese, and lots of fresh dill. For James, it was a revelation. It was as though he had never tasted dill before, and he couldn’t get over how delicious it was. When we had seconds, he actually chopped up more dill and piled a small mountain of it on his burger. It was the first time I had ever seen him pick up a knife and cut a fresh vegetable.
James was convinced after that about the worthiness of my “hippie” cooking style. Since then, he’s game to try any of my fresh and healthy creations. He even proved an invaluable taster when I was testing recipes for my cookbook, and his “normal” palate was the best predictor of whether or not a dish was too far left on the healthy spectrum to appeal to a broad audience.
These days, we eat kale and brown rice at home, while James indulges his richer tastes when he’s on the road. Our Austin wedding a year ago featured a mix of farm-to-table organic produce, right alongside some first-class Texas barbecue. Our sense of taste is one place where we have both developed the ability to compromise, a necessary skill in any marriage. As blissed-out newlyweds, we are more eager than ever to learn from each other and be inspired. I hope we will always stay this open and willing to try new tastes.
What has your experience of adjusting to your partner’s food tastes been like? Were you surprised at what your sweetheart ate once you were really together? In the kitchen, do you gripe or get along?
Smoky Beet Burgers with Cheddar and Dill
Makes 6-8 burgers
1 yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups grated beets (from approximately 1 large beet)
2 portobello mushrooms, diced
Article continues below...
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice or millet
1 egg, whisked
1 cup walnuts, coarsely ground
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 lb cheddar cheese, sliced
1 bunch dill, finely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Heat a sauté pan and caramelize the onion in the oil. Stir in the beets, mushrooms, paprika, and cayenne, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and most of the moisture has cooked out. Cool to room temperature and season with salt and pepper.
3. Mix the vegetables with the rice or millet. Transfer the mixture to a food processor, and pulse until the vegetables are broken down into small bits, about a minute. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the egg and walnuts.
4. Oil your hands, and form the dough into 6-8 patties.
5. Place the patties on a greased baking sheet and brush the tops with oil. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the burgers form a light crust. Flip the burgers and cover with the cheese. Bake for another few minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve hot, topped with plenty of dill and your favorite condiments.
Wedding photo credit: David Boyer
Louisa Shafia is a cook with a passion for healthy eating. She recently penned Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, a collection of seasonal recipes and eco-friendly advice on food. To watch her cooking videos, see her recipes, and find out about her cooking classes, go to lucidfood.com.