All people express love in their own specific and sometimes quirky ways. Your beloved may show their love for you by washing and vacuuming your car every weekend, someone else may surprise you with small, sweet gifts, I once knew someone who showed love by sharing secrets. These are all different currencies of love. For me one of the ways I express love (and not just romantic love) is to cook for the object(s) of my affection. I have been doing this my whole life. When I was eight, I got an Easy-Bake Oven. I loved it, and it wasn’t long before I ran out of the pre-made mixes to cook under that light bulb, so I started making my own mixtures with varying degrees of success, and delivering them to family and neighbors, with all my love. In high school I spent Saturdays baking bread, and making soup for my family.
In my senior year of high school my best friend Laura and I made an elaborate Greek meal for two male friends (one of whom I had a secret crush on). We took them to New York City to see a show, then back to Long Island, to my parents’ house to serve a dinner we had worked so hard on. The guy I liked didn’t really like the meal, and in fact refused to eat certain dishes… I was devastated, clearly he didn’t return my interest, or he would love my food! That turned out not to be the case, but over the years, I am still as hurt as I was at that moment whenever I cook for someone, and they don’t like my food. After my first week working as a chef at the General Theological Seminary in New York, my boss Steve called to see how things were going. “Great” I said, “If they like me, they’ll like my food”. I still believe this, but I also believe that if you love my food you will love me, which hasn’t worked out quite as reliably.
When I cook for someone I put my heart into it. I spend time thinking about what I think they will like; are they adventurous or finicky? Spicy or sweet? I leave out the salt for my sister Connie, my daughter loves smoked things, I have kind and generous friends who claim they will eat anything I make, but still, I know that my friend Corrine likes homey dishes like short ribs, and roasted chicken. When I am planning a party, no matter how large or small I think about who is coming, and what they would like. I cook to please, I cook to connect, I cook to show my love.
Understanding someone’s currency takes time, and interest, and intimacy. I don’t expect people to simply know or understand that my cooking for them is about love. I am aware that people love to cook for many reasons, and I understand that many, many people don’t love to cook at all, though almost everyone likes to have someone cook for them! Love looks, and feels, and shows up in so many ways, the best thing I can do is try to pay attention, and hope I can recognize the currency.