Marriage is not wholly unlike business. In short order, my husband and I went from walking down the aisle to running a household and raising children. He already had a son from a previous relationship, and the strenuous demands of co-managing the home and a teenaged boy were immediate within days of our union. These tasks often felt akin to the administration of a small business, and demanded many of the skills I employed at the office. By the time our own two children were born, I was clearly entrenched in the role of CEO. We went from the romantic to the practical, as an almost imperceptible cooling descended over our relationship and we focused on finding a balance of power in the context of our domestic life.
It seems the inevitable fate of marriage that both partners become anaesthetized to the daily interactions between husband and wife. We must spend our days entangled in a series of negotiations: who changes the light bulb, what new appliance to acquire, why did you cut the bread like that? In the middle of all that work, we often find that we are ill-prepared for the effort we must expend to keep the marriage decent. It becomes too easy to throw a million tiny arrows in the direction of our partner for the most minor of details – and harder still to mount a protest when those details seem almost irrelevant. Almost.
And so, in this chaotic environment filled with recriminations and obligations, duty and tenderness, we must find the space in which to be nurturing. Food often occupies this realm. It is, after all, a source of comfort and community. It harbors all the same elements of romantic love: melodrama and control, desire for the forbidden and the perception that a single improper choice can lead to catastrophe.
Food and love are inextricably tied in so many ways. We eat with the same senses that we love, and the same experience of smells and textures and wellbeing arise within us when we enjoy a good meal as when we are near our romantic partner. Even if it’s just a casual Wednesday night at home with a run-of-the-mill supper bubbling on the stove, I have made it with love. There is purpose and passion in providing food for those about whom we care the most.
Cooking dinner can either be another chore to complete in the course of managing the home, or it can be a source of intimacy between partners called to reconnect at the close of the day. Preparing good food for another person sends a message that we often lose amid the myriad of daily responsibilities: “You matter. I want to make you happy.” In that sense, it hardly makes a difference what you cook; any dish you take the trouble to prepare with your own hands can be read as a love letter. Of course, choosing those foods that nourish the body only serve to deepen the sense of caring and tenderness.
Touted as an aphrodisiac as early as the 17th century, asparagus boosts potassium and folic acid. It is both healthy and readily available in the early spring. A simple asparagus risotto, with its earthy flavor, is a perfect way to close the day:
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
•1/2 a small onion, finely sliced
•1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
•1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, or vegan butter substitute (like Earth Balance)
•1/3 cup dry white wine, warmed
•The water the asparagus was cooked in, topped off with vegetable stock to make 1 quart, simmering
•Salt and white pepper
Clean and boil the asparagus for a few minutes until a fork easily penetrates the tip of a spear. Use tongs to remove the asparagus from the water. Trim the tips from the stalks and set them aside. Cut the remaining green part of the stalks into one-inch lengths and set them aside too. Return the white ends of the stocks to the pot, along with the stock.
Sauté the onion in half the butter or substitute, and when it's translucent, remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon. Next, stir in the rice and sauté, stirring, until the grains have turned translucent, 5-7 minutes.
Return the sautéed onions to the pot, stir in the warmed wine, and cook until it has evaporated. Then add the one-inch lengths of green asparagus stem to the rice, and begin stirring in the liquid, a ladle full at a time. Should a white stem find its way into the pot, remove it.
Continue adding liquid, and when the rice is almost done, stir in half the reserved tips. Check seasoning and continue cooking the rice till it's al dente. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining butter or substitute. Let the risotto stand covered for two minutes, then transfer it to a serving dish and garnish it with the remaining tips.