We are all familiar with “Freshman 15” — those extra couple of pounds new college students pile on during the first year of school. But a lesser-known phenomenon is the “Newlywed 20” — or 30, or 40 — that pile on during the first couple of years of newlywed bliss.
I admit that I don’t have the healthiest eating habits. I grew up on chicken paprika and Wiener schnitzel and lots of other pork parts with potatoes or gnocchi. At home, my parents cooked with lard, or if they wanted to be “healthier” they used goose fat. While delicious, it was certainly not the American Heart Association approved diet.
But when Drew bought Steak-Ums for one of our first dinners together as a married couple, I knew that we were going to have to do some negotiating about what goes into the fridge and into our bellies. Thankfully, we have similar tastes and no food allergies, so we didn’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out what the other can or can’t eat. I try to avoid hard-boiled eggs and tuna because Drew doesn’t like them, and Drew tries to dial down the hot pepper flakes in his cooking, but other than that, everything else is fair game.
Over the years, I branched out in my cooking away from Hungarian cuisine and into seafood and Italian dishes. Drew is staying away from the processed meat-like products and experiments with more fresh and low-fat ingredients. His staple seasoning is still beer — but once you try his burgers steamed in beer, you’ll understand that that’s not a bad thing.
Unfortunately, all this negotiating paid off a little too well, because five years later we are still carrying around that “newlywed 20.” We love to cook and eat together every night. We like to nosh on some hummus and pita while there is a nice pork chop in the skillet with some couscous in the pot. We love to sit and talk for hours at the dinner table over a glass of wine. We enjoy a $200 meal as much as we do burgers from Rapid Ray’s in Saco.
While we don’t want to weigh 600 pounds each on our 10th anniversary, I don’t think we’d ever want to change the basics of the way we enjoy food. Everything just tastes so much better when we eat it together. Food is something we bond over, just another part of our lives that we want to share. Cooking and eating involves all of our senses — the sizzle of the grill, the smell of the wine hitting the pan, the smooth skin of a fresh mushroom, the crisp crunch of an asparagus on the tongue — and watching Drew cook is incredibly endearing and fun. He is a very messy cook with lots of spices flying and sauces splashing around the kitchen, but I never mind the clean-up.
Sitting down together every night opens up lots of opportunities to talk and share things that happened during the day, to talk about things that might be uncomfortable under other circumstances, or just have a spirited discussion about politics or religion. Sometimes I think some of our dinner guests might think that we are crazy — but we really do debate and argue serious issues over dinner. It helps our digestion.
Realizing that getting so much pleasure out of eating might cause problems down the road, we’ve made some changes in our habits; we walk more, instituted salad days, banned canned or boxed meats a long time ago, and, weather permitting, we walk a few miles to Rapid Ray’s when the craving hits.
I don’t know if we’ll ever lose our “newlywed 20.” But I hope that we will never lose our need to spend our evenings together over a plate of good — and somewhat healthy — food.
And of course, dessert.