Putting dinner on the table can be one of the most fundamental tasks of couple-dom. The folks at Blue Apron spend their time helping couples cook better dinners by delivering recipes and ingredients to their homes.
In the process, they’ve seen and heard plenty about what really goes on in the kitchen. Here’s an inside, anthropological look at how couples (some foodie, some not) cook and eat together today.
Yoon and Justin from The Very Berrie Life, New York
Food lovers Justin and Yoon both like to clean the kitchen as they cook, a habit that should keep them in good standing with each other. But having two go-getters primed to cook and clean can lead to its own set of problems. “We are both ‘take charge’ kind of people,” said Yoon. “So we have to take turns letting each other hold the reins.”
That policy works most of the time — it helps that nearly all their “moments” as a couple have involved food. They had their first date at One if by Land, Two if by Sea, their clam-bake wedding on Martha’s Vineyard, and their go-to date nights at home in the kitchen, learning how to maneuver around each other as they make beet endive salad, Korean food, or pizza.
“Our life revolves around food!” said Yoon.
Ashley and Joe, Brooklyn
Though they aim to make 95% of meals together, Ashley and Joe don’t find that routine squashes the joy of cooking. Splurging on ingredients together “is strangely romantic for us,” Ashley said.
The two met while working together in a restaurant at the Jersey Shore. Ashley trained Joe when he started on the job, and soon they made a habit of both picking up as many shifts as possible—so long as the other was working too.
That hard work comes across in the way they cook together. Part of the romance for Ashley and Joe is the effort that goes into an amazing dinner.
“I asked Joe what the most romantic meal I make him is,” Ashley explained. “And he said Chicken Marsala. I asked why, and he said because I work so hard on it.”
Brian and Eric, Boston
In addition to picnic suppers of cheese, bread, lobster, and wine, sushi is the meal that satisfies this duo. It’s been that way from the start.
“On our first date, I’d been pushing to just go out for drinks,” Brian said. “But Eric called me a few days before and asked if I’d be interested in going out for sushi.”
Brian said yes—he was thrilled, since he loves raw fish. “Then, on our walk to the restaurant, he revealed that if I had said that I didn’t eat sushi, he was going to call off the date.”
Now, Brian, a food photographer and blogger, does most of the meal planning and preparation except for the 1% of meals that Eric throws on the grill. Still, his partner’s considerate about chipping in, texting daily to see if anything needs to be picked up from the store.
The only remaining sticking point is the dishwasher: “I can never seem to load it correctly,” said Brian
Sophia and Ted
For Sophia, the cooking roles changed the longer that she dated her boyfriend Ted, who “was the first one to brave the kitchen and cook a romantic dinner of stirfry vegetables, chicken, and rice.” These days, Ted no longer does the cooking.
But Sophia doesn’t mind. “I enjoy it,” she said. “I think chopping vegetables can be especially soothing, especially celery.”
Ted repays her by keeping the kitchen clean, a task Sophia detests. That creates a balance for the couple and explains how Ted can be at ease while Sophia cooks, creating an insane mess in the kitchen in the process.
“He sits across from me, knowing that the only part of the mess he has to deal with is the predictable part—cleaning.”
Gail and J., New York
Gail, the owner of a thriving pastry business, deals with sugar all day long. In the evening, it’s about efficiency.
“What can I put on the table that won’t stress me out, that’s quick and nutritious and meat free?”
Sometimes the answer is soup, sometimes easy pastas like Spaghetti a la Trapanese, where a sauce made from blended tomatoes, garlic, cheese, olive oil, and toasted almonds coats hot pasta. Sure, they both love simple foods, but Gail can also usually anticipate what J. wants—they’ve been together for 31 years.
She can also anticipate what time J. will be done laying out her clothes, showering, debriefing from the workday, responding to emails, checking out the TV listings, and doing her nails.
“Miraculously, dinner is ready at the moment her nails are dry. Sound crazy? It’s not. It works for us. I love the act of preparing a meal, no matter how simple, while she scurries about. It’s the greatest gift I can give her.”
Maria and Josh, bloggers at Two Peas and Their Pod, Salt Lake City
A couple in which both halves adore being in the kitchen might seem like a couple perpetually sitting down to gourmet meals. But two cooks can be too many, causing occasional spats.
“We sometimes argue about what to make,” said Maria. “Since we both love to cook, we both have endless ideas of recipes. Luckily, there are lots of days to cook dinner, so we usually save the other person’s idea for the next night.”
Luckily, their minds often settle on the same peace-creating dish: pizza.
“Josh makes the best pizza. He loves his BBQ Chicken Deluxe Pizza, but my favorite is our Sweet Potato Kale Pizza.”
And pizza’s division of labor is ideal: “Josh makes the pizza dough while I work on the sauce and toppings.
Jessy and Eric, New York
Opposites might attract, but opposite-sized appetites can cause kitchen conflict.
“Erik consumes an inordinate amount of milk each day,” said Jessy. “More than a few confrontations have arisen when I reach into the fridge for a splash of milk and there is none!”
In some places this might be remedied by filling the fridge top to bottom with gallons of milk, but in New York, where space is at a premium, it means near constant trips to the store.
Yet their most romantic meal revolves around — you guessed it — milk. At breakfast, Jessy “makes” Erik a bowl of cereal and sips her tea while he eats.
“I love sharing the tea with him,” she said.
In the evening, Erik reciprocates with complicated dinners so ambitious they wind up being enjoyed three hours late.
Cara and Alex, Brooklyn
For a long-time cook, blogger, and the content manager of Blue Apron, the habits of other couples are fascinating precisely because they reveal how normal my shared kitchen habits appear to be.
I’m happy to be the cook in the relationship and never mind doing a large portion of the cleaning, too. It’s my time to relax. Still, I’m always grateful when Alex picks up the dishcloth to dry and put away the pots and plates, my two least favorite tasks.
What I love most about cooking for us as a pair is figuring out how to feed us healthily, cheaply, and well. I think of it as a giant puzzle, and I devote considerable mental space to matching our likes and dislikes with what’s in season or already in the fridge.
And we never, ever go wrong with a plate of spaghetti with meatballs.