By Amanda Rohwedder. Adapted from the original Family Foundations article by Melissa Gorley.
The most important ingredient in any recipe is love. When food is prepared with loving hands, it seems to taste better somehow. In my own life, cooking and sharing a meal with others has created friendships, nurtured relationships, and cultivated deep conversations. If we allow it to be, cooking can become a true act of love. Mealtime can also be an opportunity to build cooperation, improve communication, and keep you both healthier. A spouse has a unique responsibility to care for their partner’s needs, from the physical to the emotional to the spiritual. Simple places to uncover those needs, and begin to meet them, are in the kitchen and around your table.
Cultivating a healthy lifestyle is a journey, much like your marriage relationship. And like your relationship, you can always grow and improve within it. There is no true destination that you are trying to reach-it’s more about everyday decisions to choose nutritious foods, make time for exercise, and find space to meditate and connect emotionally. Maybe start by discussing what health goals you each have, some habits you would like to change, and new habits you would like to adopt. The good news here is that your spouse can serve as a built-in accountability partner, workout buddy, cheerleader, and support. Forming and maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes intentionality, but is worthwhile, so that you each bring your best selves to the table (pun intended!).
Any activity that you participate in together can serve to bond you further but cooking naturally lends itself to vulnerability and intimacy. Because it involves all your senses, the brain naturally engages, and it signals you to relax. Ask each other about favorite foods from childhood, family recipes and earliest cooking memories. Food tends to stimulate conversation around fun memories, travel experiences, and other unique facets of a person. Both partners then feel more open to engage in deeper discussions. As you discover more and more about your partner through meaningful conversation, your connection deepens, and you’ll likely communicate more effectively with each other. Plus, you can always start a flour fight if you get frustrated!
There may be one of you who is more health-minded than the other, or you might have come up with an agreement of “I cook, you clean.” While those things could help a home function at a practical level, they don’t function as a way for you to grow as a couple, as a cohesive unit. Cooking together requires cooperation and is a tangible way to show the care you have for each other. Maybe the spouse who enjoys cooking more can teach her partner how to chop an onion needed for the recipe, or the one with more adventurous taste buds can suggest an extra spice to add into the mix. It’s all about creating something together-and then you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor at the end, too.
As your family expands, I recommend involving children in mealtimes in age-appropriate ways. Some ideas for younger children are to place their highchair in the kitchen so they can be in the same space as the activity and observe, or to have them count out and identify colors of ingredients. Ask an older child to set the table and involve them in tasks that require measuring or mixing. The benefits for children are very similar to those for a couple when it comes to cooking: it creates an environment of love and safety, teaches life skills in nutrition and meal preparation, and reinforces teamwork by contribution to the family household.
How much would your relationship transform if there was even a slight shift in how you consume your food every day? If a couple spent time in the kitchen together, preparing a nutritious meal and working as a team? If a family gathered around a table, without distractions, to share their challenges, their accomplishments, their happiness and their gratitude? I challenge you to protect mealtimes for yourself, your family and your friends. And to cook and love with abandon!
Fertility Science Institute offers Lifestyle resources, classes and coaching sessions to help with nutrition, wellness and fertility. In a partnership with Amanda Rohwedder, we have a series of selfpaced healthy cooking classes which can be found on our website here. Check them out!
Amanda is a degreed nutritionist, with a B.S. Nutritional Science and M.S. Medical Science with a concentration in Women’s Health. She founded Temple and Table as a way to nourish our culture by drawing a connection between physical and spiritual health. For more information, visit templeandtable.com.