How To Not Fight About Food

Today Craig and I are celebrating our seven year anniversary. Our first date was at Lucien in the East Village and that decision didn’t come easy. See, after e-mailing on Friendster (yes, Friendster) we agreed to meet in the lobby of NYU where we were both students. Once there, we started walking to the East Village and I said, “There’s this great place called Momofuku” and he said, “Oh I’ve been to Momofuku, but there’s ___” (I forget what ___ was) and I said, “Oh, I’ve been to ___.” After a brief pause we agreed to go to a place neither of us had been before and that place was Lucien. The dinner was very nice (though I made the mistake of ordering cassoulet; beans aren’t a great choice on a first date) and the relationship, as you’ve all witnessed, has stood the test of time. But that little discussion on our first date walk foreshadowed an infinite number of similar conversations, some of which turned into fights. Fighting about food, in fact, is probably something every couple can relate to. So what’s the best way to avoid a food-related spat? Here are my tips.

1. If you’re the food person in the relationship, choose a place in your head before you verbalize. This is the #1 lesson I’ve learned after 7 years of dating Craig. My old instinct was to say, “Let’s go out for pizza,” and when Craig would say, “Sure,” I’d say, “Ya know what, we had pizza two days ago, let’s get sushi.” It’d drive him nuts when I’d change the meal plan after we made it. So now, I’m very careful when I suggest what we should eat for dinner knowing full well that once I say it, it probably won’t change. That actually makes things much easier.

2. Try not to monitor what your partner is eating. Craig would laugh out loud if he read this one because just last night, an hour before we met friends for dinner, he made himself a big plate of cheese and I said, “Are you really going to eat all that cheese before we go out to dinner?” and he just rolled his eyes. That’s pretty common. But, as much as I can, I bite my tongue. Eating is a personal act and, after a certain point, trying to control what your partner imbibes is a kind of violation. Give them their space.

3. Don’t be a food nazi. Yes, you love food and you know a lot about it (presumably; I mean, you’re reading a food blog) but there’s a fine line between being knowledgable and being obnoxious. So if the person you’re dating wants to drink red wine with their fish or eat McDonald’s in the airport, you’re better off not getting on your soapbox. You can live by whatever rules you want to live by, when it comes to food, but it’s unfair to make someone else abide by your rules. Let them make their own rules.

4. Be fair about dishes. It’s fine to say, “I’ll cook if you do dishes” if what you’re making is reasonable. But, as is often the case with me, I make such elaborate food, it really isn’t fair for Craig to have to clean 30 tiny bowls because I wanted to make Bouillabaisse. So be reasonable. If dinner is a project, and not just a dinner, do the dishes yourself.

5. Order for yourself. Too often when couples go out to eat, they order as a committee. “If you get the fish, I’ll get the lamb and you can try mine.” That’s often a mistake because if you’re craving fish, and you agree to get the lamb, and the fish turns out to be the better dish, chances are your partner will want to eat it and you’ll be stuck with something you didn’t want. So think about what you want to eat and just order that. If your partner orders the same thing, so what? You’ll both be getting what you wanted in the first place and chances are you’ll be happier.