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.

32 thoughts on “How To Not Fight About Food”

    1. I agree, after 7 yrs., it’s past “dating”, even if they aren’t living together. Once you start living together, it’s past dating, no matter what the time frame is. That’s my opinion anyway. Congrats on your 7 year anniversary! (I think starting the clock on a relationship only once people are married doesn’t work in this day and age anymore…start it when you commit to each other!) Or congrats on making it 7 years in your relationship, being together for 7 years or getting close to the DECADE milestone! Whatever message you choose, props to ya.

  1. You guys don’t have to worry about it so you didn’t include the “when one of you is on a diet” rules – but that complicates things no end!

  2. I’m really terrible about being bossy and fussy about how my boyfriend cooks. He’s a newer cook who likes just “tossing stuff together and seeing how it works” while I like knowing what thing taste like and why I would combine them. I drive him crazy with my ‘judgement’ of his technique and his lack of interest in learning the ‘right way’ bugs me.

  3. #4 is so true.
    #5 – you can also go all the way and split both dishes! Might be annoying for anyone else at your table but I love being able to try twice as much food :)

  4. Unless your parter is unhealthy or overweight. I’ve never experienced this myself, but when it comes to health, I’d think the dynamics might change a bit.

  5. You are correct on all points but

    My husband applauds #4 – too enthusiastically if you ask me…..

    Congratulations on a seven year loving relationship!

  6. Congrats!

    The second and third rules certainly hit home for me. We have Tessy-approved food and not-tessy-approved food. I think sometimes he texts me details of what he’s having for lunch with colleagues just because he knows it’s not tessy-approved. We don’t eat out much; not much in the way of tessy approved food at restaurants. Sigh.

  7. This is so interesting. I’ve been married for 22 years and I can relate to all of your points. One fun thing that my husband and I have started doing in recent years when we go out to dinner is we just pick a whole bunch of things that we like on the menu and split everything. Sometimes it’s all appetizers. Sometimes it’s one main and a bunch of sides. Whatever it is, we like it way better than when we each get a big plate of one thing. And the sharing is really nice! Nobody feels like they’re missing out or getting stuck with something they don’t like.

  8. Yes, yes, yes and yes! And yes to #5 as well. My husband and I drive each other crazy on a regular basis with basically every single situation presented here. I’ve also learned this: We do not share appetizers. And we need to stop pretending that we do.

  9. I mostly agree but I do love sharing! I just want to try all the things :) and if I have something really good it makes me want to share it with him too.
    Congratulations on 7 years!

  10. I am so sending this to my boyfriend. We cook together all the time, so I could add a slew of related tips on “how not to fight about cooking.” Rule #1. Do not criticize the way I cut the cantaloupe.

  11. Sofia Hultmania

    Congratulations! First time commentor, long time reader. I adore this blog and recently was lucky enough to happily eat my way around NYC thanks to many of your great tips.
    Re the post, number 5 made me laugh when I thought about Owen Wilson’s scene in Darjeeling Limited when he orders for everyone.
    Here’s to 7 more years!

  12. Congrats on 7 years! I kind of feel like I’m throwing myself under the bus, but I told my husband to read the post today, because he’ll relate. As always, I’m really enjoying your blog!

  13. My biggest issue with my husband is that I am an adventurous eater while he is not. This makes it very challenging with regards to where to go, of course, but even what we order at some of our standards. Craig’s approach is that, if he likes something, he doesn’t deviate, because it is so good and he knows what he is getting. I personally check out the specials and, more often than not, end up there. This in itself is hardly a big deal, but he is VERY DEFENSIVE about getting teased about this habit of his, and it sort of makes me crazy that he won’t TRY anything else, which may make me guilty of both #3 and #5 in your list. In fact, at one of our regular restaurants, the owner won’t even give him the menu anymore since he only orders pulled pork. Craig got so mad, but David (the owner) was totally right-he only orders the pulled pork. It’s good pulled pork, don’t get me wrong, but life is short, and the pulled pork will be there the next time we go. We have had knock down drag out fights about the fact that he orders the same thing ALL OF THE TIME.

  14. this is indeed helpful. The dilemma that usually occurs in our house, is based upon anxiety avoidance. My wife is a recovered anorexic, who still struggles with anxiety disorder. I do all of the cooking, which is fine because I LOVE food. It is a struggle, however, to find food that is healthy, delicious, and safe to appease the voices in my bride’s head. I manage it well more times than not, but it’s a challenge every day.

  15. Congratulations on your first seven years together. I remember those tentative first days of togetherness. I really hope you two will be legal to marry in your new-ish home state very soon, and that you take advantage of that right soon there after, but then I’ve been hoping for an engagement announcement for about six years now. ;-)

  16. Great post and happy belated anniversary to you both! I absolutely loved the food nazi segment. I’m totally sharing this. Thanks! :-)

  17. congrats to you and Craig. Love the list. I agree with #5, although my husband and I often share happily. But sometimes I’d rather just order my own thing. could I call him a “sharing nazi?”

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