Staff Writer Kelly Fitzpatrick takes a personal look into the world of health and fitness within relationships. This week she talks to bloggers Alice and Martin about cooking as a couple.
What happens when a girl who loves to cook meets a guy who loves to eat? They start a blog, obviously (adorably titled NomNomCat). That’s the story of Alice and Martin, who, along with their cat Percee, live, cook, eat, and blog together. And that guy who always saw cooking as “a means to an end”? Yeah, he’s pretty into cooking now, too. This couple proves differences in taste and cooking style don’t have to stop you from getting busy together in the kitchen.
Alice, I know you have a little bit more experience, so tell me about how you got involved in cooking.
A: When I was a kid, my mom and I used to watch the Food Network. My dad would always walk by and make fun of us and tell us that we never made anything that we were watching. So once I got to college, I ended up becoming vegetarian and trying that out for a few years, and that ended up forcing me to cook more at home because it was harder to find dishes when I went out with my friends. One thing led to another and I started Googling recipes, trying to figure things out as I went. I liked how much healthier it was to cook your own food, and know exactly what’s in it and control how much oil and fat a lot better. For me, [cooking started from] having an interest and wanting to try new things and make food myself.
Martin, same question to you.
M: Before I moved to college, my mom mostly cooked for me. And they’re a very traditional Asian family and most of what I ate involved soy sauce, very heavily salted sauces, and basics like chicken and eggs. So when I went to college [cooking] was more a means to an end for me. As long as I had a meal for dinner I was OK, and usually it involved the same style my parents cooked for me. My motivation back then was, I had a roommate and he washed dishes and I did all the cooking. It was really all just chicken and soy sauce, or we ordered take out a lot— I mean, it was college. It wasn’t until I moved in with Alice, and we explored cooking a lot more. She brought all these ideas out and I was like, ‘hey there’s more out in the world than just chicken, and beef and soy sauce.’
I know, Alice, you mentioned being vegetarian, which is funny because I’ve bounced around with different levels of vegetarianism, but I don’t eat red meat and my boyfriend does, and it drives him kind of crazy. Do either of you have any dietary limitations and how does that play into what you cook?
A: Neither of us really have any allergies or dietary restrictions. The only thing I can think of is once we went to an olive oil tasting and got to try a walnut oil. I’m mildly allergic to walnuts, so that was all Martin. He was about to buy a bottle of it, but it would have been all him. He decided not to. Other than that, we pretty much agree on a lot of the foods that we eat, so it hasn’t really been an issue.
What about health in general? Would you guys consider yourselves health nuts at all, or where in the spectrum do you think you fall? And how does that play into what you decide to make?
A: I think we both consider health to be an important aspect of what we cook. We’ve been trying to go to farmers’ markets for example, and get fresh ingredients in what we cook. In that sense, I think health is important to us. We’ve also been experimenting with other ingredients that we haven’t cooked with before. For example, quinoa, which is a great substitute for a carb while having a lot of protein and fiber. We’ve been trying to use other ingredients that may have other health benefits. But Martin here has a big sweet tooth, and he really likes cooking with butter, so I’m sure he’ll elaborate on that.
M: Also, I feel we don’t eat too much, we don’t have heavy portions when we cook. We tend to have smaller portions with higher quality ingredients, which mostly ends up being about the same price as if you were to buy a lot of something that isn’t as healthy. But just like Alice said, I do have a sweet tooth. I always have a candy bar or when I cook, I tend to make things a little on the sweeter side rather than savory or salty. And I go pretty crazy with butter.
A: He’s a butter guy, I’m a nonstick pan kinda girl. But yeah, we try to eat healthier. We don’t buy as much frozen food as we used to in college— at least not the pre-made stuff. We try to put cook more fresh, local, quality ingredients.
I know Martin mentioned ‘When I cook I make…’ When you cook, how do you choose what you’re going to make and do you make everything together, do you take turns, or how does that work?
M: What usually happened is one of us throws out an idea that we have, and for the most part we’ll say ‘OK, sure.’ Then we’ll kind of look at it together and make adjustments to recipes that we find online.
A: We generally cook together, but usually we try to divide up the labor by having one of us do a carb and the other do protein or something like that. Especially with the butter, that’s usually Martin doing steak in a grill pan with a lot of butter in it, so if I’m doing something to go with it, I’ll probably go a little lighter on the olive oil. So it kind of balances out. If we make the steak, I’ll do the rub and he’ll do the grilling. Then he’ll watch the water boil and then we’ll throw in the pasta together.
Do you have any specific examples of things you struggle to do together? Maybe, I know I really like Brussels sprouts and my boyfriend hates them. Is there anything like that or points of contention that you kind of have trouble with?
M: For me, I guess it’s bean sprouts. I hate bean sprouts and I hate greens in general— most greens. I don’t mind spinach or just lettuce on a sandwich but most greens I’m not a big fan of. Which is kind of bad. But I didn’t grow up with greens. We ate steak and shrimp.
A: He’s a big meat and potatoes guy. No salad on the side of that. The thing that came to mind for me when you mentioned that is definitely a Southeast Asian delicacy called durian. Martin loves it, I despise it. It’s a very pungently scented fruit. It has this custardy texture. Some people detect a more coconut-y sweet flavor and other people get this really strong rotten fruit sort of smell. That’s the smell I get when I smell durian. So one day I was coming home from work and I hadn’t even opened the door yet and I knew he had busted open a durian and was eating it. And I open the door and the cat looked like he was about to run out, he looked so sad. And Martin just had the happiest look on his face, ‘cause he just enjoyed his favorite fruit.
M: It’s either a hate it or love it kind of fruit.
Well, from that point, do you guys have any advice? Seeing as you blog together, cook together, you’ve gotta have some kind of solutions for the different things you don’t agree on.
A: A lot of times, it’s just compromise. With the greens, for example, I know Martin doesn’t like them, but I’ll throw them in to a stir fry anyway. If particular parts he doesn’t like— with broccoli he’ll eat the top, but not the stem part– that doesn’t really make or break the dinner. We can still eat the same meal and cook together. So I think compromise is one of our biggest things.
M: I guess in that sense, in college I did not eat greens in my meals at all, which is bad. But since then I’ve started eating greens more and that’s a direct influence from Alice, and it’s a good thing.
A: I guess together we eat more healthy. We both have such different backgrounds, so it’s nice to bring different things to the table. It’s just one meal, so if you don’t love it, it’s not a big deal— we try to look at it from that standpoint. It’s worth it to try something new.
Who’s in charge of the cooking at your casa? Anyone have a favorite food your significant other hates?