Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Response: Love in a Dish and Other Culinary Delights by MFK Fisher

The following is a response to the essay “Love in a Dish” within this collection of essays written by MFK Fisher. This essay exposits the secret of a happy marriage as the ability of the couple to dine together. 

My biggest fear regarding my relationship is that we will become, as the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind calls it, 'the dining dead'. MFK Fisher refers to this situation as 'dead-faced people'. This phenomenon is witnessed in bars, coffee shops, and restaurants universally. A couple sits across one another in silence interrupted only by stock phrases used daily in conversation over the meal. “How's your chicken?” “We should build the shelf tonight.” “Do you want more wine?” The dining dead, or dead-faced people are “increasingly unhappy at the table – and, therefore, everywhere.” (60)

Fisher references Brillat-Savarin who believes that the pleasures of the table has an enormous influence on the state of a marriage. The kitchen table gives a couple, who may have drifted apart in leisure or intimacy, common ground. The meal gives the couple a topic of conversation.

Although I fear the dining dead (more, perhaps than I fear the impending zombie apocalypse), it seems unlikely to occur. My husband does not respond to my cooking experiments with, as Fisher outlines, exasperation and dissatisfaction. This reaction would crush the desire for communication and intimacy and expedite our fall into becoming dead-faced people. My husband never complains about my cooking. In fact, he consumes my ruined cooking experiments while I make noodles. My husband does as Fisher states and “try[s] to understand what it is about making a curry or a bouillabaisse that lightens his wife's face and heart.” (64) He accompanies me on trips across Toronto in search of a special ingredient. He notes interesting restaurants that I may want to visit. He knows what my sourdough starter is and would never accidentally throw it out!

A second reason our bi-culinary relationship works is that I follow Fisher's advice that “the woman must try to understand why a husband needs to bolster his preconceptions of virility now and then with a bit of reactionary conservatism.” (64) Of course, my husband eats meat because he likes it and not because it makes him virile!


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