Written and photographed by Caitlin Thornton.
It was 4:00 am and the bar was closing and the lights were flickering when I met my now-boyfriend, Brian. Along with OKCupid, ironically themed apartment parties where the booze always runs out too soon, and living in the same building (the situation that bears the most resemblance to something romantic), bars tend to be the common backdrop for people kick-starting post-collegiate relationships around my ‘hood in Brooklyn. That was Memorial Day.
Three months later, Brian and I were “Facebook official” (I know, I hate myself), a bit more tan, and IN LOVE. The summer Fridays at my office were expiring, and I found myself back in discipline mode, at the gym, on the elliptical, and experiencing something that’s also common for people in brand-new relationships everywhere: I was jiggling in places I hadn’t been back in May. I had gained weight. And I didn’t notice until that impact-initiated rippling of flesh that anything was even different.
Because I am a lady, and take sick pleasure in antagonizing over gaining a few pounds, I started replaying the past few weeks in my mind. What had I done differently? How did I not notice? Then, two images flashed in my head:
That’s Brian and me, stuffing our faces. In the first few months of our relationship, these were our Facebook profile pictures, chosen independently but simultaneously. (He’s gobbling down the meatloaf sandwich at Brooklyn Star; I’m at Maxwell Street in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood where I went for a visit a few days after meeting Brian.)
The pair of photos, to me, illustrated two things: 1) Brian and I love food. 2) During those three months, simply put, we had fallen in love, sure. But, when I seriously thought about it, I realized we had fallen in love over food.
Every date where he made me laugh until I cried, plates mounded with delicious dishes sat in between us. There were tacos stuffed with duck confit and salsa borracha washed down with one-too-many pitchers of sangria at Haab. Buttery rigatoni with mushrooms and goat cheese at Il Passatore’s new sister restaurant, Testo. Glossy eggs over-easy with rye toast and home fries and bacon and cream-filled coffee for less than like, six bucks, at Bushwick’s beloved family-owned diner, Tina’s Place.
Eating out/ordering in is a method of survival in NYC. When I lived in Des Moines, stocking up at Sunday’s farmer’s market and making meals for the week just… happened. Here, grocery shopping is an exhausting workout, beginning with the infamous line-that-wraps-around-Trader-Joe’s warm-up, brown bag bicep curls, running up and down subway stairs, calf extensions from standing on your tippy-toes while trying not to smoosh up against strangers on the train, and the inevitable X blocks to carry it all home. Then, hi, my kitchen is approximately 3-feet by 5-feet, we keep our pots and pans in the oven, and did I mention I live with three other people? Being with Brian, something was different, though—and it wasn’t just the omission of those Trader Joe’s workouts.
“Love weight,” as my friend called it (though I think that sounds like yet another quip to slap in a women’s magazine to remind us we can never “have it all”) happens for a few reasons. Studies have shown that we tend to eat more when dining with others. We eat more when distracted while in conversation. Plus, we tend to mimic behaviors of those we spend time with. I’ve never met anyone who inhales food faster than Brian, other than maybe my sociopathic Jack Russell of a little brother back in Chicago, Chuck.
Vague research aside: Can you think of anything that competes with releasing more feel-good chemicals in your brain than satiating yourself with amazing fare, great conversation and company, and duh, sex? Anything legal, I mean? Brian didn’t notice the same consequences from our summer of love and food on his body. (It’d be easy to say, “UGH, MEN!” But the guy works out at least once a day, which HAHAHA. I consider it a great week if hit the gym more than once.) However, he did notice some unusual spending habits, particularly at places like Haab and Testo.
We decided we should practice this thing called “balance” that I guess you’re supposed to learn as a post-collegiate, and we’re making meals in more. There’s a lot of marinated fish, veggie side dishes, and the occasional heap of Trader Joe’s risotto—which, with the constant stirring, means my biceps are a little bit more toned, too. We’ve made more of an effort to have dates that don’t entirely revolve around food as well, like recently making the trip upstate to Dia Beacon… which, now that I think about it, ended up being Brian and Caitlin’s Diner Tour of 2012. We need to eat though, right?
And did I mention we ran a 5K once? That kind of effort deserves some over-easy eggs as a reward.
Caitlin Thornton is a writer living in Los Angeles. In her so-called free time, the Chicago native rides her bike around in six-inch heels, writes about dating and relationships, and eats and drinks a little too decadently. Thornton specializes in killer goat cheese omelettes and perfectly poured gin-and-juices. Follow her on Twitter: @caitlinthornton.