He loves to cook, the way some people love to pray, or dance, or sing.
I didn't know that about him when we first met on Feb. 13, 2012. It was a blind date, and we hadn't talked about our common love for food and cooking exotic dishes. But then we'd had only one conversation before meeting at a restaurant. I don't remember much of the dinner conversation, except that he expressed a desire to begin the meal with smoked salmon, served with a lemon herb dressing, and a glass of Sokol Blosser, a Pinot Noir.
It was my first visit to this restaurant, and by the end of the evening he had quietly seduced me with his selection of food: the swordfish in ginger butter and the roasted fig panna cotta. As we were leaving, we were handed a piece of chocolate. The night air was cold and the wind chilling, but what I remember the most is that when we bit into the chocolate, it snapped off, leaving crumbs like pebbles in our mouths. We stood close to one another, as if receiving a communion of sorts. It was then I asked him out for Valentine's Day and suggested we try a new bistro near his boat on Harbor Island, in San Diego.
Through food, we began to weave a delicate web of empathy for each other. We dined at intimate restaurants — French, Italian, Asian, Japanese. We studied the menus like conscientious cooking students, our heads bowed down, as if in prayer. We sipped wine while toasting each other and people in our lives who had recently died. And we spoke the language of foodies: "We could pair the Kistler with the tuna tartare and the sea bass, or perhaps try the Calera Ryan with the foie gras and spicy roasted duck?"
We began preparing dinners for each other, then cooking together, but only after we had proved our culinary chops. We created masterpieces out of leftovers, replicated dishes from far-away places and experimented with molecular gastronomy.
For Halloween, we carved a large pumpkin, roasted the seeds and sprinkled them with habanero salt we bought at the Hillcrest farmers market. He cooked pumpkin pie soup flavored with fresh blood-orange citrus oil and Ethiopian curry salt, garnished with creamy goat cheese, bits of bacon and topped off with a drizzle of maple syrup. We invited neighbors over for the brew served in baby pumpkin shells.
Our relationship was on "slow-cook," heating up to a boil.
In December, we celebrated Hanukkahby cooking a nontraditional brisket dinner that included black truffle noodle kugel and potato crepes filled with roasted garlic and yogurt. We exchanged gifts on each of the eight nights. His "cooking"-related presents included a Shun Blue Honesuki knife and a first-edition (1925) British cookbook, "The Gentle Art of Cookery," with recipes arranged by their principal ingredients, such as stewed pigeons and mushrooms. My gifts included silk lingerie, a satin robe and a black lace mask with rhinestones worn on special dining occasions.
Emotionally we began to sizzle.
For our first anniversary, Valentine's Day, we dined at our favorite restaurant in San Diego, Sushi Mura. We toasted one another with Kikusui Junmai sake before tasting the monkfish liver and homemade ponzu, octopus and sea urchin. My favorite, the "Lumberjack," with spicy tuna and snow crab and topped with an avocado eel sauce on a deep-fried rice cube, disappeared as fast as it was served. You have to be quick with the chopsticks if you want an extra portion, a habit I have tried to refine over the last few months.
Learning the correct use of chopsticks can be sexy, depending on who is teaching you. I love when he corrects my clumsy attempts by placing his hands over mine, caressing my middle finger and thumb and then lightly touching my index finger.
On Memorial Day, we brought a third party into our romance: Gracie, a 9-week-old Bedlington terrier. She shares our love for food. Though she eats only kibble, it's the way she approaches mealtime that amazes us. Gracie eats when we eat, but a bit faster. She moves her nose around the bowl, sniffing along the perimeter before taking the first bite, tilting the bowl slightly to allow the food to swirl like expensive wine.
We live together now, following the perfect recipe of abandon and restraint. At home, we dance around our small kitchen in a culinary pas de deux. We're artists in a studio creating and tasting chefs-d'oeuvre. Our bodies stay in sync, lightly touching when our paths meet. Around the kitchen isle we chop, slice and sauté our delicacies, prepare tantalizing appetizers, aromatic entrees and feather-like pastries. Our love for food and each other is intertwined. We cannot think of one without the other.