On our first date, we split a three-tiered seafood tower and a wild mushroom flatbread. The tower was so tall I had to sit on my knees to reach the jumbo shrimp. My blind date didn’t even bat an eye as he took a bite of the pizza’s chewy, cheesy crust.
It was the start of a New York City courtship that read like a Zagat guidebook. We tried every cuisine and hit every neighborhood, from the doughy, fried dumplings of Chinatown’s dim sum to twirls of creamy sea urchin pasta at a West Village hideaway. We fell in love while indulging in each other—and food.
Two years later in 2006, Brandon proposed in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We celebrated with lobsters and whoopie pies; I cracked open the claws and let the salty juice run down my fingers, gathering in the crevices of my sparkling new diamond ring. Never once did my fiancé refuse a fresh baked roll, scoff at a fried clam belly, or turn down a cold, frothing wheat-based beer. The world was our oyster, and together, my soon-to-be partner-for-life and I savored every delectable bite.
Back then, I was blissfully unaware that eleven years, two kids, and countless meals later, I’d find myself across the table from someone I barely recognized.
Don’t get me wrong: Brandon is now more handsome than ever. But the man who was once my culinary equal has become a culinary buzzkill. According to a 2018 study conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation, more than a third of Americans followed a specific diet trend within the past year, with 10 percent citing intermittent fasting as their diet of choice. And apparently, my husband is one of them.
Whether it’s Whole 30 or the Keto Diet, it’s hard to open a magazine, watch the news, or even just talk to a group of friends without the latest and greatest diet fads sneaking their skinny little necks into the conversation.
Personally, when it comes to food, I’m more of a moderation-not-elimination type of girl. While I like to hit the gym about 4 days a week (mostly to watch crappy reality TV while I’m zoning out on the elliptical), when it comes to restricting my diet, I brush off any pressure the same way I do the crumbs that fall from my favorite everything bagels.
I guess I always expected my husband to do the same.
It’s not that I’m against healthy eating—banana cupcakes have to be better for you than chocolate ones, right? But I do take diet trends with a grain of salt. In the 1950s, the Cabbage Soup Diet promised the loss of 10 to 15 pounds in a week. In 1976, the Sexy Pineapple diet suggested eating pineapples all day, and in 1981, The Beverly Hills Diet stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 30 weeks, suggesting followers eat only fruit for 10 days. Watching my husband give in to these trends, I can’t help but wonder if one day our children—who currently survive on macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers—will look back at our current fads of carb-free this and protein-rich that in similar disbelief.
Of course, I know that throughout a long term relationship, people change. But I never could have anticipated my husband’s inconvenient affinity towards diet trends. Always somewhat of a gym rat, I suppose it was only a matter of time before Brandon began to take notice of his bodily changes. But during those decadent early years, I had no clue that the man who walked around Paris eating an entire baguette would one day ask for a gluten-free bun with his turkey burger; that he’d believe fasting until 2 p.m. reduced blood pressure; that eliminating added sugar reduced inflammation, or omitting dairy helped fight dry, peeling skin.
Maybe I should have paid closer attention during
that post-honeymoon glow, when we’d snuggle on the couch ordering
delivery: I’d go for the Pad Thai, rich with umami and grease…and he’d
choose the stinky steamed fish. If I’d known better, I might have
recognized the foreshadowing of a flavorless future. Instead, I shrugged
it off. I never considered that while our years together would go
quickly, I wouldn’t be able to say the same about our slowing
While I’ll admit that eating with my other half is not as much fun as it used to be (I’m always left alone with the T-bone, and no one to share the creamed spinach with), I do try to look on the bright side. Did I mention that Brandon is now more handsome than ever? As you can imagine, all that healthy eating and working out means that he’s fit—strong, lean, and athletic—and at 43, he still has all his hair and nice skin, which is very possibly because he stopped eating nitrates.
My husband is also amazingly well-read on all the newest food research, which means that occasionally I find unusual products in my cupboards. While I was putting away groceries one afternoon a couple of years ago, I opened a drawer and discovered it was overflowing with bloated plastic bags labeled “Soylent.” Brandon informed me that Soylent is a liquid product engineered to be a complete meal. According to him, it contains so many nutrients that it could save our entire family from an apocalypse. Another positive to his affinity for diets: We’re safe from zombies.
But lately, I’ve been rebelling. A few weeks ago, I
made spaghetti pie for dinner. The recipe had popped up on one of my
daily drool-worthy e-mails from Bon Appétit, and it looked damn
good. So I said: “Self? You’re the keeper of the kitchen, the cooker of
the food, the buyer of the groceries. Who cares if the kids hate
eggplant and your husband refuses to eat pasta? Sometimes, you should
take a break and make what you want.”
So I did: The spaghetti pie was packed with carbohydrates, gluten, and dairy (none of which, for the record, my husband is actually allergic to). It was also homemade, loaded with roasted in-season eggplant, vitamin C-rich organic tomatoes, and creamy, high-quality cheese. The final result looked exactly like the image in the recipe, bubbling with saucy, cheesy goodness.
I was so proud that I texted my husband at work with a side-by-side of my dish and the professional photo. When he got home, he took one look at the stove, declared it a gut bomb, and opened a can of tuna instead. I shrugged and ate all the crisp edges by myself, grateful for the lack of competition.
After a decade of push-and-pull over our family’s meals, I realize now that the main ingredient in a healthy marriage is compromise. And we’re not alone. I know of a couple that sleeps in separate bedrooms because her spouse’s snoring has become unbearable. Meanwhile, I fall asleep snuggling my husband like a giant (and firm!) teddy bear. Another couple I know bickers constantly because he likes the windows open on hot summer days, and she prefers the cool whirr of the air conditioner. My husband might never share a family style chicken parmesan with me, but we find other ways to bond, like date nights checking out live music in New York or taking drives to explore the Hudson River Valley.
Over the years, Brandon has taught me to be conscientious of the food I put in my body. But I remain steadfast that for me, healthy eating means not going off the deep end into any one trend. That doesn’t mean I love my husband any less; it just means that sometimes, we have to work to find balance when it comes to our meals. Sure, it was fun to be young and in love and sharing greasy deep fried Oreos at my hometown fair. But now that I’m older, I realize it’s not the food that matters—it’s that we still hold hands on this crazy ride, and I feel lucky to be sharing life’s ups and downs with my best friend.
So I say: Let him eat Soylent. But if the zombie apocalypse is near, I’m indulging in cake.