MAX’S TABLE: Food is my Valentine

Max Connor, Managing Editor

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” – George Bernard Shaw 

I love food. Who doesn’t? So what better way to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day than to celebrate the love of food. 

I read a quote the other day from Moliere. Full disclosure: I was reading about food, not 18th century French comedies. 

He said, “You should eat to live, not the other way around.” 

Moliere may have been a literary genius, but that is a terrible take, especially for a Frenchman.

Food is life. Food is love, comfort, joy, art and expression. A good meal is an amazing catalyst for great conversation, yet it has the power to temporarily silence even the most boisterous group of people. 

Food is like a guardian angel. It is there for us at our best and our worst. It is integral for getting over heartbreak and it’s the backdrop for any great celebration. It represents and expresses history, culture and love. 

Some of my favorite foods (french toast, cheesecake and fried chicken) have origins dating back 2,000 years. Mac ‘n cheese, the ultimate American children’s staple, was popularized by James Hemings, a slave of Thomas Jefferson, whom Jefferson brought to France to have trained in the art of French cooking. 

Every culture has foods and traditions that help define and identify them. Every time you eat a taco, pasta or sushi, you are experiencing hundreds if not thousands of years of ritual, tradition and care. 

Every family has their own micro-culture of food and the history, traditions and love surrounding it. Everyone has some recipe for a dish passed down from grandma or grandpa, mom or dad, and that recipe gives your family comfort and identity. A small place in this giant world to call your own.

My mom is 100% Swedish and from Minnesota, but you better believe she makes the best f*#%ing spaghetti sauce I’ve ever had. Your mom probably does too.

Food has the immense power to help us recall memories. Just think of the scene in “Ratatouille” when Aton takes his first bite of Remy’s dish.

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When I was eight, I split my chin open diving, yes diving, into our hot tub. 

I was clearly an idiot but what 8-year-old boy isn’t. 

My mom walked me across the street to Dr. Brum’s house, our sweet old neighbor who was a retired family physician. He wiped away the tears, cleaned me up, strapped two butterfly bandages to my chin and sent me home. 

Two hours later, the doorbell rang and Dr. Brum was standing there with a freshly baked banana cream pie. I can still feel the smile on my face thinking about it, and when I tasted it? Well… pure magic. 

That moment, that one loving act, sparked an interest in cooking, pies in particular, which I still  have today.   

More than anything, food expresses love. That’s why there is so much romance tied up in it. 

Food is literally needed for us to survive, so when someone feeds us, it holds a deep unspoken and unrecognized yet unconscious meaning. And when it’s done with love and care it makes us feel loved and cared for in a visceral way that few other expressions can. 

So on Valentine’s Day, maybe skip the expensive pre-fixed dinner and try showing you love someone by cooking for them. It may feel risky and vulnerable but those are key ingredients to love and relationships anyway. 

Living to eat and to express love is rich, fulfilling and remarkable. But eating just to live? Well, that’s like dating someone just so you aren’t alone. It’s wooden and tasteless. 

This piece is dedicated to my valentine, my wife Chelsea whose love and support has everything to do with the man I am today and to whom I look forward to cooking for and eating with whenever possible for the rest of our lives.