How to Cook Better for Your Loved Ones

Rachel Yerks

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I don’t need to be reminded of how much my boyfriend loves me, but I notice and appreciate the seemingly small things. My boyfriend shows me his love through cooking. I felt his love while I was reheating my leftovers from dinner last night, and noticed the carrots in my stir fry.

Here are a few ways to make sure the person you are cooking for knows how much you care about them. If you are the person being cooked for, these also serve as reminders about how much effort it takes to cook for someone else. Say thank you.

Your favorite items are included in the meal, and other items are excluded

I love having carrots in a stir fry. They are my favorite vegetable to eat with any meal. My boyfriend couldn’t care less about carrots but is okay with the taste. In contrast, I hate the texture of cooked peppers.

Every stir fry now has two carrots, chopped up into tiny pieces. Portions set aside for me never have any peppers in them. All the peppers end up in his dish. Sometimes he makes stir fry with no peppers, and other times he picks every single pepper out of my bowl before giving it to me to enjoy. It’s a small thing, but I love that he remembers all these tiny details about me, down to the peppers in my food portions.

Additionally, the stir fry is not as ridiculously spicy as it used to be. I’ve grown to like spicier foods, but I’m no match for the guy who tries various ghost pepper sauces from food vendors at the local fair. He tones down his seasoning quite a bit to accommodate me. I think my getting sick after chugging milk to compensate for his cooking heat level may have influenced this change, but I’ll never truly know.

Meal ratings are taken into consideration

As someone whose identity is closely linked to cooking, my partner tries out new meal components constantly. His parents send him new seasoning packets via post to try, that’s how strongly cooking is linked to his identity. Sometimes we try new dishes, other days he’ll whip up three different sauces for one dish. I don’t like to hurt his feelings when he has put so much time into his cooking, but he can usually tell when I dislike something.

To combat agreeable lying, he will ask me for my rating. From 1–10, I say how I think the dish came out, and why it wasn’t a perfect 10. Anything below an 8 is not amazing, and below a 6 is not to be repeated. He takes the criticism and reworks the meal. He’s made Nashville Hot Chicken three times for me now, and it’s a solid 9.25, after starting at a 6 [way too spicy and crunchy]. He’s making it again tonight after not doing so for quite some time, so we’ll see if the insane spice level comes back.

I don’t cook often, but when I do I ask for his rating. I don’t take criticism as well as he does. I bake a lot, and anything below an 8 I usually don’t bake again, like cheesecake. Sometimes the recipe is as good as it gets, and the other person just doesn’t like it.

In that case, don’t make it for the other person. If you can’t take the criticism and the person you cook for doesn’t want to eat it as is, move on to other dishes. I don’t advise changing the recipe of meals you truly enjoy solely for someone else. Instead, find new recipes that can be cooked to both of your likings, without sacrificing quality for one person.

Portion sizes reflect multiple servings and create leftovers

As a nearly six-foot woman with an insane metabolism, I rarely meet anyone who can eat as much as I can [not even my dad]. My boyfriend used to cook small portions, but they were never enough to fill me up and I’d be eating a lot of junk food after meals to fill the void, which definitely wasn’t a good idea.

Nowadays, he makes double or triple portions so I can be full. He stops eating when I go back for seconds, and thirds. There’s usually enough for both of us for lunch the next day, too. As someone who works from home, it is so nice to be able to pop something quickly in the microwave and still have a five-star meal.

Disliking leftovers is a modern trend, but not a smart or convenient one. Embrace having leftovers; they cut down on your time-suck of making food, and they can easily be enhanced with some extra spices or small cooked side dishes. Leftovers are especially convenient if you are one of the thousands of Americans now working from home or starting a new journey in freelancing.

Remember who made you love food

The original source of showing love through cooking is definitely my mother. Besides tirelessly cooking for my dad & me every day for over twenty years, I distinctly remember her baking me miniature pumpkin muffins for breakfast. I didn’t want to eat before school in the morning, and she made sure I would [willingly] have a filling breakfast by making those amazing pumpkin muffins.

My boyfriend is now the primary cook for me, and I appreciate him immensely. He cooks for us the majority of the time, even when he’s tired, and he makes me better appreciate what my mother did for me. By eating meals prepared by both of them, I am reminded of how much I am loved.

Cooking is a huge act of service that often goes unappreciated and is taken for granted, but shouldn’t be. Make sure to say thank you for every meal, and say how good it is. Your relatives and housemates probably don’t want to cook for themselves after a long day at work, much less cook for multiple people. Realize that their efforts are saving you time and energy, and thank them accordingly.

Maybe thank your cook with a home-cooked meal you made every once and a while. They’ll appreciate it even more than you do.

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Owings Mills, MD
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