For many couples living together, the question of ‘who’s cooking dinner tonight?’ tends to come down to one or the other. Cooking together is an infrequent or ‘if ever’ occurrence.
So much so, it seems, that a study by Barker and Stonehouse found that more than one in ten (15%) never make the effort to cook together, and 22% wish their partner would cook for them more often.
The reasons for this division of cooking labour are many and complex, including working hours and varying cooking abilities, which often better place one person over another to organise an evening meal.
While this is an approach that might seemingly work well day to day, are we missing a trick by simply trading off cooking duties for time out?
It seems so.
Cooking together does, after all, have a significant benefit on relationships, and may even improve a couple’s bond, no matter where each individual is at on the spectrum of cooking enjoyment.
Cooking together is nothing short of ‘grounding’, helping reconnect individuals on the most fundamental level, over the most fundamental of needs. FOOD.
This is a theory supported by Michael Pollan's quote on the Netflix series ‘Cooked’, which was that ‘the art of cooking is in the very foundation that makes us human’. In addition, as any relationship expert will probably tell us, emotional bonding is proactive in nature, and cooking is surely one of the simplest and most accessible examples of proactivity we can fit into our daily lives.
As an opportunity to escape the constant and conflicting streams of electronic information that our digital lives inflict on us, cooking together is invaluable. It creates a platform for communication and interpersonal interaction, two things that the remainder of our daily lives are rarely conducive to.
Chopping, frying, mixing, stirring.... They all provide a means to pause and refocus, and to hone the creativity, curiosity, talking and listening skills that underlie a healthy relationship.
Another important benefit of cooking together relates to the connection between the sensory element of food and memory. Food has a huge potential for positive memory association, and the moments that couples spend cooking in the kitchen together have the potential to create powerful and lasting memories. This theory is supported by experimental research by Herz and Schooler in 2002, which showed that memory involving smell is possibly even more powerful than memories evoked by verbal or visual cues.
We asked one ‘couples cooking’ fan to tell us what she enjoys most about meal prepping with her partner:
‘Cooking with your partner seems like it’s going to be one of those romcom movie moments where you playfully toss flour at each other, flirting and laughing, before it culminates with a passionate embrace in the kitchen. In real life, cooking with your partner can result in tossing passive aggressive comments at each other before it culminates in eating in separate rooms of the house.
My boyfriend and I started cooking together recently after moving into an apartment with a kitchen bigger than a thimble. We took a "couples cooking" class and were surprised at how much we enjoyed it. The two big takeaways from the class were that you need to give each other space and divvy up the jobs. Once we had a system in place, cooking together was much easier and a heck of a lot more fun.
We cook together a few times a week, depending on our schedules. Not only do you get bonus time with the person you love but it usually makes dinner prep way faster so you also have more time for yourself or each other after dinner! You want to take a bath? Guess what… YOU HAVE TIME!
Our favourite recipes to cook together are easy, tasty, and don’t involve too much stress after a long work day. We make California chicken flatbread pizzas (10/10 delicious), grilled chimichurri chicken avocado salad (we learned the hard way to be VERY careful handling the chili peppers!), and spicy steak salad (clearly we love avocados...)
Do we playfully toss flour at each other? No, because we would just end up having to clean it up but it’s still fun and that passionate embrace still happens everyone once in a while… but that’s a story for another type of article. ‘