I know I’m not alone when I say it: I love cooking and my partner doesn’t. This imbalance used to make meal planning feel like a burden — and that burden fell upon me. It felt that despite working a full-time job, I had to maintain a consistent cycle of Instagram-approved meals, perfectly portioned out into container after pastel-hued meal prep container. And doing it alone drained the joy out of cooking.
Enter: the cookbook that would change it all.
Healthier Together is a departure from the strict confines of what is often considered eating well today. The ingredient lists are manageable, the techniques accessible, and the premise inspiring. With food being the ultimate connector, what better way to nourish ourselves and those we love than to cook healthy, delicious meals together?
The author, Liz Moody, has an approach to healthy cooking that’s refreshing in its simplicity and lack of presence. On top of that, she has a great podcast, is hilarious, opens up about her anxiety, and has a colorful, plant-filled Brooklyn apartment whose couch I want to cuddle up on and call home (but, like, in the least creepy way possible).
Basically, there are many reasons to love her, and the fact that she was going to help me potentially strengthen my relationship made me love her even more. With the book as a jumping-off point, here are six ways that I got my partner on board with meal prep and in the kitchen with me.
Cooking Isn’t a Necessity — It’s a Point of Connection
OK, yes, we all have to eat, but for my partner, Andrew, and I to enjoy cooking together, we had to make a mindset shift. Instead of seeing cooking as an obligation or a chore, it’s become a source of inspiration, calling us to level up our creative kitchen spirit.
Liz writes about how your environment impacts how well you digest food. When you’re rushed, standing up, or chowing down on the go, your body enters a stressed state, making it harder for your body to break down food.
To combat this, Andrew and I start by setting the scene: bossa nova and our favorite Daft Punk albums establish the mood, and tea lights are scattered across countertops. Laptops and phones are put away to show that this isn’t a microwaveable meal eaten between the stolen moments away from work. Dinner is a time for us to come together, learn about each other’s day, and connect in a way that rushing through the motions wouldn’t let us do.
I’ve also learned that by pairing cooking with things Andrew already loves to do (he has the best taste in music and an eye for how a room should be lit), mealtime becomes our own private dinner party, and we’ve come to associate it with fun, pleasure, and yes, relaxation.
Sure, some Tuesday nights look like me heating up leftovers while Andrew is out with friends, or the other way around. But by setting the intention to make cooking an event when we can, we’ve started looking forward to making food that feeds and fuels our relationship.
Divide and Conquer (but do it Together)
In Healthier Together, Liz emphasizes the importance of getting in the kitchen with your partner. But if I learned anything from years of watching my parents take on Thanksgiving dinner together, it’s that giving each person their own, specific tasks is the key to success.
Liz’s suggestions for splitting up the recipes’ steps have taught Andrew and I to cook adjacent to one another without fighting over the same knife or arguing over the proper way to chop an onion. When we have our space and individual tasks to focus on, being together in the kitchen becomes more productive and all the more fun.
Plan Out Your Week and How Food Fits In
Every Sunday, Andrew pulls out his planner as I pull up my Google Calendar. Sometime in the afternoon or evening, we set aside 30 minutes to discuss our schedules for the week ahead. We pencil in the nights one of us has a meeting or is going to yoga after work. This helps us get on the same page, building a meal plan for the week that reflects our schedules and acknowledges the nights that something simple will have to do.
By making a calendar together and building the meal prep and plans around it, we show each other a level of respect that sending a last-minute text to swing by the store for 25 ingredients does not.
Make Grocery Shopping an Event
So I may have lived in Paris for a year, and going to outdoor markets on a bi-weekly basis may have set my expectations high for what constitutes an everyday grocery shopping experience. But while the Marché Avenue du Président Wilson has become trips to my local Trader Joe’s, I’ve learned that I can still apply the same practices I learned in France to make food shopping an eye-opening event.
In the summer, I’ll smell peaches for ripeness, and in the fall, I pick through Red Anjou pears for the perfect maroon hue. I’m that person who chats with the Whole Foods cheesemonger and asks what wine will pair best with what I’m making for dinner. By bringing Andrew along for the adventure, I’m able to share with him an important period in my life and inspire him to get curious about what’s going into our shopping cart.
And when a trip to the store is followed up with coffee and pastries, the reward becomes more than just a well-stocked pantry.
PSA: You’re More Creative than You Think
Full disclosure: MacGyvering a meal out of nothing is one of my favorite pastimes (and an expression I use exclusively for this purpose). Oh, what’s that? I have a can of chickpeas, nutritional yeast, and a base of spices that most people keep on hand? Let’s make a side of Vegan Cheetos Chickpeas. Roasted vegetables from last night? I’m feeling soup.
But I wasn’t always this way. I’ve learned through great resources like Supercook, which creates recipes based upon whatever ingredients you have, how to get curious and creative with what’s available.
Next time you come home from work and think you have nothing in the kitchen, step back and let yourself see all the possibilities in a half-used jar of marinara. Take my word for it: pulling your partner in to brainstorm empty-fridge dishes is the relationship hobby you didn’t know you needed.
Pick Something You Love. Build a Template. Make it Every Week.
Unpopular opinion (but is it actually?): we’re vegetable fanatics. Roasted, spiralized, or pureed into a soup, a whole slew of veggies often sits center-stage on our plates, but it took experimenting with curry for us to realize that we could do more with sweet potatoes than serve them warm with a pat of butter on top. Because curry is so customizable, it’s a one-pot dish that’s easy to make your own. When you start with a base recipe (garlic, ginger, oil, curry paste, veggies, protein, and coconut milk), you can mix and match as you please and swap in and out whatever you have on hand.
We’ve tried red curry paste with frozen peas, potatoes, and chickpeas and have even broken out the ol’ mortar and pestle for a DIY version. And for those nights when we can’t be bothered to make something involving more than three steps, Trader Joe’s Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce is always a win.
By keeping something with so many variations in our cooking arsenal, we give ourselves the gift of flexibility that adhering to a strict recipe can’t offer. And when you master a dish together, it’s just as easy to hand the job of making it over to your partner as it is to take it on yourself.
Ultimately, when cooking with whomever you love, what’s most important is to remember the goal of your meal: filling an empty stomach and satisfying a need for connection. No more sad desk lunches is just the icing on the (“Oh that? We made it together.”) cake.
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