Of course I love my husband Ron. And I know he loves me. But for thirty eight years, we’ve danced around the kitchen trying to reconcile our different relationships to food. As is always the case, it’s more than just about eating.
I imagine Freud and Jung sitting in our kitchen as dinner develops.
“Aha, you see,” says Freud, making a note. “She longs for his approval, which recreates not the just the relationship of her mother to her father, but her own submerged self-image of inadequacy from a childhood of never pleasing her parents.”
“Not so fast,” says Jung. “Look at the deeper archetypal symbolism behind her culinary efforts. As she chops, she sings at the top of her lungs, albeit a bit out of tune, Khatchaturian’s “The Saber Dance,” mincing the onion precisely in time to its staccato rhythm. For her, preparing the meal is “The Way of the Warrior.”
“Hah” scoffs Freud. “Look how upset she gets as she waits for him! Dinner is on the table and where is he? Dawdling by his computer. Suddenly needing to make a phone call. His mother was such a terrible cook, he and brothers found countless ways to avoid coming down to dinner. Now his passive aggressive behavior punishes her. When she was a child, being late for dinner was cause for punishment. Look, she’s going to threaten him!”
“I’m starting without you!” I yell, stomping over the table and sitting down with a loud scraping of the chair.
“”It runs in the family, you know,” Freud adds smugly. “His brother once delayed so long, his wife dumped his dinner in the garbage. Of course Lavinia is incapable of that, since she can’t throw any food away. She even saves vegetable scraps for stock. Clearly obsessive compulsive.”
“And delicious stock it is,” murmurs Jung. “I think of the wonderful fairy tale of the Stone Soup. Or the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. All of us love the symbolism of someone magically being able to transform something small and inconsequential into a magnificent meal. The alchemists’ dream of turning lead into gold.”
“Observe carefully,” Jung continues. “Even as the delicious aromas waft around him, Ron, like Odysseus, desperately resists the Siren’s call. He knows that once he sits down, he is her slave. He sits, takes a bite. His eyes roll to the back of his head. He stares at her in new adoration. She has him in her thrall.”
“This is the best hamburger I’ve had in my entire life,” Ron says, with absolute sincerity.
“Look at her! “ Freud cries triumphantly! “ One compliment and she is his slave, just like her mother. She can read all the modern psychology books she wants, her ego is still up there front and center.”
A new voice enters the conversation. Daniel Siegel, psychology’s new superstar, author of Mindsight and The Developing Mind, is leaning against the sink. “It’s her brain map,” he explains. “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Jung smiles at the young whippersnapper. “It’s the magic spell. Abracadabra. His words transform the dragon into a beautiful princess.”
Michael Pollan walks in. The room is starting to get crowded. “She’s a culinary strategist. When certain foods enter the system, they generate a chemical reaction. Just wait till she gets to dessert. Chocolate, with its healthy amount of alkaloids, including theobromine, phenethylamine and caffeine, will affect Ron’s serotonin level. So when she seductively suggests to him that he needs to repaint the living room, he’ll acquiesce without even realizing he’s been seduced.”
“Who invited you?” grumbles Freud.
“I told you she was the Siren!” Jung proclaims triumphantly.
“No, it’s just the chemistry of the brain,” insists Siegel.
Emma Peel of the 1960’s show, The Avengers, is suddenly standing in the room. Because no matter how intellectual you are, no man can resist a woman in with high boots. (So Ron tells me). “Perhaps you gentlemen would like to go out for something to eat?”
And suddenly, Ron and I are lovingly, blissfully, alone. “This is the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever eaten,” Ron grins between bites. I smile and look at the living room wall, envisioning a lovely new shade of blue.