Deciding on Dinner | The Ongoing Food War With My Girlfriend

What happens when you're stuck in a perpetual diet war and carbs are treated like the enemy?

Paul Tamburroby Paul Tamburro
Photo: Extreme-Photographer, (Getty Images).

When Dante penned his Divine Comedy and detailed his vision of the nine circles of Hell, he missed out the crucial but little-known tenth circle: waiting for my girlfriend to decide on what she wants to eat. There may have been men drowning in rivers of boiling blood and sinners encapsulated in ice for eternity, but both of those punishments pale in comparison to the food war I silently wage while waiting for my girlfriend as she deliberates over whether she should order the pork belly or duck confit.

I appreciate her dedication to never eating a bad meal, though I have never been too fussy about the food that enters my body (which probably explains why I’ve had food poisoning twice). I like to keep healthy, try to lay off junk food as much as I can, but if a plate of meat is put in front of me I won’t question it before shoving it into my mouth. Contrarily, my girlfriend is something of an expert when it comes to never eating a meal that disappoints her, and it’s a skill that has been honed through years of meticulously analyzing every menu and perusing every aisle in the supermarket.

While it can get frustrating when a waiter is hovering over us and she’s still stuck on the starters, the vast majority of the time I appreciate her love of food because it means that we eat well. She has a good knowledge of nutrition, knows how flavors work and will intervene when I’m about to happily shove something into my mouth that would give me a coronary. Having a partner that knows so much about food means that I have learned a lot more about what goes into my body, which has proven to be very helpful as I get older, as I’d probably have turned into a gelatinous blob by now if not given proper guidance. However, there is one facet of her approach to decision-making when it comes to food that I cannot get behind: fad diets.

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I’ve always been of the opinion that consistently eating healthily but not forbidding yourself from eating particular foods is the best approach, but she’s very much into finding out about a new diet and then sticking to it religiously. She’s currently about two weeks into a diet that prevents her from eating carbohydrates, which essentially prohibits her from eating every tasty thing in the world. Okay, so that might be a little hyperbolic, but the sheer amount of foods that contain carbohydrates makes it essentially impossible to enjoy your life while cutting them out, though she’s trying her best to power through. But while I personally opted out of joining her in this diet, being together most of the time means that I’ve also basically cut out carbs by default, which has led to me eating some “interesting” meals, to say the least.

Last week I was led out of my home office and into our kitchen by the scent of cooking burgers, so beguiled by the intensity of the aroma that my feet didn’t even touch the stairs as I drifted down them. In the kitchen stood my girlfriend, munching on a gluten-free burger which had been slapped between two pieces of lettuce rather than buns in what can only be described as an act of carnivore sacrilege. “There is yours,” she said, pointing to a plate with another sad looking gluten-free burger, also tucked between some lettuce. An egg sat on top of it. “I added an egg to yours,” she continued, as though this was an act of mercy.

News flash: lettuce is not a natural replacement for bread. I spent 10 minutes engaged in what can only be described as a wrestling match with my food, trying desperately to keep the egg from escaping its lettuce prison while it squirmed its way out of my hands, lubricated by ultra-low-fat mayonnaise that only really tastes like actual mayonnaise if you use all the imagination of a Disney Pixar writer’s room. I appreciated the ingenuity in trying to eat burgers while cutting down on carbs, but I’m of the firm belief that food should be as easy to eat as humanly possible. It’s why we invented the knife and fork.

Oh, and here’s another thing I didn’t really realize until I was in a relationship: that certain restaurants have an unspoken dress code that, while not enforced in any capacity, are nonetheless agreed upon by apparently everyone who steps foot in them. Now, I’m not talking about donning smart shoes rather than Nike Airs at a meal, but rather the less obvious unwritten dress code that you can’t wear a sheepskin coat at a 5-star restaurant. While this restaurant in question had taken the unconventional approach of serving my ice cream dessert to me in a plant pot (yes, a literal plant pot), apparently I’m not allowed to echo their unconventionality by dressing like I should be selling pirated CDs on a market stall. This particular meal, held in celebration of our anniversary last year, was similar to an episode of Catastrophe, season 2, except while that couple delved into the hardships they faced in their relationship, my only real struggle was not being able to wear my nice sheepskin coat while licking ice cream out of a garden pot.

She makes the vast majority of decisions regarding food in our house, because if it was left up to me we’d both be pushing the limits of our body mass index. Though I keep an eye on calorie intake, I am prone to going overboard when it comes to adding flavor to our meals. For instance, my go-to meal of choice — a slab of steak garnished with anything I can find in the refrigerator — often becomes a one-way ticket to a clogged artery as a result of my burgeoning addiction to covering absolutely everything in honey. The steak? Coat it in balsamic vinegar, white wine sauce and a teaspoon of honey. Mushrooms? Yep, cover them in a dollop of honey, too. Broccoli trees? Smother those bad boys in more honey until you forget you’re eating vegetables. So much honey goes into my cooking that Winnie the Pooh would be like “wooooooah, slow down, buddy, that is too much honey.”

While I am eternally grateful that my girlfriend prevents me from making some of my poorer culinary choices, we will never be able to see eye-to-eye when it comes to her diets. While I’m thankful that I’m kept healthy and have all the energy that comes with eating a surplus of lettuce, I will never be able to accept that our spaghetti is now replaced by thin, spiralized slices of courgette, nor that this abomination should earnestly be called “courgetti.”

I like my burgers in buns, my buns with gluten, and my patties deliciously sweetened with some syrupy sauce of sorts. I want to attend a restaurant and order food in a timely manner that doesn’t force our waitress to deeply reconsider her career options. However, I also love my girlfriend. So, when it comes to food wars, my strategy is to enjoy the culinary ride (while discreetly injecting my food with honey).

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