I listened the other day to a podcast in which Gwyneth Paltrow interviews Stanley Tucci. It was an odd listening choice, to be sure, because I have conflicting feelings about both of those celebrities, and I know many of you do, too. But it was riveting to listen to two people who absolutely love food, and have built elements of their successful careers around its appreciation, wax poetic on the subject. At one point, Paltrow asks: “Could you ever be in love with someone who doesn’t love food?” Tucci says, “I could not.”
Are there interests, or orientations, or tenets of life, that are non-negotiables for you in a partner, too?
Love of food is an interesting one, because I think it’s not just about the food itself but perhaps about a relationship to pleasure. I say this as the wife of a man who is beyond passionate about food. Mr. Magpie prioritizes the experience of dining, and will go to lengths to properly plate and garnish each and every dish, cocktail, snack, morsel he prepares. Even his mise en place is meticulous — carefully measured and appealing to look at. He crosshatches his chicken breasts on the grill with precision; he orients his potatoes in the same direction on a pan; even ribeyes going into the fridge for a dry-brine are artfully arranged on the plate just so. “You eat with your eyes,” he’s told me in the past. And “eating,” for him, extends beyond the plate: he is sensitive to ambiance, too, when we are dining. We always laugh about an episode of “The Office” where Ed Helms says, “Last night I ordered a pizza by myself, and I ate it over the sink like a rat.” We sometimes throw this at one another on the rare occasion we are shoveling a snack down while standing in front of the fridge because we are on our way out the door, or too hungry to wait, or what have you. The subtext, though, is spot-on: food in our home is not just fuel, to be consumed mindlessly whenever encountered, but something to savor with care and thought and attention.
I think, too, there is a narrative of respect that overlays Mr. Magpie’s relationship with food: he ministers to his ingredients and his ingredients minister to him. He goes to great lengths to track down “the best” of everything — the best spices, the best olive oils, the best kitchen implements, the best seeds from which to grow his Nantes carrots — and, under his care, they shine. He is loathe to discard a good scrap of food for this reason, and will nearly shave off his fingers on the mandolin to avoid wasting the heel of a clove of garlic or the top of a white hailstone radish from his garden or — God forbid — the edge of a white truffle, shipped overnight from Urbani. (Hence the strawberry huller Santa left in my stocking this year.)
Once prepared, though, he lets the food call the shots. He defers. And so I absolutely love watching Mr. Magpie eat something he loves. His entire energy changes. He has said in the past that eating something delicious “feels good all over”: it is a whole-body thing, with every sense engaged. I had probably noticed this unreflectingly for years but I can remember the exact moment I realized how true this was for him: at Prune, in New York City, on my 34th birthday. He took a bite of something and then actually leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and sighed. It was as though every muscle in his body relaxed. Every stress and striation of the previous few (incredibly intense) months dissipated. The dining experience — the food, the bustling and joyous ambiance, the incredible wine pairing — transported him. And he invited that euphoria. He let it wash right over him.
Watching that moment was transformative for me, too. It left me more open to and curious about the experience of dining. I have always loved food, but I found myself attending more carefully to each bite, and to describing the textures and tastes in more detail. Because for me, a good measure of the pleasure of living is putting it into words. It is as though I need to slip the amorphousness of an experience into a well-fitting suit. And so it has been, more or less since that evening at Prune, an adventure into the wideness of taste and its intersections with language. Toothsome, jammy, piquant, unctuous, tangy, bright, silky, succulent, delicate, wafer-like, mineral, acidic: our nightly lexicon.
I think — moreso than Mr. Magpie — that I tie that pleasure of eating to the ritual of sharing it with people I love. Food for me is more about a shared experience. If I am on my own, I will throw together a salad or fry an egg or butter some farfalle. I still plate it nicely and sit down at the table and try to be conscious about what I’m doing, but it’s not as “all out” as if I were in the company of my man or my friends. If Mr. Magpie is on his own, he will still eat as though preparing food for an audience: porterhouse steak cooked sous vide and then seared to perfection in a butter bath in a skillet, cacio e pepe with the pasta rolled by hand, six briny oysters shucked at home and served with peppery, shallot-flecked mignonette. Regardless, though, I think that our slightly different appreciations of food work together because they share the same foundational orientation around pleasure. We look at dining as enjoyment. Not sustenance, and not hedonism either — as a path to earnest joy.
Thinking through all of this makes me wonder whether I could have fallen in love with someone who did not love food. I’m not sure. I have been with Mr. Magpie for so long (since 19!), and he was my first and only love, and so it is beyond the pale to imagine it otherwise. But I suspect it is more about openness to tiny peals of joy than it is about food itself. I love, for example, that Mr. Magpie “gets” why I like a bright bouquet of pens at my desk, and why I can sometimes fixate on a new word I’ve discovered that I find delightfully accurate (“chelonian”! “carillon!” “febrile!”), and that I can occasionally lose my mind over a pair of shoes. I have been in company where such declarations have elicited raised eyebrows that make me feel as though I need to get a life. (Which, possibly, I do.) But Mr. Magpie never scoffs at these diminutive pleasures. He scaffolds them, encourages them, even if he does not understand the precise sentiment. So perhaps I would say openness to les petits plaisirs would be non-negotiable. (Would everyone say the same, I wonder?)
What say you?
+Things that I love that I shouldn’t. I have some new additions to this since I first wrote it almost four years ago — may need to run a revision soon.
+A woman contains multitudes…
+Are you an adventurous eater?
+What would be your last meal?
+On a totally different track: are there places you feel closer to God?
+Another memory from Aspen, CO.
+This $39 Target cardigan is SO good. Major Doen vibes. I’m conflicted on which color to order!
+My tiered corduroy shirtdress I’ve been wearing all season long is now on sale for under $100 ($75 in select colors). I love (!) this thing. Super flattering (corduroy is not as bulky as you’d think!) and can be layered over a turtleneck or worn on its own. Surprisingly warm! I own in the figgy pudding color.
+I also noticed that my favorite straight-leg cords from this season (under $80) are re-stocked in great camel and forest green colors. I own in the burgundy color, but those appear to be nearly sold out. I’m tempted to buy the green!
+Our beloved carseats are $100 off in gray here! I’ve literally never seen these on sale before.
+Target has some seriously great stuff at the moment — I mentioned I ordered one of these monogrammed hand towels for our powder room in the powder blue (arrived so quickly, already here!) and am going to layer over these flat weave aqua towels.
+I just ordered these gorgeous and well-priced scalloped linen napkins in the red with pink trim. So cheerful! I love all the unusual color combinations they have!
+I’ve been writing all my holiday thank you notes on this gorgeous (reasonably priced) stationery.
+Oh my goodness! The classic striped and Liberty print pajamas are so cute and can be monogrammed! Select colors/patterns are on sale for 50% off!
+This $16 smocked dress for a little!!! I have a few of the tops from this brand and they are lovely!
+This fitness skort is so chic! I am contemplating taking tennis lessons this summer and this is right up my alley.
+Maisonette just marked a ton of its Busy Bees pieces down to 50% off — we love these Ginny dresses (mini has owned several colors/patterns over the years) and I always use sales like these to stock up on their Henry tees for micro. They are spend-y, but they launder SO well and last forever. Micro wore his size 2T ones for two years since they are cut generously but somehow not too boxy. The shoulder buttons add a little interest, and serve a functional purpose (easier to pull on), too.
+So into striped knits like these. The shape is Khaite!
+Can’t stop thinking about this fabulous jumpsuit. The color, silhouette, and neckline are beyond fabulous. $110!
+Pretty and sexy everyday top.
+These mint green Aligns are looking FRESH for the new year.
+Related to athletic-wear: I am not much of an athletic wear / athleisure person during the day but the last week has been topsy turvy between snow (and related cancellations), school starting, etc. I have had to be flexible with my exercise regimen and that has sometimes meant I don’t work out until the afternoon, which is bizarre. Historically, if I don’t run first thing, I won’t run at all. The day just gets away from me. I ended up NOT setting resolutions this year (you may recall I was on the fence) but one intention I have is to (borrowing from a Magpie reader): “intentionally move my body.” What this has meant so far this year is that I try to stick to a running-every-other-day regimen but if it can’t happen because of appointments, snow delays, snow in general (icy conditions), school drop off, etc., so be it. My Dad just gave us a fitness bike (!) and I now have the option to retreat to our basement and take in a 20 or 30 minute cycle, so this has been such a boon for me on the days I can’t squeeze in a run first thing. Anyway, all of this is a meandering preamble to the fact that because I have not been running in my usual structured 9-10 a.m. slot (though I hope to return to that schedule as much as possible), I have been wearing a lot of fitness gear this past week. I can’t tell you how often I reach for this exact Patagonia pullover in the oatmeal/cream color. I bought this probably 12 or 13 years ago (?) at the Patagonia in Georgetown and it’s still hanging tough and still my most-worn fleece. I kind of want a zip-up variation, and have been eyeing this, this, this (the checked trim!), and this.
+On a related note: this reversible faux fur / faux sherpa coat is so stylish. Love the collar.
+Such chic woven rattan frames — two for $70!
+This smocked plaid dress feels fresh for the new year.