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Recipe for Romance

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tagged: food, relationships
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Cooking together can bring couples closer—and make the whole family happy.

by J.M. McKeel, Army spouse

Every couple has their system. Ours is divide-and-conquer: My wife Jen and I work best together when we split up the steps to get something accomplished. She’ll drive, while I navigate and try to quell the kids. I keep the vehicles maintained, but she packs for the trip. I’ll cook dinner, while she’s doing other things. But there is one dish that really brings us together—Ragù alla Bolognese.

When we were newlyweds, I worked long hours and she carried a heavy course load at Arizona State University. My office was near her campus, so we met for lunch at least once a week. Our special place was a little café called Focaccia Fiorentina.

The wait staff all wore white aprons. The lunch service was quick without making you feel rushed. The menu was short, but each dish was perfectly pitched. I still get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I think about drinking their bubbly lemonade on the misty patio, shaded from the oppressive Arizona heat.

Our favorite dish there was a rustic stew so finely cut and melded that it was more like a sauce, served over pasta like rigatoni or penne. That Ragù alla Bolognese made us loyal customers, often dragging soon-to-be converts along with us to lunch or dinner. But to our dismay, one day the restaurant was suddenly closed. We were left shocked and hungry. Almost immediately, we set about mentally separating ingredients in our collective memory. We hunted for similar recipes online, eventually perfecting our own version.

We make it together: Jen monitors the “doneness” at each stage before stirring in the next ingredient. She browns the meat, draining it if it’s too greasy just before it gets too done. Meanwhile, to preserve the volatile flavors of the vegetables, I mound my cutting board with diced or julienned veggies, mincing herbs just in time to be stirred into the pot. Working side by side, we get a chance to interact beyond our daily family routines. “How’s your day?” or disciplining the kids takes a back seat to just working together.

This is a long, slow recipe, perfect for a Sunday afternoon. It takes hours, but it pays off: We feel more connected and our kids, even the baby, love this dish when it’s done. Best of all, these hours ?we spend in the kitchen together always help us remember why we’re there in the first place.

So, from our house to yours, mangia bene!  (Recipe on Next Page)

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