Romance At Any Age: Marriage Italian Style
When she needed to inject some romance back into her relationship, Rebecca Field Jager got cooking.
A few years ago, after both of my children had moved out, I made a point of always leaving their bedroom doors open so I could poke my head in now and then for a kid-fix, a quick jaunt down memory lane. But in doing so, it was as if I let the rooms’ emptiness seep out, and it crept down the hallway, slowly making its way through the rest of the house.
Soon, our two-storey abode felt far too big, and I convinced my husband, Dan, that we had to move.
The new house was perfect. Perched on the edge of a lush ravine, it was large enough to accommodate the kids when they came home but small enough that the two people living in it would never be far apart. Yet it somehow seemed that we were even more distant. It was as if, in the chaos of moving, we had accidentally left behind the glue that held us together.
And like most things you take for granted, it proved to be difficult to replace.
But then one day, I read about “Cooking With Love,” a cooking tour in Italy specifically geared to couples. Participants could choose one destination and spend a week or two there, or travel to two or three different places, taking in classes along the way. Explorers at heart, Dan and I do well on vacations during which we are able to roam. I imagined us renting a car and cruising down to the Amalfi Coast from Tuscany.
“But why would anyone want to cook on a holiday?” Dan countered, after I had made the pitch. “Isn’t the point to get away from that type of thing?”
“Yes, but they say that cooking together brings couples closer together. The woman who runs the vacation said the trip could fix any troubled marriage.”
Wake me up when you’re finished with those vegetables.
Will do, but it looks like you were asleep while you chopped yours.
Here, however, it felt more like we were teammates sharing a common goal. As I watched Melina show my husband how to knead the pasta dough, I was struck by how intently he watched, how eager he was to learn. When we were first married, after painstakingly preparing a spectacular meal, I would whisper sweet culinary secrets in his ear, and he would hang onto every word. But that was years ago.
“Perfecto!” Melina declared of Dan’s dough’s consistency. I leaned across my own
blob of mush and kissed him. It took him by surprise, but he kissed back. Something stirred.
The next day, we bid our hosts farewell and headed to our next destination, Positano. We ended up getting lost en route to the coast, partly because, somewhere during the seven-hour journey, we slipped into a pleasant silence — he loving the thrill of increased speed limits, me daydreaming about moving here. But I suspect the real reason we couldn’t navigate our way was this: instead of following a trusty map, we were relying on my new BlackBerry’s GPS. It’s not like we’d discussed it or even bothered to figure out how it worked. It was just one of those go-with-the-flow changes you make with the presumption that if everyone else can do it, so can you.
So how were we to know that when the damn thing beeps madly it means you’re way off track?
“God, that thing is annoying,” I remember Dan commenting, no doubt as we passed our exit.
Hours later, we finally pulled into town, our pleasant silence now a stony one. But our foul mood was no match for Positano’s cliffside beauty, and we blissfully climbed the staircase to our suite as if it were the stairway to heaven.
We began the next day with a swim in the Mediterranean, the bottom of which was so pebbly you couldn’t walk ashore gracefully. As I picked my way out of the sea, I became aware that my husband, sprawled on a lounge chair, was watching me. I felt an unexpected wave of self-consciousness. My swimsuit was too small. My hips, too big.
“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti!” I called, stealing Sophia Loren’s famous line.
Later in the day, we learned how to make a three-course meal high above the blue sea, at Ristorante Lo Guarracino, where chefs Roberto Maddi and Pietro Milo taught us how to make focaccia, puttanesca sauce and baked sea bass.
“Love is the most important thing in life,” chef Pietro reminded us, setting the mood by deftly shaping the focaccia dough into a heart.
The mood continued over dinner.