Before I met my girlfriend, my definition of “cooking” was warming prepared meals in the microwave. If I was feeling fancy, I might warm them up in the toaster oven. Most of the time I was too lazy to even bother with that, so I ordered lots of pizzas and or went out to restaurants. I had never cracked open a cook book, or bought fresh vegetables (unless pestered to by my mother), or spent more than 15 minutes preparing a meal. I used to be an embarrassing stereotype, the single guy who lived on junk food.

Very early in our relationship, my girlfriend insisted that we cook meals together. And by “cook,” I mean actually creating meals from raw ingredients. I found myself washing, and cutting, and boiling, and mixing, and doing all sorts of things that took forever. Or at least it felt like forever. Instead of warming up a meal for 5 minutes in the microwave, I was spending anywhere from half-an-hour to an hour performing manual labor. I didn’t go to college for this! I was making good money and was more than happy to take her out to a restaurant, but she wanted to cook together, so I sucked it up and we cooked together.

My shopping habits also changed. Prior to our relationship, I had purchased all my groceries at the nearest Giant. And I was mostly buying frozen dinners, canned dinners, boxed dinners, and cold cuts. Certainly not a healthy diet, but it was cheap and quick to prepare. After we started dating, my girlfriend convinced me to shop at Whole Foods. I had never set foot in a Whole Foods during the first three decades of my life. My mental picture of a Whole Foods shopper was an effete yuppie who agonized over buying the right kind of smelly cheese. And now I was one of THEM, buying fresh veggies, organic this and organic that, and definitely spending more money on groceries.

It turned out to be money well spent. I was spending more on groceries but saving money overall because I ordered less take-out and ate at restaurants less often. I lost weight and generally felt healthier. And my mother stopped sending me those annoying emails about the risks of heart disease.

But the best part about cooking with my girlfriend was cooking with my girlfriend. Prior to our relationship, I had always viewed cooking as an unpleasant chore, akin to vacuuming or cleaning the toilet. But cooking with my girlfriend wasn’t a chore. It was something that we did together. It was fun just to spend time with her, chopping vegetables together, listening to her music playlist, and talking about nothing in particular. And the most rewarding part was when we sat down and ate a delicious meal that we created together. It’s all very sappy and bourgeois, but to hell with it. I like cooking real meals, I like the taste of organic milk, and I like debating over the right kind of smelly cheese.

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