Food evokes memories.
The sweet strawberry aroma that fills my grandma’s kitchen while making jam on a warm morning in June.
The feeling of sticky sugar cookie dough between my fingers, from a recipe that has been passed down for generations.
The smell of my dad’s homemade pizza pie with pepperonis, mushrooms, and jalapeno peppers.
The taste of wild salmon just hours after arriving in Seattle from Alaska.
Washed down with a cold microbrew.
And for me, food also evokes passion.
I met him in the lab. He was a graduate student, and I was there to cover a story for the Research Penn State magazine. I had a media equipment bag slung over my shoulder and a tripod tucked under my arm. He hovered above a microscope in his crisp white lab coat.
We immediately caught each other’s eye. We politely smiled, then looked away.
Later he found the opportunity to introduce himself. His name was Nick, and we exchanged small talk between takes. I wondered if he would ask for my phone number … But he didn’t.
Fortunately, my colleague asked for the email addresses of everyone in the lab. This is not protocol, but she noticed our flirting and wanted to make sure that I had a way to contact him.
And so I left Hershey that Friday with butterflies in my stomach. There was just something about him that I couldn’t get out of my head.
I waited until Monday to email him, and he replied shortly after. We corresponded daily and set up our first date just a few weeks later.
And so our story began …
You may be wondering how food fits into the equation. Well, Nick and I quickly realized that we share a passion for food.
In the beginning, we tried to impress one another with homemade casseroles and calzones. We woke up to blueberry pancakes and strong coffee. We shared sushi and sips of Blue Moon. We told stories over glasses of Pinot or Chianti while simmering, sauteeing, and stirring.
Soon after we discovered our common obsession with the Food Network. We watched Bobby Flay grilling from his Brooklyn brownstone and noted gardening tips from Jamie Oliver.
We especially loved the thrill and spontaneity of the Iron Chef. We marveled over the chefs’ abilities to convert simple secret ingredients into pieces of art — both to the eye and the tongue.
And so being the clever and ambitious types that we are, we challenged each other to Iron Chef battles.
It began at Nick’s farmhouse in Hershey. I revealed to him the secret ingredient — limes. He then had three hours to plan and shop for a four-course meal. I helped him slice, zest, and season the ingredients for a fabulous Mexican feast.
Next we moved the competition to State College. I created a meal from — peanuts — that included a salad topped with spicy nuts and peanut butter pork stir-fry.
Family and friends began to ask about our culinary creations, and so we designed a blog to showcase our recipes. From that point on, we were known as The Culinary Couple.
Since the launch of our website, we’ve experimented with avocados, blue cheese, pumpkin, and pomegranates.
In the fall, we curl up together on the couch with bowls of hot stew flavored with onions, zucchini, carrots, and sweet potatoes. We’ve tried soups with chicken and masa harina … and others with cheese tortellini and sweet Italian sausage.
During the summer, we can’t get enough cherries, plums, or peaches. And we buy local whenever possible.
We’ve started our own herb garden, which includes basil, parsley, chives, and rosemary.
And we’ve also been inspired by restaurants across the country. We’ve eaten North Carolina BBQ and Georgia shrimp. We had escargot and lobster bisque on the New York Finger Lakes … and Chilean Sea Bass and duck glazed with balsamic at the Metropolitan Opera.
We have no fear when it comes to testing our taste buds, and we welcome challenges in the kitchen.
We especially enjoy finding new recipes and making them our own. There are two meals that stick out in my mind as culinary achievements.
One night we prepared a dinner for my parents that reflects Nick’s heritage. Nick was born in Germany while his father was stationed there, and so he picked up some fantastic authentic recipes from his mother. I helped him to prepare weiss wurst and viener schnitzel with spaetzla and rotkul. Of course German lager was included on the menu.
And on Valentine’s Day, rather than paying $100 for a fancy fare, we created an impressive meal of our own. We seared scallops and added them to wild mushroom risotto. This was served after an appetizer of white asparagus and heirloom tomatoes. And for dessert we made a heavenly chocolate hazelnut lava cake.
There are countless more meals and memories to make together. Cultures to explore and tastes to sample.
I’m so fortunate to have found a mate who can match my love for food.