When I first met my husband, he was a recent college grad with his first job in software engineering. He told me proudly that he was perfectly happy eating the same meal night after night. He told me he’d been eating spaghetti with taco cheese every night for nearly a month (Big surprise, it tastes kinda good). Before that, he’d had a similar stint with tunafish.
In the early stage of a relationship, there is that blissful haze of love, brought about by his pheromones and your hormones. So that when your beloved says something like, “I only eat tunafish,” it doesn’t fully penetrate your brain as a real thing. And though you have clearly heard him say those words, you’re pretty sure that after marriage this man will be reasonable and fall in line with your personal tastes—equally happy going out for exotic meals of sushi, curry, tapas or Korean food.
Alas, this was not to be for me.
I didn’t get a dinner partner interested in a big menu of exciting or experimental foods. I learned that my husband and I are wired differently when it comes to food. I think of food as a feast for the senses, an almost artistic event; I need to see and taste something new on a regular basis. My husband sees food as fuel. While he likes or dislikes certain flavors and textures, he eats to keep moving (and to play video games).
I’ve come to see that this is actually a convenience. My husband’s breakfast needs are simple: protein granola bars and Chobani blueberry or black cherry yogurt. Stock up on those and we’re good for two weeks. Dinner is a finite set of choices, one of which comes in a bag and cooks up quickly. Sometimes I’ll make a special dish that I know he loves, but oftentimes that is more for my own need for variety.
And since the tunafish days, my husband has expanded his repertoire. He loves some dishes from our local Thai restaurant. And then there was the time he invited me to eat at a dim sum place I’d never heard of—Din Tai Fung. Delicious Chinese dumplings that made me so happy! He’d eaten there for a work lunch. I’m impressed that my husband tried the food in the first place—and that he was the one to introduce me to it.
Eating out can be a challenge when you and your spouse have different tastes. As our family has grown, we’ve faced evenings of despair as we debate our choices. But below are some things that have worked for us, in our neck of Silicon Valley.
If you are a variety/variety-challenged couple (or family), here are some ideas for eating out
Thai food – The lover of exotic foods can explore the spices, the less bold eater can order chicken satay skewers (sans peanut sauce, because–ew) or fried rice.
Indian food – My husband goes for mild dishes like chicken tikka kabab or tandoori chicken slathered with raita yogurt dip; I go for the spicy lamb curries.
Chinese food – Ask for lemon chicken with sauce on the side and you’ve got reliable old fried chicken. And who doesn’t like fried won tons?
BJs Brewery – This chain has basic staples like burgers and pizza, along with some interesting choices for salads and more exotic pastas and appetizers. Every family member is happy here. Bonus: the beer choices are very good.