by Charlea Glanville

Before it was us, it was me and my ‘me’ could be defined by a much smaller group of dishes. A small baked sweet potato with a solitary tin of tuna. An individually purchased salmon fillet. A fun-size bar of chocolate here and there, because I’d never trust myself with a big one in the cupboard. A one-cup cafetière that only came out on Saturdays and had such little use I could make a packet of ground coffee go for months. 

It was the days of always being on a ‘diet’ – if you can even call meagre portions of chicken breast and lettuce leaves that. It was always being hungry. Replacing dinner with wine, because there was nothing to really rush home for anyway. Eating dinner in bed, alone. Labouring over morning pancakes and presenting them carefully to eat by myself, because labouring over food was the best way to fill my endless spare time. 

Our first course came at the end of one of these kinds of days. It had been sweet potato fritters to be precise, with some token spinach leaves on the side, consumed on the sofa – alone. And precisely half a chicken breast that day, so I didn’t bloat (obvs). Later I walked to the shop and bought a small bag of grapes, for something to do. Passing hours and saving calories for alcohol. 

By night, paella overwhelmed my palette. We ate it side-by-side – anticipation hanging between us. No one else was really touching it, but we loved our food. It was laced with fizzy Moët (we only had a glass each), and the distinctive salty taste of paella-spiced prawns. 

The next day when you woke up with me (unexpectedly), I couldn’t get us to the coffee shop quick enough – and that early smell of roasting beans has since become part of us. Over our two and a half years we’ve shared cup after cup. The pre-workout ones, the lazy Sunday morning ones in front of the TV. We lost my one-cup cafetière pretty quickly – it became a four-cup we’d often down between us in one sitting – and now it’s a coffee machine we own together in a flat we live in together, too. 

“Years have passed and in these years, food has always been at our centre. We’ve shared more M&S Dine-in-for-Two deals than I can count.”

Later that same day we had our first meal: small plates. We chose two each. Except we’ll never count this as our first meal, because a week later it happened with all the fanfare that brilliant first dates deserve. Sangria and tapas – we chose four each this time. It was just the right amount of awkward with just the right amount of accidental fork nudges, and accidental knee touches. In a word: perfect.

Years have passed and in these years, food has always been at our centre. We’ve shared more M&S Dine-in-for-Two deals than I can count. We’ve sat in bed in a fort built from pizza delivery boxes, the remnants of last night’s stale red wine hanging between us. 

We’ve dressed up and hit rooftops, basements and cosy dens in the city. We’ve tasted J. Sheekey, we’ve shared tapas (you choose three, I choose three), we’ve had ostentatiously sized cheeseboards, canapes, juicy steaks, glasses of champagne. We’ve had airport breakfasts and Grecian lunches (souvlaki and salad). Four AM Prosecco before take-off. Locally caught fish by sunset (with a sunset view). Fresh fruit and bread baskets and cake for breakfast.

But my favourite meals have always been at home. It’s the sea bass you cooked me for our second ever date – it tasted like kindness and I couldn’t even tell you the potatoes were too spicy because the gesture was all I needed to digest that night. It’s the time we bought a chicken on impulse, stuffed it with lemons and I chanced upon the ultimate roast potatoes with chorizo. The time we got the slow cooker out and came home to a house smelling of curry, the turkey breast falling apart in its fragrant juice. It’s the hungover ice cream and warm cookie creations; the bowls of linguine on the balcony in summer; the times I’ve been sad and you’ve appeared with Maltesers. 

In March 2019 we ate our best meal yet: the two of us, in a flat we now live in together, out of mismatched old bowls before we bought our bowls. It was our best meal yet, and it wasn’t even about the food.  

Romance is about more than champagne and cheeseboards. Romance tastes like comfort. It’s the ‘please cook that herby chicken again tonight’. It’s the surprise chocolates hidden stealthily under the bed. It’s the texts: Shall I pick some Malbec up on the way home?/Which starter and main are your fave from the Dine-In menu tonight?/Pizza? It’s warm, and juicy – it’s salmon skin that gets burned to the foil, too-spicy potatoes, not quite done meat. 

It’s haphazard but comforting and keeps you coming back for more. 

It, and you, taste like home. 

Charlea Glanville | @charglanv |
Charlea is a 26-year-old writer and social media manager. She keeps her ketchup in the fridge (obviously) and spends too much money on gin, polo necks and Scandinavian-style homewares. 

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