Valentine’s Day, 2012: It began with an Internet search for consumable aphrodisiacs. We didn’t much need them, but what the hell… it was Valentine’s Day and a good enough excuse to play with our food. There was some variation on the Top Ten lists but we found general agreement with oysters, asparagus (visually an odd choice for lesbians), figs (far more reasonable), honey and pine nuts. Chocolate was way up on every list, of course, but as we fancied ourselves culinary explorers for the night, it seemed too much of a been-there-done-that sort of thing. The end result was a meal that began with Oysters on the Half Shell, followed by Surf & Turf (Oysters Rockefeller with a little tender rib-eye cooked to a perfect medium rare) aside that oddly phallic vegetable, and a finale of fresh figs stuffed with ricotta, drizzled with honey and topped with toasted pine nuts. It was a lovely event whose meaning for us was as much in the preparation as in the actual dining experience (which didn’t suck).
A year later, separated by a few states and 1,256 miles, and deep under the spell of reminiscence, I bought C- a cookbook: The New InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook (Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge). Thumbing through it in my favorite bookstore, I drooled over recipes for rosemary bacon croquettes and curried oysters with chardonnay along with memories of last year and all the joy and excitement of a first Valentine’s Day together. The photography was beautiful, and peppered between the recipes and stories were quotes by lovers on their romantic food experiences… all heterosexual. We’re accustomed to such things, so I bought the book anyway, and at the end of my inscription, I wrote a P.S.: “Let’s write the lesbian version of this cookbook together.”
Sometime last spring, I picked up my son from his dad’s, and after I’d gotten the low-down on the events of his weekend, he asked for an accounting of mine:
“What’d you do this weekend”
“Oh, C- and I did a little gardening, some cooking…”
“What’d you cook?”
“We made one of our pizzas. Caramelized some onions, threw on a little goat cheese, some mushrooms and olive oil. Pretty tasty.”
“Make me one. But no mushrooms. What else did you do?”
“Well, I kicked her ass in Scrabble… then she kicked mine.”
Thoughtful pause then, “Wow, Mom. It’s like you’re really in love.”
I smiled on his notion of the simplicity of love, but then it was my turn to pause. Like you’re really in love. I didn’t respond because I wasn’t sure what was unsettling till I gave it a little time. And at any rate, I wasn’t upset with my son… he’s mostly a tender heart who would rather wrestle the skunks in our back alley than say anything to hurt my feelings or anyone else’s. But it was there nonetheless, and it haunted me: Like you’re really in love, not that you really are in love because… why? Could it be that for all the progress of recent years, LGBTQ love hasn’t been legitimized in mainstream culture to such a degree that it could be anything more than the impostor of love… like love. Even for a lesbian’s child.
To that cookbook and legitimizing all loving relationships: C- and I could write our cookbook that might land in lesbian bookstores or in the lesbian or gender sections of a few progressive bookstores. Or, if we’re really lucky, it lands in the cookbook section. But then, at best, any of the hetero norm giving it a glance, lend an appreciative smile and put it back on the shelf in exchange for the cookbook that appeals to their own appetites. Fair enough.
Suppose, however, there was the blended version, laying side by side the quotes and experiences that reflect the diversity of committed relationships in this country and around the globe. And suppose that side-by-side sensibility became the norm for any publication related to love and relationships, then, over time, the cultural norm. Perhaps then my son, and the sons and daughters of generations, would say, “Wow, Mom. It’s great to see you in love.”