They say that there are five love languages: Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. This article on She Knows has a good overview. We all tend more toward one of these than the others. Cooking is my love language. It is an act of service, but also quality time, the creation of something to be shared, with love. As a lifelong introvert, an only child and someone who would rather spend Friday night with a good book than out on the town, cooking appeals to me because it is something that I can do alone but also share with the world. It is my contribution to the larger dynamic of human relationships. I may not be the life of the party, gathering everyone around me with a thrilling story or funny joke, but I will gather you around my table for a delicious meal.
The act of gathering together to share sustenance is as old as human memory and therefore deeply ingrained as an essential part of our collective consciousness, our sense of order and comfort. This article in The Atlantic goes into some depth about the history of communal dining and is an interesting longer read. By facilitating this communal experience, I feel as if I am a part of something greater than myself, that I am making a contribution to a greater dialogue. An artist creates a painting or a piece of music for people to enjoy and thus brings them together. I roast a chicken and enjoy it with my husband and some friends. We eat at the table and talk about how our week went and what we are looking forward to. Why would we sit at this table talking about this and that if it was an empty table? We might instead watch a movie or go on a hike, both admirable activities, but less focused on one another than on the activity at hand.
I hug and kiss my husband when he gets home from work, but it is when he smiles in delight at a dish that I have prepared, or texts me in the middle of the day to say that he is enjoying the sandwich I made him, that I feel his love in a truly elemental way. One way of expressing love isn’t better than another, it is only important to stay true to your own love language while being receptive to those of others.