Shakespeare wrote that music may be the food of love. Assuming he really existed as one person, he was smart and prolific, so I’m sure he knows whereof he speaks. But I’d like to make a case for actual food being what nourishes love, especially in its liminal stages. I’m not talking about aphrodisiacs, foods such as oysters that are said to promote passionate feelings. I mean foods designed to ensure long-lasting love. And with a divorce rate that’s 50/50 for the marrying population in general (I’ve read that the rate of divorce goes down if your first marriage takes place later in life rather than earlier), we need all the sweet and delicious insurance policies we can get.
When Emilio and I announced our engagement last June, my aunts came over for loukoumades, fried dough balls dipped in honey, which they ate in the hopes that our life together would be sweet (so far, so good). No coffee was served, due to coffee’s bitterness, even though Emilio is a coffee trader by profession. We didn’t want to tempt fate.
At our wedding, and at all Greek Orthodox weddings (and also several Italian Catholic weddings, and perhaps elsewhere, you tell me), guests received bonbonnieres, favors (in our case, handkerchiefs embroidered with our logo, two intertwined Es) filled with koufeta, Jordan almonds. Symbols of fertility, the sugar-covered almonds are both bitter and sweet, like life itself, with the sweetness of the coating outweighing the bitter tang of the almonds.
Jordan almonds and rice (again, fertility), were also thrown on the bed on which we were to spend our wedding night, two days before the nuptials, during our ritual bed-making ceremony. (People threw money too, but we pocketed that quickly and left the rice, Jordan almonds, and rose petals on the bed until the wedding night; the hotel housekeepers, familiar with the tradition, did not disturb it at all.)
But it’s not just Greeks who love an excuse to eat treats, and who embrace any attempt to make life sweeter. This past weekend I attended a gorgeous wedding in the equally gorgeous city of Cartagena, Colombia. The bride is Colombian and the groom is Brazilian, and they followed the Brazilian tradition of having “bem casados” on the dessert table. These are Brazilian whoopie pies, two pieces of vanilla cake/cookies with dulce de leche in between. Their name means “well-married”, or, to smooth the translation, “happily married”. They’re wrapped up to resemble a little gift to the guests, but by eating them, I like to think we’re all doing our part, adding to the wishes that the newlyweds will have a wonderful life together. It’s a highly delicious form of altruism.