‘Meet, eat, repeat’

There is one ingredient that seasons everything in any relationship – just like salt, it will bring out the flavour of the bond between two people. That ingredient is trust. If it’s not right, it absolutely needs adjusting because affects everything. It’s tantamount and it’s tangible – we feel it if it is or isn’t there. Trust is the ultimate gut feeling.

When it comes to trust in a relationship, there is no unveiling-the-cloche-‘ta-da!’ moment. Trust needs warm interactions to help it slowly rise. Perhaps today’s recipe should have been a soufflé. I am thinking of that scene from Shirley Valentine when young Shirley stabs Marjorie’s perfect soufflé – it dies a very quick, crumpled death. Trust is just like that – it’s fragile. It takes time to build, layer upon layer, and it starts from day one. Known as the ‘trust hormone’, oxytocin plays a key role in early mum-baby attachment by helping the production of breastmilk.

So how can we build trust in our relationships? The answer is through repeated interactions where we feel felt by another person – like the other person ‘gets us’. It’s about feeling connected. And people make bids for connection all the time. Look out for them – they’re there. How do you respond? The most obvious one is when a person asks ‘are you there for me?’, which is another way of saying ‘can I trust you?’ Small bids for connection everyday are like small trust tests. How we respond matters for the quality of any relationship, and these bids can happen in a range of ways: it can be a simple request or wanting to share what’s happened that day. It can be from the head, like needing a problem solved, or from the heart, like reaching out for a cuddle or initiating an intimate conversation. It can even be making dinner. From early doors, food is a drive-thru to connection, and therefore to building trust. We all need feeding repeatedly and so we have ample opportunities ready-made in our lives for connection. The ritual of dinner time is an important one – it’s connection that’s being cooked, as well as food.

I am very much looking forward to the release of Nigella Lawson’s new book Cook, Eat, Repeat. But it’s a message that bodes well for life beyond the kitchen. I may go full throttle with the rhyme for my own version: meet, eat, repeat: repeating pleasurable, comforting, connecting experiences, where we are ‘met’ just as we are, develops trust within relationships. In fact, meet, eat, repeat could be one of the best recipes for building trust. Food, in all manner of ways, facilitates social connection – it’s even been shown that eating similar food promotes trust and closeness between people who don’t know each other well. Similar ground is a good first layer to build on. That could be something to hold in mind next time you find yourself in a restaurant with a new date…

My recipe for this Greek-Japanese two bean salad was inspired by this life lesson.

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