12 January 2013

A Post from Ben: The Crème Brulee Conjecture

The other day, while Ben was making us some lovely creme brulee, he came up with a very sweet analogy about our relationship. I asked him if he'd like to write about it for the blog and he obliged. 

Crème brulee is essentially the most perfect dessert that man has ever had the good sense to create.  It’s crisp and bubbly brown caramelized sugar on top of that classic creamy custard core, and when it’s served just right the most subtle and delectable temperature gradient runs from oven-toasted hot and crusty down through every shade of pleasantly warm and whipped-cream cool to almost shocking refrigerator cold – and all that in every bite, on every single sweet and savory spoonful.  All this is just to say that you might be wondering what exactly there is in crème brulee to conjecture about, but I assure you that what I intend to posit has important romantic and culinary import that extends beyond the scope of a mere concoction of cream and eggs.

It all started with an episode of How I Met Your Mother in which Lily mentions something she likes to call the “Olive Theory”.  The Olive Theory contends that people who are truly compatible with each other will not always have exactly the same tastes, and that in fact a difference in specific kinds of food preference can be beneficial to a relationship.  She likes olives, her long-term boyfriend hates them (or so she thinks), and so this difference in their preferences in fact turns out to be something of a blessing that leaves both partners happy and satisfied.

Lisa and I have long considered the Olive Theory to accurately describe many of the food phenomena of our own relationship, so much so in fact that I felt the need to abandon Lily’s “Olive Theory” (especially since it turned out that Marshall actually liked olives) in favor of a more precise description of what exactly seems to be going on.

Consider for a moment sharing food with someone.  It could be anything, really: an appetizer, a dessert, a snack, an entrée. There always seems to come a time when one or both of you, with varying levels of discretion, is hell-bent on trying to get the last bit of your favorite part while attempting to maintain the calmly collected façade of impassivity and blasé indifference – who, after all, would really care about the last bite of the muffin top?  The answer: literally everyone.

Lisa and I have discovered time and again to our surprised delight that there is essentially zero overlap in terms of the particular parts that we prefer of all the various foods we share.  Lisa likes the middle of cinnamon buns, and I like the outer rings; Lisa likes the muffin tops, I like the bottoms; Lisa likes the bread sticks, I like the side salads.  The list goes on, but the other day while we were eating crème brulee we discovered that Lisa can’t get enough of the crispy brown top layer, and I much prefer the cool custard underneath.

And it doesn’t stop at food.  We have different preferences in terms of the movies we pick and the books we read, the music we like and the way we sleep.  To people looking at us from the outside we sometimes imagine that they couldn’t understand just what was holding us together in the face of so many differences.  And maybe it’s just one of the special dynamics of our relationship, that we revel in each other’s differences and unique experiences, and that we love to spend as much time doing what one of us loves as loving what the other prefers, but we like to think that it is precisely our differences that have allowed us to become so close.  So here at last we have the formal iteration of the Crème Brulee Conjecture: anyone who wants to form a true and enduring bond with a partner should be different enough that neither of you ever gets bored or wants to fight about the last piece of caramelized sugar on top of the crème brulee.

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