Last week, I had the pleasure of reading the new play—What’s Eating You?—by Jill Brooke and D.D. Rice. It’s about four people—two couples who stand for all of us. They love, they fight, they talk of it being over and yet, they urgently want their relationships to work.
Brooke and Rice teach us about our love life—and use food as their vehicle. To call the piece delicious doesn’t do it justice. To call it filling is too plain. What’s Eating You? is spicy, hot and cold—and filled with the nutrients we all need.
This is a great evening of theater—and it’s not just for food connoisseurs.
We all can learn a lesson or two about love.
Food is the center of so much human connection. It's ancient: Think of Adam, Eve and their dangerous apple, The Last Supper or a Renoir painting of lovers at a picnic. And it's contemporary: Think of Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day or even the ice-creamy sweetness of a birthday party. Think of family dinners or a late night out with your high school buddies way back when.
Food is a vehicle of connection.
How you prepare a meal tells a lot about you: Do you want a “quickie”—fast food—type of meal or do prefer formal dining? Will your feast come out just right? Have you added the right spice? Is it too salty or sweet; is there enough garlic (yummy) or cumin? Would a touch of wine work? And, what's the table going to look like? Relaxed and fun—or elegant and formal? No, preparing and presenting a great meal is a creative act—and a gift to yourself and those around you.
So too are relationships. The good ones require art, work, patience and palate. Yes, palate. You must develop a taste (and not disgust) for your partner, his blemishes as well as his strength; her worries as well as her beauty. Love, according to Brooke and Rice is an art—much like the huge and varied world of food.
Ms. Brooke was kind of enough to talk to us a little about the play.
Q. Are you a foodie?
A. Yes! I worked very odd hours on Nightline after college, so I would host dinner parties every other weekend, because it was the only time I had free to see friends. I always cooked, but a few years ago my life completely caved in. I was hit with so many curve balls at once; my husband got into an accident, we were hurt badly by a con man and my job at FirstWivesWorld.com lost funding. How do you go from feeling powerless to powerful again?
I knew that whatever was going on in my life, I could cook something and feel a sense of accomplishment. And meals together as a family became incredibly meaningful to maintain normalcy for my son and make me embrace the flavors of life. I was able to take in the pleasure of being with my husband, no matter how compromised our lives had become. I credit this with saving our marriage; you need to taste possibility and it was a real pleasure we could share aside from being with our son.
The power of what cooking can do for marriages and family became an inspiration for me.
As a culture, we expect people to be just like ourselves. I love sweets, and my son can’t get anything down without 5 spoons of Tabasco sauce. Why do we accept people who have different tastes but not different political beliefs? Knowing someone’s food choices heightens awareness and compatibility. I wanted to show that often in our relationships we both nourish and poison people for expecting them to be like we are.
Q. How did you and DD Rice get together and decide to write this?
A. I have been a professional writer for 25 years and I was working on a book called Recipes to Heal When Your Ex Makes You Sick. My son is friendly with DD’s and we ended up collaborating on a series of vignettes about food very much like the concept of Nora Ephon’s Love, Loss and What I Wore. We worked well together and DD is a wine expert and a creative thinker, so we decided to collaborate with that in mind; like figs and honey or strawberries and cream, it was just a good fit.
Q. You write about relationships in the real world, what has fiction allowed you to say that nonfiction has not?
A. Being a good writer means being a good thinker. I have covered divorce and marriage for years and I was a speech writer early on in my career. To be a really good reporter means to be a good listener and observer. Even in this field you need to be able to tell stories, and the medium of theater was a perfect marriage of those skills.
Q. Favorite comfort food?
A. Oh Yes! Coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, leg of lamb with mint jelly and lobster with butter sauce