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Appetite for Love

Surprising food encounters had these ladies smitten.

1 / 4

Mary Luz Mejia, Toronto

When I started dating Mario, he told me he could make a killer lemon cream chicken with pasta. He promised to cook up his signature dish for our first Big, Romantic Night. When dinner was served, I closed my eyes and inhaled the aromas of fresh lemon, zest and spices. But then I looked down, only to see a curdled mess of sauce swimming in my plate. I dug right in anyway and praised that meal to the moon, because this man had cared enough to pour a whole lot of TLC into those split sauce-logged chicken pieces. That dinner bonded us as partners; since then we’ve been together eight years and dined everywhere from Montreal to Mexico.

2 / 4

Mira Lambert, Montreal

We met on a fishing boat Vietnam. A week later Philippe turned up on my doorstep in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where I was living and working as an international aid worker, far from my native Australia. We were inseparable over the next few weeks, but I wasn’t sure if he was the one. When he offered to make lunch one day and asked where to get ingredients, I told myself if he could find Huyen, my favourite vendor in the crazy maze that is the local market, then I’d know. I gave him directions and left for work. When I returned, he served me succulent pork medallions, sautéed mustard greens and baby carrots bathed in honey and ginger. On my kitchen bench lay a bouquet of mixed oriental herbs, with Huyen’s signature red chili tucked in the middle.

3 / 4

Annemarie Corrigan, Vancouver

In 1997, we stepped out of the swirling mists of Kinsale, Southern Ireland, where I then lived, into an ancient restaurant called The Little Skillet for our second meal in ten years. The first was in Florence. Howard and I met on a train out of Marseilles and ended up hours and hours later on a trattoria in Florence – ravenous. Over the primi and secondi piatti we sang obscure Led Zeppelin lyrics to each other and felt a connection. After sleeping huddled in the doorway of the Gucci shop (long story), the next day we said “arrivederci” and promised to write. We never quite got around to it. I had just broken of a disastrous engagement when Howard called me a decade later. He happened to be in Ireland. There were nine Corrigans in the phone book; the first phone number he tried was my parents’. We arranged to meet in Kinsale and have been together since.

4 / 4

Dana McCauley, Toronto

Martin was the executive chef at Pangaea restaurant when he hired me as the entremettier (salad girl). During my first week, I was struggling with a ridiculously architectural salad and falling woefully behind. Martin came back to my station, took one look, tossed my salad out and made a new one in seconds. Then he left. I was far more shattered than if he had yelled that it was a disaster, and I went outside for a little cry. A few years later, I had a new job, but we often bumped into each other at food events, and we ended up together. Ironically, working with Martin – seeing how calmly he treated people and how committed he was to quality – meant I started dating him knowing that he would always be honest with me, without ever being cruel or vindictive.