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Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 
Issue #111 The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 

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The Joy of Being A Feeder Dan Saelinger/Trunk Archive

The Unapologetic Joy Of Being A Feeder 

There are 18 tabs open in my internet browser, each detailing a different recipe I might make for dinner. You might think tonight is a special occasion, but it’s just a regular weeknight and I’m cooking for a friend whose house I’ve been staying at. To some, 18 options might seem excessive. To me, it’s perfectly normal behaviour.

After all, I’m making this meal as a ‘thank you’, to my friend, for letting me take up space in her wardrobe and occupying all of her evenings during my three-week stay. It’s a ‘welcome home’ after what sounds like her long day at work; and an ‘I saw this recipe a month ago and thought of you instantly, so I saved it to make for when I arrived as we’ve not seen each other in two years and I’ve missed you’ gesture. This is more than just a meal; it’s love.

My name is Olivia and I’m a feeder. If I care about you, I will try to feed you, whether that’s inviting you round for a lunch, baking you cakes or turning up on your doorstep with a bottle of hot sauce I think you’ll love (who needs flowers?). 

You’ve probably heard of love languages by now – the concept outlined by relationship counsellor Dr Gary Chapman in his book back in 1992. The theory details the five ways in which people express love: acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation and physical touch. The idea has been broadly adopted by therapists and relationships ever since, helping us to understand how and, importantly, why we express our emotions in particular ways. “The theory is that we all have a primary language that speaks to us more than the others – even if we can relate to all of them,” explains psychologist Rachel Maclynn, the CEO and founder of matchmaking service Maclynn.

I certainly identify with some more than others – namely acts of service and quality time. But if it wasn’t already clear, for me, there’s one overriding love language I turn to most: food. OK, it’s not one of the ‘official’ five, but I’m starting to think that it should be the sixth. It leans into several of the traditional categories: preparing, cooking and serving food for others is clearly an act of service; carving out an evening to host others is quality time; and bringing homemade cookies to your friend’s house is a very personal form of gift giving. The fact that being a feeder incorporates so many of these love languages is enough reason for championing its official status, if you ask me.

It seems I’m not alone in this rather specific display of affection. Perhaps it’s my algorithm, but a scroll through social media brings up video after video of people hosting dinner parties for loved ones, and endless recipes designed to feed large groups. A recent survey in the US revealed that nearly two-thirds of adults also consider food to be the sixth love language. And as Maclynn says: “Preparing and sharing a meal is both intimate and communal, making it a powerful expression of love, whether platonic or romantic. It goes beyond merely performing a task; it’s about the thought, care and creativity involved in choosing, preparing and presenting food.”

This idea is the basis of food writer Bre Graham’s cookbook Table For Two, which is filled with recipes designed to be shared with a loved one. “I think it’s the most intimate thing to cook for someone, cater to their tastes and to go out of your way to delight them with a dish,” she says.

“Cooking is always the thing I turn to when I have a friend in need and want to show that I care – new babies, bereavement, house moves, you name it,” adds cook, recipe writer and presenter Sophie Wyburd (whose newsletter is aptly named Feeder – she’s one of us). “I am very much an ‘acts of service’ and ‘quality time’ gal, and I can’t think of a better way of doing this than giving the people you love a good dinner, whether that is getting them around a table or dropping off Tupperware stuffed with treats.”

Just as I’m starting to wonder where all this desire to feed others is coming from, I speak to Jodie Cariss, CEO and co-founder of therapy service Self Space. She says: “When looking at love languages and where you sit within this, ask questions of yourself: Why does this feel like love to you? Is it what you were shown or not shown as a child?”

Wyburd relates to the idea that cooking for others can be rooted in childhood experiences: “I grew up in a joyous, chaotic house with my parents and four sisters, so a busy dining table has always been a place where I feel at home,” she says. 

I think back to my own favourite memories as a child: standing on a stool in my Nana’s kitchen, flour flying as we measured ingredients to bake her signature Victoria sponge. My Papa sneaking a Milkybar into my hand with a conspiratorial wink. The whole family crowded round the table for Sunday lunches – extended as far as it would go, with extra chairs squeezed in to seat as many of us as possible. 

Really, my love language makes perfect sense – food is how I learned to show love, so it makes sense that it’s the way I look to receive it in my adult life, too. 

“Getting curious about why a particular love language resonates with you will also help you remain open when exploring the ways you like to show and receive love,” explains Cariss. 

I’ll never forget when, during a particularly rough time, a friend showed up at my door armed with a bag full of ingredients. She refused my offer of making her a drink, and instead sat me down at my dining table, served me a drink and set about cooking a meal in my own kitchen. As she served up steaming bowls of pasta, it was clear this was just so much more than a carbonara. Her pure act of kindness showed she was looking after me in the way she knew I’d accept it best.

“As someone who cooks and writes about food for a living, someone else cooking for me rarely happens, so it’s really special when someone does,” agrees Graham. “It could be something spectacular and thought out or just a slice of toast (with lots of salted butter), but what matters most is the attention in the act of cooking and wanting to make someone feel seen and adored.” 

So, at any time, take a look inside my kitchen and there will probably be something bubbling on the stove, stewing in the slow cooker or marinating in the fridge, ready for my next turn at bringing friends together around my dining table – nights full of eating, drinking, deep conversation and raucous laughter. Food provides the vehicle for all these experiences, and that’s precisely why I keep on feeding – it brings me closer to the people I love.

3 Crowd-Pleasing Meals To Serve Your Loved Ones… 

  1. Sophie Wyburd’s Pork And Porcini Lasagne – “I’m a big fan of cooking anything that you can prep well in advance, so that you can spend more time with people and not be chained to the stove. There is a pork and porcini lasagne in my book Tucking In that is perfect for this – you slowly braise pork shoulder with porcini mushrooms and other aromatics, then layer it with lasagne sheets and bechamel. You can prep it a day in advance, and then just whack it in the oven when you are ready to eat. Serve it with some good bread and a few salads, and everyone is happy.”
  2. Bre Graham’s Smoked Chilli And Vodka Rigatoni – “I love something simple like my Smoked Chilli and Vodka Rigatoni. It takes minutes to make, but tastes like you’ve been slowly stirring a pot of sauce for hours.”
  3. Seema Pankhania’s Salted Chicken – I don’t think you’ll find a more comforting meal to offer those you love than a Sunday dinner. A classic roast chicken suits most crowds, and the one recipe that has never failed me is Seema Pankhania’s two-ingredient salted chicken recipe (which coincidentally was shown to her by Sophie Wyburd, along with Jordon King). Add in roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire puddings (which go with every roast, and I won’t hear a word against it), an array of butter-soaked veg and lashings of thick gravy and everyone will be happy.

Bre Graham’s cookbook Table For Two is out now; Sophie Wyburd’s cookbook Tucking In is out 13 June and is available to pre-order now

Olivia McCrea-Hedley is Copy Editor at Service95

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