I hope I get Brussels sprouts from my husband as a Valentine's Day gift this year.
My husband is an amazing cook. Many of the best meals I have ever eaten were prepared in our kitchen. Under his skilled touch, even the humblest ingredients become magical.
And his Brussels sprouts are one of my all-time favorite dishes. Even though he doesn't like them himself, he makes them for me for special occasions.
You need to know that Brussels sprouts don't come in a frozen cardboard package at my house. They come on a 3-foot long, spiky stalk and look like a weapon from "Game of Thrones" — an intimidating, cruciferous mace covered in shiny, baby cabbages.
My husband goes to a farmers market every weekend to buy produce. And when he brings home a stalk of Brussels sprouts on a Saturday, I know he has romance on his mind. My husband's love language is cooking and food. Brussels sprouts are his idea of a wink and a pinch.
Brussels sprouts on a stalk require a lot of work. You have to really love someone in order to make these the way he prepares them for me.
First he wrestles with the heavy stalk to cut off the freshest, best sprouts. Next he peels, washes and trims each tiny cabbage. Finally he cuts them in half and steams them over lemon scented water.
I will hear him in the kitchen humming as he slices onions and crushes cloves of garlic. When the Brussels sprouts and vegetables have caramelized in a hot pan with a swirl of good olive oil, he will pour in a splash of aged balsamic vinegar and top everything with crispy bits of fried bacon and a fluffy cloud of Parmesan cheese.
Cooked this way, Brussels sprouts are magical. Salty from the bacon and cheese. Sweet from the onions and balsamic. And steaming with love.
(Bet you never thought you'd read "Brussels sprouts" and "steaming with love" in the same paragraph.)
My husband goes to all of this trouble for no other reason than I love this dish. It makes me happy. It is a gift from his heart, made with his hands in our kitchen. Without saying a word, he speaks volumes to me in his love language of food.
After being married for 12 years, we have learned that in love, the little things are really the big things. And over the long haul of romance, the little things give you quiet but powerful opportunities to keep love alive.
I always tell my husband "thank you" when he makes me Brussels sprouts. He always replies, "Don't get used to it." And I don't.
These are reminders that love is precious and, even when in full bloom, must be tended to and nurtured. To keep romance growing, you have to speak a language that your partner understands.
Even if what you say is Brussels sprouts.
So this Valentine's Day, the romantic gift I want from my husband won't come from a store or be wrapped in a box. It won't have a bow or be tucked into tissue paper.
The gift I want will come on a stalk from the farmers market. When I see it stuck in the kitchen sink on a Saturday morning, it will remind me that, even into a second decade of marriage, the little things that matter to me are still important to my husband.
With crispy bacon, a pinch of love and my husband's magical touch in the kitchen, this gift will make my mouth water.
And my heart sing.
Dawn Golik lives in Fresno with her husband and their two young daughters. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.