My boyfriend, Eric, is the gourmet cook in our relationship, but heâ€™d always want me to make him a sandwich.
â€œAbout 15 minutes,â€ Iâ€™d reply.
To him, sandwiches are like kisses or hugs. Or sex. â€œSandwiches are love,â€ he says. â€œEspecially when you make them. You canâ€™t get a sandwich with love from the deli.â€
One lazy summer afternoon just over a year ago, I finally gave in. I assembled turkey and Swiss on toasted wheat bread. I spread Dijon mustard generously on both bread slices, and I made sure the lettuce was perfectly in line with the neatly stacked turkey slices.
Eric devoured the sandwich as if it were a five-star meal, diving in with large, eager bites. â€œBabes, this is delicious!â€ he exclaimed.
Stephanie with her boyfriend, Eric Schulte.
As he finished that last bite, he made an unexpected declaration of how much he loved me and that sandwich: â€œHoney, youâ€™re 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring!â€
Was our happily ever after as simple as making him a few sandwiches?
Our relationship has always centered on food. We met at a restaurant in Chelsea two years ago when a friend I was dining with spotted an Alexander SkarsgÃ¥rd look-alike. An introduction was made, and I found out heâ€™s a computer programmer, a Taurus (or as he says, â€œWhatâ€™s that sign for people who donâ€™t believe in astrology?â€), obsessed with â€œStar Warsâ€ and a very good cook.
On our second date, he cooked me dinner â€” tuna tartare and fresh scallops on a tomato compote. More delicious meals, nearly all of them cooked by him, followed, and soon we were dating seriously. The fact that he could make a perfect filet mignon, not just order one in a steakhouse, was a big turn-on.
A year ago, we moved in together to a sleek place in Brooklyn. Weâ€™ve met each otherâ€™s parents, traveled internationally without strangling each other and successfully hosted many a dinner party.
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Things were moving at a natural pace, but I wondered what it would take for him to propose. Iâ€™m in my mid-30s, and my parents have been happily married for more than 35 years. I have always valued the commitment and dedication it takes to get married and stay married. Call me old-fashioned, but Iâ€™d like to raise a family with someone who feels likewise.
Maybe I needed to show him I could cook to prove that I am wife material. If he wanted 300 sandwiches, Iâ€™d give him 300 sandwiches â€” and Iâ€™d blog about it.
I bought the 300sandwiches.com domain name and a Nikon DSLR. I perused tons of recipe sites and cookbooks for sandwich ideas. I asked friends for suggestions, but some, especially my single friends, were less than supportive of the idea.
â€œHow â€˜Stepford Wivesâ€™ of you!â€ said one single gal whose kitchen was used for shoe storage.
Another, a hard-working C-suite banking executive, also objected. â€œItâ€™s not 1950!â€ she exclaimed. â€œItâ€™s chauvinistic! Heâ€™s saying, â€˜Cook for me, woman, and maybe Iâ€™ll make you my wife.â€™â€
My own mother was doubtful. â€œHoney, can you even cook?â€ she asked.
â€œNo, but Iâ€™ll learn!â€ I argued.
The â€œSubstitute for Tomatoesâ€ Turkey Pear Club Sandwich.
I started with the easy things. My second sandwich after the turkey and Swiss was a two-second ice-cream sandwich constructed from Annaâ€™s ginger thin cookies and blackberry currant ice cream. My early thinking was quantity, not quality.
Ten sandwiches or so in, I did the math. Three sandwiches a week, times four weeks a month, times 12 months a year, meant I wouldnâ€™t be done until I was deep into my 30s. How would I finish 300 sandwiches in time for us to get engaged, married and have babies before I exited my childbearing years?
My mother was the voice of reason. â€œRelationships are a marathon, not a sprint,â€ she said. â€œTake it one sandwich at a time.â€
I made sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. I made sandwiches to get myself out of the doghouse â€” like No.â€‰67, a scrambled egg, smoked salmon and chive creation that combined some of Ericâ€™s favorite things to make up for my being 45 minutes late for dinner the night before.
Even after covering movie premieres or concerts for Page Six, I found myself stumbling into the kitchen to make Eric a sandwich while I still had on my high heels and party dress.
Making all of these sammies, Iâ€™ve learned how much Eric loves sharing cooking with me. He enjoys going to the grocery store with me, picking out ingredients and planning dinners. Though I still want to get engaged and get married and live happily ever after, Iâ€™ve also put less pressure on the race to the 300th sandwich and Iâ€™m enjoying the cooking experience with Eric.
Today, Iâ€™ve made and blogged about 176 sandwiches. Over the months, my creations have grown more complex â€” lobster rolls, bÃ¡nh mÃ¬s, pulled pork. No matter whatâ€™s on the menu, Eric smiles and says thank you. Heâ€™s just happy I cook for him at all.
â€œYou women read all these magazines to get advice on how to keep a man, and itâ€™s so easy,â€ he says. â€œWeâ€™re not complex. Just do something nice for us. Like make a sandwich.â€