09/06/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How Important Is Cooking In Keeping the Marriage Flame Burning?

How do I spice up my married life?

Instead of consulting the Kama Sutra, I leaf through Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa and my husband is served something hot and steamy. And really delicious. It could be a fleshy peach soaking in a bed of cinnamon and honeyed syrup for morning pancakes. A big juicy steak for dinner dripping in fragrant oil or a lamb caressed with mint leaves. Dessert can range from a decadent chocolate cake to a creamy custard dusted with soft sugar flakes.

You see. Food is sensual.

Most of us in long term marriages know that few moves we make will shock our husbands. Nor do they have to. The familiar techniques that our bodies fall into are both pleasurable and comforting. But that doesn't mean we're not daring or inventive.

What I cook each week offers far more opportunities for variety than whether I move my buns two degrees to the left. Plus the degree of pleasure my husband gets from my cooking lingers and nourishes our relationship through good times, bad times and these economically challenging times.

Although in my household, I'm the cook, other relationships may star both partners in the kitchen or just one. Either way, those aromas and tastes in creating something new and fresh can seduce people to stay at home and not leave so easily.

Which is why I don't understand why the media bombard us with so much pressure to be a tart and so little in comparison about the skills in making one

Fortunately, Nora Ephron may be changing that.

Thanks to her film, Julie & Julia, we meet couples who crave sole meuniere instead of an affair or divorce. The soul of this film is not about the dawn of a relationship or the end. It's about couples who continue to have an appetite for each other and whose vital links are the meals one shares day after day, week after week, year after year. As a result, this film stirs up food for thought on what binds relationships together.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. Women who are good cooks still have had their husbands leave them. (Though my best friend's scoundrel of an ex-husband still confesses he misses her chili). Or a woman may look at her spouse and realize their relationship is a fallen soufflé. All this is true and most likely why one writer quipped, anyone who thinks the way to a man's heart is through his stomach flunked geography.

To this geography question I would respond that there can be several roads that lead to a pleasant state, not just one. Maybe a "Men-u" has a variety of options that can be served through dishes not spouses. It's finding the right blend of ingredients. And there is true power - and love - in the art of cooking.

My friend Linda Lee surmises that sex is about youth and food is about mommy which is why its charms have been undersold. It's not even about advertising dollars since sex and food are both fuel for plenty of commercials.

In young relationships, the courtships center around restaurants as in Sex and the City. But "Sex in the Suburbs," a.k.a. married life with kids, can be a rude awakening. There's the tyranny of food management, including shopping, storing, preparing and then cleaning. Suddenly you have mouths to feed who require three meals and snacks every day.

Maybe that's why Garrison Keillor once said "Sex is good but not as good as fresh sweet corn." Or Thomas Wolfe remarked how, "There is no sight on earth more appealing than the sight of a woman making dinner for someone she loves."

This is why it's useful to learn how to cook and offer variety. Now to be honest, there have been times I'm steamed at my husband while I'm washing vegetables as happens in any long term marriage. He has also said that a good meal has helped melt hard feelings. No matter the circumstances, the reward is that I always feel a sense of accomplishment after I've prepared the meal and not only my husband, but my friends and children also appreciate it.

Do you work hard on things you love or do you love the things you work hard on? It doesn't matter which way it goes.

Nora Ephron was right when she said, "Cooking is the only thing in life where if you follow the rules you are guaranteed results." What else can you say that about?