On one of our first dates, my now husband tried to impress me by making a Jamaican meal. It was packaged rice and peas along with jerk chicken that was so hot, it made us cry and laugh at the whole fiasco. Ten years later, he’s learned to make his own rice and peas—no more packaged stuff! And he’s earned the official title of “Honourary Jamaican” across three countries from my Jamaican family members, despite his predominantly white Canadian ancestry. Soon, he’ll be helping me introduce Jamaican culture to our daughter’s Girl Guide troop, serving up some rice and peas and patties.

Obviously, his initial attempts at cooking were the awkward fumbles of a boy in love, but thankfully, he didn’t let that mishap stop him. Especially now that he has a partner willing to handle the clean-up, the part he hates most, and family members who take great pleasure in almost everything he produces. He’s looking forward to cooking in the (almost) dream kitchen of our newly built home. His culinary investments have been costly and sometimes required a lot of justification on his part, but I can’t deny the obvious benefits.

I subscribe to my mom’s concept of cooking: we have to eat, so I will cook. This often means throwing things into a pot and seeing what comes out (slow cookers are a dream come true). Though my husband—who’s a bit of a picky eater—will disagree, I’d say a lot of my end products are quite tasty and ultimately, they serve the practical purpose of getting us through the busy week without resorting too often to pre-packaged or fast food. But on weekends and special events, that’s when my husband shines.

He’s got several staples—comfort foods like spaghetti sauces and stews, and he’s always got the barbecues available for something tasty—and nothing beats a classic steak. His repertoire expands regularly, initially inspired by my Jamaican roots, but moving on through anything that happens to catch his eye. Sometimes, dinner stems from him simply deciding he wants to try something new with chicken, or beef, or some unique item from a different culture, which then opens the door for family discussions on different cultures and their culinary practices. At this year’s family reunion on his side, we’ve been asked to prepare a Jamaican meal to share with everyone (well, he’ll prepare it; I’ll clean up). For the past few years, his Greek sister-in-law has made souvlaki, rice, potatoes, and salad, but now it’s our turn to introduce my culture through food to people who are used to the steak-and-potato basics.

Disneys The Princess and the Frog

It’s moments like this that make me appreciate Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (left) even more with its focus on how important food can be:

“You know the thing about good food? It brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up and it puts little smiles on their faces.”

Like the movie, we love to have our kids in the kitchen with us. We introduced them to cooking early on, and they often help with making meals. We skipped the various fancy kid-sized accouterments available and opted instead to just plop the kids on the counter with spoons.

Photo by Wendy BrowneThe Food Network is a pretty standard watch around our house, and you can often find us cuddled up on the couch, drooling over something on the television. We also make a point of eating together at a proper sit down meal as often as we can. It’s something that usually only happened at special occasions in our respective families, but together, we’ve taken to heart the importance of family dinner time and do our best to make it a steady habit.

Now our girls are older and able to take charge of meals themselves. My husband will let them pick recipes and work with them to bring it all together. I’ll let them go crazy with scientific experimental concoctions. He looks forward to sharing his staple recipes with them when they’re older or having them return home from college to a nice warm bowl of potato bacon soup. Because there’s nothing like the comfort of a home cooked meal.

For my husband, food is a great way for him to show he cares and to automatically know when he’s done a good job. When the girls ask for seconds, when his jerk pork is specially requested and thoroughly fought over and devoured at family gatherings, or when I do my little Gina Torres fork dance, he knows he’s done good.