They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Not only does this simplify the wearer of the Y chromosome, amounting him to little more than a domestic animal - it also neglects a woman's romantic relationship with food. The stereotype is that women like to be wined and dined, but rarely is the focus on the cuisine itself. Instead it's the act of being splurged upon that is seen to satisfy our hunger. Even more problematic is the idea that a few multi-coloured cocktails are all it takes to raise a man's stock and lower a woman's standards.
Whether or not a man's heart does lurk in his belly, let's agree that men take both food and hunger very seriously. This is perfectly demonstrated in the confessional cheese omelette whipped up for Nina Mosley (Nia Long) by Darius Lovehall (Larenz Tate) in 1997's Love Jones, which suggests that women too can be wooed via their stomachs.
I first discovered how much one can say with a fancy beaten egg, not through Love Jones but through song lyrics referencing the scene. When R&B sweetheart Eric Roberson crooned "You come downstairs with them legs... I'm making cheese omelettes" in his song The Newness, you knew he was smitten. When someone once offered to make me a cheese omelette, I melted like Brie at a picnic. I connected the dots when watching the film some years later; that cheese omelette meant much more than Robertson's gooey lyrics inclined, he wasn't just smitten - he was in love.
For many, Love Jones is an anthem for realistic black relationships. Cheesy slices aside, the all-black cast provide a refreshment from the tide of movies that shunt people of colour into the wings. Love Jones also navigates the thin line between love and hate between men and women with respectable style. Sandwiched either side of That Omelette Scene are musings on how relationships fly or fall. As ever, tête-à-têtes are the soap box moments where the leads use their BFFs to test the temperature of how they really feel.
An early scene presents Darius as a romantic poet cased in an armour of cool. Discussing romance at a smoky poetry gig, the crew are quick to dismiss the flowers and chocolate trope (they're deeper than that), debating whether or not "romance is dead". Darius slides on in" "Romance is about the possibility of the thing. It's about the time when you first meet some fine ass woman, and when you first make love to her. And when you first ask a woman to marry you, and from the moment she says I do". Cue nods of agreement from his homies. The guys are sold.
The morning after their courtship leads them back to Nina's house for codeword "coffee", and the morning after she "comes downstairs with them legs" (to quote Roberson's song) to find Darius cooking breakfast. That omelette is "the possibility of the thing".
"She put it on me, man. The next morning I got up and made breakfast."
"You made her breakfast? Wait a minute. You cooked what?! A cheese omelette? That's better than a Michael Jordan comeback!"
Love Jones also wants us to know that the couple that has breakfast together stays together. In a weak moment Nina reconciles with her cheating ex Marvin (Khalil Kain), but when they move back in together it's clear their love has turned sour. In argument we learn that Nina finished Marvin's toasted oats that morning. The run-in ends with him stropping to the store to "go out for some motherfucking toasted oats" and you know what they say about men who go out for oats...
The love lessons in Love Jones are clear. Obviously if someone makes you post-bang breakfast, they're entertaining the idea of sticking around, but it's what they dish up that counts. Forget fancy restaurants and rainbow hued-drinks; waking up to a piping-hot plate of eggs is the most delicious way to start a relationship.
This is an extract from the Bechdel Test Fest's forthcoming zine GIRLS GOTTA EAT, a compendium of female writers and illustrators on film and food. GIRLS GOTTA EAT will be on sale online and at our next event: Nora Ephron's Last Supper, a double bill of Nora Ephron classics - Heartburn and Julie & Julia plus a four course supper club with food inspired by the film and chats from guest speakers. Sun 29 May. BOOK NOW!