Oliver and Annabelle share mom and dad's affinity for linguine with lobster tail in cream sauce. Credit: Brian Swanson

Having lived in Chicago for 12 years, I’ve been to lots of good restaurants, but my favorite food is made at home with my husband, who’s a chef. We’ve spent hours of our lives hanging out in the kitchen cooking, usually for ourselves, sometimes for friends. The most special dish he makes for me—on birthdays, anniversaries, or just to tell me that he loves me—is always pasta, usually in a cream sauce because I love cream. During our courtship days, when we were “hanging out,” he made a holiday dinner for two close friends and me. He made shrimp and scallions on angel hair in a citrus butter sauce. I helped him shop for the ingredients. I watched him cook it. It was simple, but not, and it tasted amazing. It may have been why I married him. In the early years of our marriage he refused to teach me to cook; he said that if I learned how I’d leave him, but then he realized that I would never learn, so now he tries to teach me. He is generally unsuccessful.

Miranda Swanson

Two and a half years ago I gave birth to our twins and that changed everything. Brian is now a stay-at-home dad, which is hard, rewarding work. I’m the main breadwinner in the family, which is hard, rewarding work. We don’t have the energy to hang out and spend hours cooking one meal, and we try to eat together as a family, which means dinner early. But it was my birthday recently, and when I got home from work the kids were dressed up—it’s more usual to find Annabelle dressed in a striking layered ensemble of her own choosing and Oliver sporting his preference of a diaper and T-shirt. I was presented with a gorgeous abstract watercolor that they had painted for me—and for dinner, lobster tail on linguine in a basil and red pepper cream sauce, a side of peas and pearl onions with bacon, garlic bread, and a banana cake with cream cheese frosting the kids had helped make. It was the first time the kids had tried lobster. Annabelle ate hers by the fistful. Oliver laid his linguine out in stripes across his bowl. It was simple, but not, and it tasted amazing.