I’m not sure how it happened, but all evidence to the contrary I stubbornly cling to this notion. Somewhere along the way I became convinced I could make someone love me by cooking for them. And not just cooking, seducing them with my wonderful, amazing, scrumptious food. They would eat something I made especially for them, and they would be overcome with the perfect blend of affection and desire. We would live happily ever after.
Over the years this philosophy hasn’t really panned out, though I continue to try. When we were seniors in high school, my best friend Laura and I planned an elaborate day for two guy friends. I was secretly half in love with one of them, and I swear I planned the meal as if it would clinch the deal. We took them to NYC to theater; out for lunch, and then home to dinner. I still remember the menu; it was a Greek feast including handmade stuffed grape leaves, and baklava (two of the most labor-intensive and time consuming dishes you could ever make) all made with love and longing.
The day was fun, the dinner a disaster. The food was wonderful, everything turned out perfectly, but Seth, my crush found it all too weird and foreign. He complained about everything, refusing to eat the baklava because it contained nuts (this was not an allergy issue). I was crushed. We did go on to have the high-school version of a stormy relationship. I adored him, but he loved someone else who was unavailable. He settled for me, and I settled for that. I continued to try to cook for him, but it never worked out very well.
Through my college years I repeated that relationship model with Wayne, and aspiring comedian. I loved him madly, he longed for someone else, and again we each settled. Cooking for Wayne was as ungratifying as cooking for Seth had been. He didn’t like chicken with bones, or the kind of sauces I made, or whatever… Though everyone else raved about my cooking, and clamored for an invite to dinner, Wayne remained unimpressed, and un-won.
Seeking romance via the stove continued through my life, and rarely met with success, though I continued to try this portal to the hearts of my sweethearts, lovers, and crushes. If only I could lure them to my kitchen, they would fall under my spell, and love me truly, and forever. I still try. I cook for other people too, not just the objects of my affection, but it is those meals I fantasize over the way sexier, more sophisticated women fantasize about rose petals on silk sheets, and a magically chilled bottle of Champagne and glasses within easy reach of the bed. I dream of short ribs with a cheesy polenta, and warm pear tarts and the image of my beloved swooning over the meal is what gets me hot.
Yet, I stubbornly still believe. Things have changed. Times have changed. Good food is easy to come by; most people don’t cook anymore, unless they are the moms of toddlers. Everyone else goes out to eat. Perfectly braised brisket and crispy roast chicken don’t impress anyone, let alone seduce them. It may be time to review if not revamp my philosophy. Cooking is a joy, no matter who I’m doing it for, including myself! Cooking may be the way to someone’s heart, but unless they’ve got theirs on their sleeve, I’m done guessing.