Hot Date

Published in Gourmet Live 03.30.11
Let’s face it boys, there is no romance without finance.

That’s the truth no matter how hard up for cash you are or how cheap you intend to be on your next date. Because if you are not forking it out on the purely financial side you are going to be paying for it in sweat equity.

What does that mean? That means more imaginative work. That means planning. That means giving women what they most want from us—empathy, imagination, dashing seize-the-moment-impetuousness and, of course, emotional security.

But here is a secret, especially when your wallet is tight and you can’t face yet another hundred-something dollar meal without a guarantee of a return on your investment: Ask her to cook with you.

Don’t ask her by text or email. There is no substitute for the human voice. At the very least, call her. Another hint? Lower the pitch of your voice. I once took a dog training course and the trainer told me right off the bat that if you pitch your voice too high and you repeat your commands too often, the dog thinks you are just another yapping puppy. But if you pitch your voice low, and your commands are short and simple, the dog is more likely to obey. Get the picture?

So use your good phone voice or best of all, be brave and ask her in person. It’s more charming that way—it’s called old fashioned analog dating. Also, you can judge her body language: Is there a widening of the eyes accompanied by a coquettish laugh? Or perhaps a guarded downturn of the lips and a sidelong equivocal smile? Or does she recoil in horror and fear? (i.e. she can’t cook.)

Now that you have asked and you have received your response (hopefully number one or number two) you have to move decisively to the next phase: What food are the two of you going to cook together?

It’s flattering if you suggest a food reflective of her background—whatever that may be—Irish or Yugoslavian or Creole. It’s also helpful to suggest a food that has connotations of generational lineage. This is not cynical. It should come as a relief to her (empathy boys, remember empathy). This way she doesn’t feel the pressure of trying to make nouvelle cuisine or marinate ceviche for three days. Be open to what she suggests as a response—she might even make meatloaf.

We have now come to the run-up to the date. Remember: Women are different from us. The anticipation of the date—i.e. the planning of the clothes; the preparations of the body (including costly lotions and groomings too frightening to think about) and, most importantly, the pondering of various romantic scenarios—is extremely important. Women need to feel both physically and emotionally prepped for a date.

While she is concentrating on that, you have to demonstrate your willingness to help organize the dinner. This shows that you are not a lazy good-for-nothing-layabout who expects her to do all the work.

Ask her what ingredients you can pick up. Does she need any special equipment—juicer, garlic press, blender? (If you don’t have any of those things, remember that you’re a cheap bastard and don’t go out and buy anything. Just admit that you don’t have the latest Henkels knife—that all that you have is one of those flimsy white plastic ones that comes with a napkin in a cellophane bag—and she will take pity on you, think it’s endearing, and bring her own.)

This phase of planning the dinner is crucial. Yes, boys, this is part of the date. You might think that talking about the food and the implements that are needed is purely practical. But you would be wrong. It’s called co-operative engagement, which is a form of intimacy for that other species called women. If it helps, just think of it as conversational foreplay.

And now I’m going to leave these introductory remarks in order to tell you the story of Cooking Date #1—a rocking woman of Mexican descent (not Salma Hayek) whom I met unexpectedly while picking up my 6 year-old from school. (Yes I am, unfortunately, newly divorced.)


We had gone out once previously for what I had hoped would be an inexpensive but classy first date—drinks (I had clearly said drinks) at an upscale restaurant in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. She had ordered a 2009 Grüner Veltliner ($12 a glass) and I’d started off with a glass of 2008 Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast ($15). We were talking up a storm. I ordered another round. Suddenly it was 9:30 and we were both starving so we nibbled on minimal bar food—arugula and frisée salad with red radish, faro picillo and ricotta salata for her ($20) baked Hummock Island oysters with sea salt and bacon powder for me ($16). We were really getting along, so more drinks. And there it was—in one easy leap we had broken the one hundred dollar barrier. And we hadn’t even eaten a real meal.

I paid the check. My credit card groaned. We smooched a little in the taxi ($18 including tip). When I got home I inhaled a bowl of cereal. Then I dined on sardines, bread and mesclun greens for a week in order to save money. And I decided that the next date was going to be different.

Gourmet Live
Subscribe to Gourmet