Third Dates: Cooking Dinner For Two
At some stage you may want to invite your date for dinner. This is not just the domain of a woman as I fully expect men in equal measure to offer to make dinner. Remember that romance is in the details, not in the grand gestures. Offering to make dinner will not be a first date scenario because inviting someone into your home can only occur after a degree of trust has been established. Neither will offering dinner in your home be an open-invitation for sex though that can and does happen due the environment and proximity of a bedroom.
No, offering to make dinner can be a daunting affair and planning is essential if things are to go well. The first mistake people make is in trying to be too impressive. Most people can cook something of merit if they put their mind to it, but reaching for an experts guide to Filo pastry is not going to win your dates heart unless you know what you are doing.
On this occasion, do not experiment on a new dish unless you are prepared to practice prior to the occasion on a friend or two. We saw in Bridget Jones how she made blue soup with string and the same disaster will befall you my friend unless you start thinking in advance. If you are currently single, when was the last time you offered to cook for friends? It is all too easy to meet in a restaurant and is not on the same planet of romance as cooking personally. So if you are single why not sort out at least a couple of really nice dishes now so that you can prepare when the time comes. The benefit of this is that you get a social occasion this week into the bargain.
The first issue you have is getting the day right. Mid week can be fine but have you got the time to prepare adequately? Cooking dinner will generally take a little more than the usual 15 minutes meal for one in the microwave from the grocery store so get your thinking cap on. Maybe Saturday evening would be better. After all, it is not your first date and your date has agreed so you have more of the day to begin preparing.
Okay so let’s agree that you have gone for a night when you can prepare with enough time not to panic. The next thing is to set the scene. Candles are essential but a room that requires a miners lamp is not light enough so don’t make your date struggle to find the table. Quality candles are the key, long burning ones at that. However avoid scented candles as they can spoil the aroma of your cuisine miracle.
The table should be set properly with perhaps a small vase of flowers and certainly napkins and decent cutlery and glasses. You should be seated opposite your date and never to one side or the same side because I am assuming you would like to look at each other across a candlelit table. The music you select should be a shared taste but of muted background variety so as not to intrude on the conversation, but enough to fill any pauses in the chat, should they occur. Classical, jazz or gentle ambient are perfect sounds.
Make sure your kitchen and apartment are organized, clean and tidy and always clean up as you prepare the meal. A kitchen that looks like it has been hit by a missile doesn’t instill confidence. It is essential when preparing that you have asked your date in advance what they don’t like so that you can best avoid the embarrassment of a meal that someone doesn’t like. A first meal can be stressful on both sides and shouldn’t be – so damage limitation in advance is necessary.
Once you know what they don’t like to eat you can avoid such foodstuffs and give some good thought to what you can manage to prepare. Once again we come back to the age old advice that the effect is in the effort made. Try not to recreate their favorite dish unless you really can because you invite comparison. Neither should you be too adventurous. If you are trying to prepare something that even a 5 star hotel chef would baulk at then you are inviting disaster. You may both laugh about the burnt offerings afterwards but that’s not the point of the occasion. Something with no imagination like spaghetti Bolognese or Pizza is best left out of this equation.
Modern cook books display everything from fancy pastry to fusion cookery and again they are danger areas for the unpracticed so think carefully. You should go for a simple fresh starter, a main course that is not too heavy and an interesting desert, with an alternative of cheese and fruit. You need to be able to adapt the meal if necessary. Your efforts will be highly appreciated. Neither should the food overtake the purpose of the evening which is spending time with each other, so when your date arrives you should be able to produce the food in its intended format without looking like acting like a demented chemist .
Most food can be prepared in advance and simply requires warming in the oven or is completed whilst your date enjoys a glass of wine with you in the kitchen. Cooking is sociable so don’t order him/her from the kitchen area with a grimace whilst shouting “too many cooks spoil the broth”. On the other hand try not to invite attempts from your date to give advice. Which is why you should be organized before they arrive.
So, make sure you select three dishes you can prepare, a starter, main course and sweet dish and do one thing at a time. Some dishes require you to do than more than one thing at a time so be orderly and read the recipes in advance to understand what it is you are doing. By washing up as you go you will feel more in control and can keep the kitchen semi-clean. Your dishes should compliment each other and even better you may wish to work on a theme, like Mediterranean cookery, Cajun or something that is of interest to you both. Try and avoid hot and spicy unless you are a risk taker.
Always allow a third more time than you anticipate and give yourself enough time to get ready before your date arrive so that everything is the way you want it. You may want to try and relax before your date arrives too so do pour yourself a glass of wine and get the music on. Anticipate the evening ahead and try and think ofd things that may arise and prepare ahead.
You may wish to ask a friend round in the afternoon to assist and keep you company whilst you prepare. That way the pressure is off and you can both work to make sure everything is perfect. Don’t guzzle litres of the cooking wine whilst you prepare as being drunk when your guest arrives will ruin everything.
Choose a selection of red and white wines as well as anything you know your date likes to drink. Also have some good quality mineral water that you can serve chilled at the table. Cooking for your date will not be the cheapest thing you ever did but you are trying to make a good impression so invest wisely.
Never ever pretend that you are a better chef than you are as this will become clear in the first moments of the first course that you aren’t. Also don’t try and offer too much food, three courses are fine. If you are even thinking of getting in an outside caterer or pre-prepared food to pretend it is your own creation, please leave the room now and don’t come back! Don’t start apologizing about your cooking once you both settle in. Be confident and enjoy the occasion. Take your time and don’t rush the occasion. A good meal can take anything from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on the pace and the conversation between courses.
You may be thinking that I am portraying things far too formally. This is because I am mentioning things that you may encounter. Dinner for two can be a meal on a tray in front of the TV. At the same time it can be as formal as you like. But the key thing is to ensure the evening is a relaxed affair whilst portraying any cooking competence you can. You will often see couples in restaurants feeding food to each other. This is because in nature we want to provide and demonstrate that we can, so feeding each other is a natural way of sublimely demonstrating our abilities in provision.
Eating together is one of the most intensely personal things you can do, it is about sharing and a great way to get closer. Food can be a great stimulator and provide a great sense of occasion. This is possibly why a meal for two at home can lead on to other things.
In summary, you should offer to cook for your date and you should prepare carefully. Whilst not every time you eat together in future may be on the same level of effort, this occasion will be well remembered. You are at a crucial stage in your developing relationship and so why not make the most of it. Even better, it is their turn to cook next.