Cooking up romance

In the United States, it’s hard to find a man who is even moderately comfortable in the kitchen. Even if I were to switch teams and start dating women, it’s possible I wouldn’t have much better luck.

What a shame, because cooking together creates romance and heightens intimacy. In our culture, eating on date night means eating out — dressing up, pulling out a chair, ordering off a menu and paying the bill. It’s time to rethink all that.

The possibilities for spontaneous romantic gestures in the privacy of your own kitchen are endless. A lean into your partner’s side to see what he or she is working on. A soft kiss on the neck. A shared inhale of a bubbling aroma. Pouring wine with a glance to the eyes that says, “I love you, you sexy thing.” The mystery spun by the uncertainty of the meal. A victory kiss on the way to the table.

Before teaching my first couples’ Date Night Cooking Class, I held a poll for the women on Facebook. The question I posed to the masses was as follows.

Ladies, which of the following situations would most inspire you to “be romantic” with your man?

A. You cook, and he cleans as you cook.

B. He cooks for you (and it’s good).

C. He cleans up right after dinner.

D. You cook together, and he tells you are beautiful as you chop.

E. None of this matters.

As you can now guess, D was by far the most selected. That is because romantic partners imagine that cooking with their man or woman will be what I described above. And it so easily can be. It’s just a question of both parties feeling equal ownership of the kitchen.

Creating a successful cooking date night is not brain surgery. It only requires a desire to try something new with the person you love. Here are my top eight rules to follow in order to cook up a night of romance in the kitchen!

1. Create a time to cook together with the intention of romance. Don’t just expect romance will ensue just because you are both cooking in the kitchen at the same time. Call it your Cook-Date Night. Send the kids away. Keep the TV off  You’re dating, not working.

2. Let the dishes pile up. Concern about cleaning up should not prevent you from experiencing the romantic sensuality of co-cooking. Either hire someone to clean in the morning or make a plan before even going to the market as to who will do the dishes the next day. Can’t go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink? Seek therapy! Getting messy is an ingredient for passion.

3. Don’t be bossy. Nothing can kill romantic energy like a control freak. This is not an opportunity to turn your partner into your personal sous chef. It’s about collaboration on equal footing. Most likely, one person in the partnership will have more cooking experience than the other. Better to mess a meal up and laugh about it then have to follow one person’s inflexible notion of perfection.

4. Don’t burn the food. Keep track of timing. It is not romantic to kiss your partner deeply at that crucial moment when the sea bass could overcook. Respect the task at hand that your man is working on. Honoring the food means honoring your partner.

5. Active non-participation is participation. One partner might not have any interest in the cooking process itself. That does not mean that the other is destined to a lifetime of lone cooking and cannot experience the romantic possibilities that co-cooking offers. Participate by keeping your partner company. Stay in conversation. Pour wine. Offer gentle affection. Sprinkle on whispered compliments. Turn off your phone and be present in every way, even if your hands never touch a knife or an onion.

6. Focus on agreeing. It is inevitable that at least one time during the cooking process you will disagree on the amount of olive oil to use  or at what temperature to roast the vegetables. One will think 350 degrees, the other 475. Guess what? Who cares! Romance is not about the end result, it’s about being open to the whimsy of the process. Find a compromise quickly, and let it go. 

7. Get out of your head. Romance, like cooking, is not a cerebral endeavor. It is about the senses. Play music. Smell the food. Admire the colors. Use your hands as much as possible to sprinkle and mix in seasonings. Taste everything along the way. These are the ingredients that turn cooking into a sensual experience.

8. Don’t overeat. Keep the meal relatively light. The romance will be killed the moment one of you starts kvetching about bloating or heartburn.