A man should know how to cook

A man should know how to cook
                        

From the looks of things on social media, many of my friends who are single and would prefer not to be are carrying over the search for love into the new year. It has never been easy to find the special person you want to spend a lot of time with, but it seems especially difficult in our world of super connectedness, which is the paradox of our time.

The more connected we all are and the more we know about each other’s lives, the harder it is to create in-person relationships. You may have 500 friends on Facebook, but when was the last time you met someone in person to share dinner and a little interesting conversation?

Dating apps are big business, bringing in billions of dollars as they assist people in their search for a partner. Some at least try to present themselves as a serious, safe environment while others are clearly matching people up for a short-term get-together.

Getting to know new people is another of those spaces where food, and the preparation and enjoyment of food, can flow in to fill the awkward gaps.

I can’t say I’ve ever really been on “dates” per se, in a scenario of calling another person to ask if they want to go out for dinner or a movie and then you get shined up and go through the whole process of being on your best behavior and seeing the evening through to its nervous conclusion.

The last time I made such a call to ask, I got turned down with a rather lousy excuse, and that was that — never risking that kind of stinging rejection again, let me tell you.

I began cooking as a teen, tentatively, trying to make dinner for my parents and making Dad happy with an occasional loaf of homemade bread, something he hadn’t had since his own grandmother made it. Looking back, they were terrible, dry bricks, but he was kind in his review.

Once I was out on my own, I quickly learned being able to cook was a serious advantage in attracting and maintaining the interest of female friends. I suppose a man who cooks is much less a novelty now, but I still believe anyone, male or female, who is able to put together a respectable, delicious and perhaps showy meal has cleared away half the obstacles to meeting people.

Most people, at least the interesting ones, love to eat. Talking about food, and preferences, and experiences, and dishes you would like to try is a remarkably good way to get to know someone.

You learn about their heritage, their childhood memories, their favorite restaurants, past bad experiences and places they’ve traveled. If you can share the kitchen tasks, offering to show how to do something or asking to be taught, it can be an even better experience.

Learn to cook one or two impressive dishes perfectly and make them your signature. Invite your person of interest to try your amazing creation and let the food get the talk going and help it branch in all directions. It needn’t be fancy; I won my wife’s heart with a plate of mid-afternoon pancakes the first day we were alone.

Food is easy to talk about:

“I was lucky: The store had these perfect leeks today. Have you ever had them? There’s this very specific way you have to clean and prepare them — come watch.”

“I made up a slow-rising dough last night, and it’s in the oven now. Can you smell that? We’ll have warm bread to go with everything. I hope you’ll handle the slicing job.”

“You mentioned that your great-grandmother used to make some kind of pork dish. Can you remember more about it? Where was she from?

I’m impossibly shy with people I don’t know well. Thank God food has always been there to fill the gaps. I hope the new year brings you new relationships and plenty of love.


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