Cook and Hook

“[She felt] pure deepening whirlpools of sensations swirling through her tissue and consciousness, til she was one prefect concentric fluid feeling.” Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Ok, ok – maybe it’s just me. But when I read those words from D. H. Lawrence’s masterpiece, I just couldn’t for the life of me stop thinking about chocolate!! I just couldn’t rid myself of those flowing, swirly, brown and white images you see on cooking shows with Nigella or Jamie or any one of the other master/mistress chefs sensuously caressing a mixture of cacao, warm milk and butter to create a triple layered chocolate whatever masterpiece.

How the hell was I to know Lawrence was describing an orgasm – after all, I didn’t have one ’til I was 24 – and I ain’t talking about chocolates!!

Which brings me conveniently to two of my fave topics – food and sex.

We’ve all heard it said that – “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Well, you won’t be surprised to learn I have a couple of strongly held views on that saying.

First, it may be a way to his heart – but I’m damned sure I know a few faster routes that will have him begging for more of you!

Second, this is the 21st century. It has been decades since the kitchen was the exclusive domain of we girls. Just take a look at any list of top chefs and you’ll see men have well and truly made their mark in the culinary arts.

Having said that, and putting aside the gender bias issue for now, the point I want to make is that in terms of opportunity to show your wares as a potential partner, the kitchen is to the 21st century, what the gym was to the 20th!

Trust me, there is a lot to be said for preparing a meal for your date. Quite apart from avoiding the expense of dining out, and the hassle of deciding where to eat etc..; and not to mention the benefits of proximity to the bedroom; the fact is there are few better ways to impress your date than to cook for them.

Hey, let’s start with the basics – when Adam and Eve first wandered into the garden, it is
undeniable they were thinking about only two things – food and sex. Unfortunately, as the story goes, Eve was more hungry than horny; ate the forbidden fruit; and, as a consequence, she and Adam and the rest of us were, so we are told, cast to eternal damnation – or something like that. All because of one poor choice made on a date in an apple orchard, for God’s sake!

The point is that food and sex have been close bed fellows since time began. Just think in evolutionary terms – the guy who could catch and provide the most or best food around the camp fire in the cave was much more likely to be seen by the girls as the alpha-male and therefore get the gravy – so to speak – and the chance to ensure his genes stayed in the pool.

Take it from me, and I’ve been on more dates in search of Mr. Right than I’ve had hot dinners. And trust me, I have experienced the whole gamut of dinners – from wonderful three starred Michelin restaurants, to ‘The Ivy’ in LA and ‘Mr.Chows’ and so on; right down to a rest-a while cafe!

Yes, you heard me right – one of my dates actually took me to a greasy spoon cafe.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a restaurant snob – not by any means. I am quite happy to have a chat with the best of them over a bacon butty in a rest-a-while cafe – but maybe on the 20th date, not the first! Honestly, what was he thinking?! And can you imagine what he must have thought when he asked how I liked my eggs, and I replied “I’d prefer black pudding and a long black”? Of course, I could have used the old line about “preferring my eggs scrambled” – but as there was no way this date was going to a second round, why plant the seed?

Yes, I’ve been dated and plated at the best and not-so-best of establishments. And to tell you the absolute truth, if a man offers to cook for me, I jump at the chance. And if he proves his culinary skills, he could well move from cook-up to hook-up.

As it happens, one of my all time favourite partners loved cooking for me. On reflection, that was one reason he made my all time favourite list. Anyway, he once quoted the US civil rights activist, Cesar Chavez, who said – “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house to eat … the people who give you their food will give you their heart.

Now, I have a confession to make. Having extolled the virtues of a cook to hook, I must admit that I cannot cook to save my life. Just ask my aforementioned all time fave partner!

In fact, my first attempt was at the ripe old age of 19. I offered to cook for my then partner, who wanted steak, garlic butter and the trimmings. “How hard can it be” I asked myself?! So, off I went to the butcher and the grocer, and set about preparing the meal. That’s when I had my first stumble – at what temperature should I cook a steak, and for how long? I had no idea. None. Naturally, I did what any self-respecting girl would do in these circumstances – I called my Mum for help!

Mum’s advice was to brown the steak in a pan on a high(ish) heat for a minute each side and then pop it in a pre-heated 180 degree celsius oven for 4 minutes for rare, 6 for medium and 8 for well done, and then remove and rest it covered for 5 minutes before serving.

Unfortunately, and not for the first or last time, I ignored Mum’s sound advice and put the steak in a hot oven for 30 minutes. By then, it was practically on fire, as heavy and hard as a rock, and completely inedible!

Unsurprisingly, the dinner turned out as disastrously as my relationship. And I have been pretty much a no-kitchen-kinda-girl ever since – except for the odd sideline in chilli con carne.

Fortunately, so I’m told by friends who cook for me, these days the well trodden culinary path to your partner’s heart is a much easier route. Any number of chefs provide on-line recipes and detailed instructions on how to prepare all sorts of meals – ranging from simple coq au vin to slow cooked lamb shoulder or linguine alla vongole.

Oh, whilst I’m at it – my cooking friends asked me to give a huge plug to Jamie Oliver for his incredible generosity in providing his recipes on-line. The instructions are amazingly easy to find and follow – and they’re virtually fool-proof. He doesn’t need to do it. He does it because he just loves encouraging people to cook, especially if they use local and seasonal produce. All credit to you Jamie.

But hey, let’s get back to cook and hook – apron first, seduction later – Yeah, I admit it, Jamie’s lush.

Here are my tips – from the perspective of a girl being cooked and hooked, I hasten to add.
First, show your partner you are a progressive. Set aside traditional thinking about food and how it’s prepared, served and eaten. For example, think about an imaginative dinner setting – perhaps prepare a plate to share, and sit beside one another on cushions on the floor beside a low table – just think, then it’s only a roll away from the rug in front of the fire!

Set some low mood lighting and candles, and turn on some music you know she likes.

When she arrives, welcome her with a smile and kiss her softly on the cheek (or lingeringly on the lips if this is a subsequent date). Take her coat and bag and invite her to sit and relax.

It’s best to arrange things so she can sit near you as you work – maybe on a kitchen bench chair rather than on the other side of the room. Connection and proximity are so important.

Offer her a drink – you can never go wrong with champagne – unless they don’t drink alcohol or they are driving, of course, in which case make sure you have some interesting alcohol-free options such as high quality sparkling fruit drink etc…

Trust me, your date will be very impressed as you cook and wait on them. It’s a fantastic time to have a casual conversation also – very intimate and engaging as they watch you work.

If they offer to help, politely decline the offer and say that tonight is about them, and that they should relax and enjoy it.

Second, be sure you know what they like to eat – or can eat in this age of allergies! Preparing a beautiful meal of foods your date adores is a sure way to her heart. It’s also a sure way to say you’re a great listener and have taken on board their dietary needs and food preferences. There is nothing better than a good listener. Being a pretty cool chef is a bonus.

On the topic of food choices, remember to include some of those libido-raising foods I talked about in my article on aphrodisiacs. Chocolate is always a sure bet – after all, as Comedian Jo Brand quips – “Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.
As you prepare the meal, consider teasing your partner by asking them to taste morsels off the spoon to see if they taste ok. That way, you are sharing the sensuousness of the experience of dealing with food and inviting your partner to work with you as a team.

In this context, remember also that many foods are not only aphrodisiacs – they are also incredibly suggestive and a great teaser – almost foreplay – think asparagus, cucumber, mangoes etc… all brimming over with sexual innuendo.

Better still, if this is a 2nd or subsequent date, consider inviting them to join you in buying the produce. There are many fresh food farmers markets around, and it is a very bonding and sensual experience to walk through them collecting what you need, maybe holding hands. And the smell of the fresh produce is second to none in turning on the senses.

Inviting a date to your place for dinner is a subtle and non-threatening way of asking them to your place, and of saying you are really interested in them. However, it’s also true that some women may think a man would only invite them to their place for sex. There are some ways to allay this concern. For example, perhaps ask your date when you invite her whether she would like you to also invite someone else along – perhaps another couple. That way, she has the opportunity to say yes if she is concerned. Alternatively, if she responds she would prefer it to be just the two of you – your chances of sex just went through the roof!!

Either way, the conversation helps build trust and shows your date that you are happy to invite them to your home as you wish to get to know them better and do not just see them as a casual fling.

Dining at home makes for a more quiet and intimate experience than a crowded restaurant. It is much more personal. This, in turn, creates the opportunity to really find out whether you are compatible. It also avoids awkward silences as you always have tasks to do when preparing, serving or clearing up after meals.

Preparation is very important – never leave anything to the last-minute. Give yourself plenty of time in case something goes wrong – like forgetting a critical ingredient.

Cook in advance if possible – for example, half boil potatoes or use a slow cooker. This helps you remain relaxed. It also takes the leg-work out so that when your date arrives you can spend time chatting while dinner is cooking.

Don’t try to over-impress. Keep the menu simple. Remember, the objectives are cook and hook, not burn and learn!

Don’t be over-generous with portions. It’s better to play with caution and serve up modest quantities.

Set the table in advance, add scented candles and flowers.

Wash up as you go, so there is no mess left behind. It always impresses if you can show the ability to multi-task.

Oh, and if all else fails, here are my final tips that really tap into my two fave topics of food and sex.

First, there’s always take-away. Demonstrating your culinary skills is not the only play – seduction is waiting on the bench. If sharing food is the ultimate foreplay – “There is no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap.” (Kevin James).

Second, don’t forget to include some really sensuous appetisers – oysters are always good – and it’s a fantastic way to size up your date’s “shucking, sucking and swallowing” skills – speaking of which, let’s move on to seduction – oh, time’s up!

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