I thought about writing a different version of this topic over the summer but didn’t get around on doing it. With Toronto’s 2014 Winterlicious going on and Valentine’s Day approaching, I was reminded by this topic again. So, should you? Have you? If so, what was his/her reaction? Good, bad or worse?
Just to keep it safe, I would say to not order for him/her on your first date unless you really know her well enough. If you were friends before and knew each other’s preferences and allergies then you might not do a bad job of ordering for him/her. I find that there is a lot of thought you need to put in when and if you do decide you want to order for your significant other, it’s often not just about what you may see them munch on regularly. I think how intimate (or not) your relationship/friendship is plays a huge factor in deciding.
I asked two of my friends to go to the same restaurant with me and order for me. Of course we haven’t gotten around on doing it because, well, life kicked in. Although it was interesting that when we were talking about the restaurant, because we all have been there before in separate occasions, their thought process and ultimately the dishes they were thinking of choosing for me were different. These friends varied in gender and depth/length of friendship. Both knew that I was a definite foodie and open in trying different things, which probably made it more difficult for them to choose. Another minute observation that I now just realized, was that though they did vary in terms of picking a dish for me to eat, they also integrated their own preferences when picking a dish. A friend was surprised that at the time, I didn’t like a specific ingredient in the dish that she had chosen. Upon hearing my dislike, this friend seemed dumbfounded; it was an ingredient that she enjoyed eating and was surprised that we didn’t have that commonality. We knew each other for quite some time and have shared some intimate things in confidence between one another. When I asked why she seemed surprised, she replied by saying that she thought she knew me better. I thought that was an interesting detail considering that when the other friend was deciding, he had no inclination of any specific dishes or particular food he thought I enjoyed as much as he did. He seemed more flexible with his choice(s) for me. So moral of the story? You could try and let your date/SO (significant other) order for you and see what happens; maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised that they knew you more than you thought they did. Just make sure when you let him/her it’s at a place that you know generally serves great food, at least that way no one’s going home starving. The next two weeks is an awesome time to check out a few places before making your V-day reservations. Winterlicious 2014 features more than 200 restaurants with a fixed 3-course meal. Here’s the link with a list of the participating restaurants in alphabetical order as well as more information about other Culinary Events happening: http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaurants.nsf/Winterlicious?readForm
On to cooking for your date/SO. I might be a little biased on this one. I like cooking and I regularly cook for my friends and family. I’m pretty sure they’re all used to my experimentations and bizarre concoctions by now so I guess they’re immune to it. Anyway, I think that with any gift-because you just really have to take this act as a gift-it’s the thought that counts. Valentine’s Day in itself is really a commercial holiday already so might as well make the best of it. BUT, if it is inedible then you found yourself a loop hole. Worse case scenario, he/she burns everything he/she attempted to serve you and you end up with food poisoning… Chin up though, because at least this is something you can look back and weaponize the next time he/she volunteers to cook for anyone else aside from her/himself. That was not meant to deter those planning on making a V-day dinner, by all means go for it! If you just started cooking, I would advice you to make the meal beforehand and practice. Not only does it show that you’ve put some thought into it, but more importantly it shows you actually put some effort. Any monkey can make a reservation at some fine dining restaurant but it takes a smart monkey to plan then cook the meal 😉
How do you plan a meal for your date/significant other? Assuming that you’ve been dating for some time, you probably have eaten and spent enough time together to know each other’s culinary preferences and allergies. If not, make sure to ask ahead of time especially if they have any food allergies. That’s a potential trip to the ER far worse than food poisoning. After you’ve determined which cuisine they prefer, i.e. Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French, etc, pick a dish that you feel like you are capable of comfortably executing. You don’t want to try to make something too complicated because the chances are, the more complicated it is the easier for you to forget a step or two. Perhaps, every year you can increase the difficulty of the dishes you make and work your way from there. Now, I said that I put a lot of thought when I make my menus, and I do. I think a lot about the person or people who will be dining with me. For example, I have an image of a specific person in my head; I know some of the things that he likes in terms of what he likes to eat, but I also take into consideration his personality. By that I mean, is he a steak-and-potatoes kinda man or more of a spicy-Cajun-Soul-food kinda man, or maybe both? You can take some of these aspects and make something that is reflective of your knowledge and understanding of him as a person and as your partner. Let’s say this imaginary man was real and he was both (Cajun and steak), I would make him a something hearty, comforting yet robust: start with an arugula-spinach salad with a balsamic honey vinaigrette, fresh grape tomatoes cut in quarters and crumbly queso fresco; followed by blackened pork chops on a yukon gold-sweet potato hash and cornmeal battered fried okra; finished with banana foster accompanied by brown sugar-cinnamon churros. Admittedly this seems like a pretty elaborate menu and I’m sure he would be happy with a bowl of spaghetti.
The point that I’m trying to make when you make your menu is that, when you do decide to cook for your date/SO cook with the emotions you feel for the person. Not only would you feel proud, but most of the time because you are thinking of this person, you will be more careful and attentive when you’re cooking. Give it a try. As a woman, you will definitely earn some brownie points making a nice simple dinner or even just attempting to make something. There’s nothing sexier than a confident man who knows his way around the kitchen.