Tips for all the guys out there... Don't forget to thank me!
You've probably heard that the way to a man's heart is through his
stomach. What you may not know is that women like to eat too, and
cooking for your girlfriend is a great way to show your appreciation
for her. If you're reading this article, you probably haven't cooked
for your girlfriend before, or if you have, it didn't turn out as well
as you hoped, or you are just concerned with doing things to make your
girlfriend happy. Don't worry, though; with a little planning and work,
anybody can pull off a thoughtful, home-cooked dinner. Follow these
tips and you'll be cooking up romance in no time.
- Assess your relationship. Before you plan that exquisite
gourmet meal, it's a good idea to think about where you are in your
relationship. If you've been with a girl for a while, cooking a fancy
meal that takes a lot of time to prepare can seem really romantic. If
you just met the girl last week, however, that same meal can seem kind
of creepy. Early in a relationship, it may be best to stick with simple
dishes--still mindful, of course, of what your girlfriend likes to
eat--or you might give the impression that you're too eager to please
her. Besides, if you cook a six-course dinner on the second date,
imagine how many courses you're going to have to make if you're still
together in a year or two.
- Discover what your girlfriend likes to eat. You can cook just
about anything you want, really--it's the thought that counts. Put a
little more thought into the meal, however, and it counts a little
more. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if your girlfriend is
a vegetarian you should skip the meatloaf, but if you really want to
make the meal special, you'll need to look beyond the obvious. This can
require some advance preparation--you need to listen to her and make
mental notes to yourself. For example, maybe a couple months ago she
mentioned how she used to love Brunswick stew but she never learned to
make it. Surprise her with some for dinner, and she'll be amazed you
remembered. In other words, you're not just cooking, you're being an
attentive boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Search for a recipe. By now you should know what you want to
make. Get out the cookbook (there's probably one lying around
somewhere) or get on the web. Want to make chicken enchiladas? Just
enter "chicken enchiladas recipe" in your search engine, and you'll
have probably hundreds of variations to choose from. Read the
instructions and ingredients and choose a recipe that you feel
comfortable making--if the first one you find looks too difficult, keep
- Choose accompanying dishes. Depending on what your main dish
is and how big a production you've decided to make your meal, you may
want to add side dishes, a salad or a dessert. Often, entree recipes
will have suggestions for side dishes and wines, or you can find an
entire meal planned out. If the recipe you've chosen to make doesn't
give you any suggestions, look at similar recipes for ideas.
- Decide on a date for the big meal. If you're planning on
cooking today, you're probably in a hurry--skip this step. Otherwise,
make plans with your girlfriend. You can just tell her you'd like to
cook dinner (or breakfast or lunch) for her, or you can surprise her.
If you're going to surprise her, make up some pretext--a good one is to
tell her you're taking her out to eat--so that she will (a) show up and
(b) show up hungry.
- Make a shopping list.
A day or two before you will cook, go through each and every item in
your recipe(s) and see if you have it in your kitchen. Make sure you
have enough of each ingredient, as well, and make sure they're all
edible (1 egg won't substitute for 3, and rotting vegetables just
aren't the same as fresh). Also, check to see that you have all the
kitchen utensils you will need (you can buy these or, preferably, try
to borrow them from somebody). If you don't have something, write it
down on your shopping list. Make sure your list is detailed--include
the quantity you'll need and any other pertinent information. Of
course, if you're like a lot of bachelors, you can probably just take
the recipe with you to the grocery store--you know you don't have any
of that stuff.
- Go grocery shopping.
Bring your list to the grocery store and purchase what you need. Cross
each item off the list as you put it in your cart, and before you
leave, make sure you've got everything. You'll probably see a lot of
girls at the grocery store; this is not the time to flirt.
- Pre-prepare. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.
Sometimes this is absolutely necessary (you may need to marinate
something overnight, for example), so pay close attention to your
recipe. Even when advance preparation isn't required, the more you do
early, the easier your cooking experience will be.
- Prepare the meal. Make sure you start your cooking early
enough to have the meal ready on time, but not so early that it's
sitting around for hours. The recipe may give you an estimate of
preparation and cooking times; you may want to add a little time onto
these if you're not a proficient chef. Unless you really know what
you're doing, follow the recipe's instructions exactly.
- Set the mood. Be creative with the ambiance you set for your
meal. Maybe you want to have it on the balcony under the stars, or
maybe it's breakfast in bed--the sky's the limit. As in your choice of
meal, you may want to consider where your relationship is at. If you're
looking to inject some romance into a long-term relationship, dim the
lights, hire a violinist and break out the candles and roses. If you've
only been dating a week, however, you might want to keep it simple: dim
the lights, get a friend to guard the door to make sure no other girls
stop by, and break out the thick, classy paper plates.
- Serve the meal. Your service will depend on the meal you've
chosen, of course, but a couple of rules apply regardless. Make sure
the food is ready to be served--hot foods should be hot and cold foods
cold, for example--and serve your girlfriend her food first. Make sure
she is comfortable and has everything she needs to enjoy your magical
feast. Wait for her to take her first bite before you dig in.
the togetherness. Just focus on your girlfriend, not the food. Even if
you're insecure about your cooking, act confident. Don't keep asking
her if she really likes this or that. You've worked hard to prepare
this meal for your girlfriend, but you don't need to tell her that--she
- Clean up everything yourself. This may make the best impression of all.
- If you just have no idea what to make, browse the Internet or
your cookbook for suggestions. You'll even be able to find
recommendations especially for "date food" and "romantic dinners."
- If you've cooked up a total disaster, you've got two courses
of action: apologize or hide it. If you were going to surprise your
girlfriend with the meal, just take her out to eat instead; you can try
again another time. If she was expecting a home-cooked meal, however,
just let her know that things didn't work out quite right. She'll
probably find it endearing--you tried, after all--and you can go get
take-out. If she's mean about it, though, go get a new girlfriend.
- The best way to get this right is to practice by cooking for
yourself everyday. You'll eventually be able to whip up really great
meals every time.
- A great way to find easy recipes is to go to the store and
look for a jar of sauce that looks tasty. See if it has a recipe on the
back that looks good. This way, you already have the right "seasonings"
before you even start to cook.
- Most people eat more than a "serving" in one sitting. If you
cook up 4 servings, you'll have plenty for you both and enough left
over for a quick lunch or dinner for yourself later in the week.
- Think light! Pick light, fresh, and healthy foods to prepare;
in general light dishes are appealing to women, because they can
indulge their hunger without guilt of breaking a diet; additionally,
heavy foods make one sleepy and sluggish, so if you expect for her to
be able to show her appreciation for such a nice meal afterwards, you
don't want her to be half asleep from a heavy meal.
- Don't want to do light? Do chocolate, get carry out and make
homemade truffles, Alton Brown on the Food Network did a fine show on
truffle making, you can find his recipe at www.foodtv.com.
- Know what your girlfriend can't eat. There are so many
possible allergies that a person can have, many of which are unexpected
or less common than others. Even if you know she's allergic to peanuts,
there may be extra precautions she takes that you don't know about.
Also, if her religion prohibits certain foods, be sure you know exactly
which ones they are and how this might affect the cooking process.
Again, it doesn't take a genius, but you'd be surprised at how easy it
is to mess this up.
- A few hints: Some religions do not permit pork, beef and/or
shellfish. Unless she is vegan, she might eat fish even if she does not
eat meat. However fish may smell when cooked with poor ventilation.
- If you follow these instructions, your girlfriend may be so
impressed that you'll end up having to cook all the meals from now on.
- If your girlfriend really prides herself on her cooking,
don't try to outdo her. You may wind up with no dessert. It may be a
good idea to throw in a couple of phrases like, "I know its not as good
as your cooking, but..."
- The pretext of "I'll take you out to dinner" suddenly
becoming "I really meant I would cook for you" might backfire and make
you seem cheap.
- Preparing something for the first time from internet recipes
is risky. Practice preparing this meal for yourself. Pay attention to
timing and seasoning.
- It's not a good idea to substitute 'take out' food for you
own cooking. If there is any evidence that you bought this meal and
didn't cook it yourself (containers in the trash, not having the right
dirty dishes, no "cooking" smells in the house, etc), she will notice