'Cooking Your Way to Romance' by Carl R. Wendtland, Illustrations by Lanny Liu (cover)

“Cooking Your Way to Romance” by Carl R. Wendtland
Illustrations by Lanny Liu
CatsCurious Press, 2007
ISBN: 0979088917 / 978-0979088919
$17.99 paperback, 88 pages

This is a great book for the epi-curious romantic, but also stands on its own as an inspiration for the more experienced. The humor, full-meal suggestions, and anecdotes make this much more than a simple collection of recipes; and it’s further enriched with a guide to wine selection, a guide on setting the table, unit conversions, and a glossary of terms. And while the book is very oriented towards “the traditionally inexperienced man cooking for his woman”, it’s innocent enough that I think it lends itself to any wooing situation.

One of the hardest things with any new endeavor is getting past the learned or imagined certainty that you’re doomed to failure–Cooking Your Way to Romance eases this fear with its light humor, personal stories to pull you in, and calm assurance that if you try, it’ll be all right. It’s also filled with recipes for more than just the food on the table. It guides you through eight full meals–dinners and lunches, soups, salads–and preparation of mood and self.

Romance is kindled with some setting with a bit of the author’s background–and a delicious dinner centered around a chicken parmigiana. The first accompanying illustration shows a young man choking a still-feathered chicken in a pot, a skeptical woman standing back: “I appreciate your intentions, but who’s going to clean up this mess when you’re done?” The instructions are much more sane, and easy to follow (though I still made a few mistakes–I can say from experience that the recipes in this book are very forgiving).

Illustration by Lanny Liu

The meals are an international tour for your loved one: Italy, Mexico, France, New Orleans, and more, with running commentary egging you on, lovely illustrations, and decent full-color photos of many of the meals to let you know what you should be winding up with.

While none of the individual recipes are intrinsically more romantic than they would be if found somewhere else, Cooking Your Way to Romance packages everything in such a way that romance is always close at hand. The book weaves a tale through the planned meals, guiding setting and mood, and telling the story of your romancing–not just from your point of view, but from your partner’s, as well, with snippets of conversation between your partner and their friends, suggesting the effects your cooking is having so that you can feel them and believe them. Just remember the mantra–you’re doing this for _them_.

As an inexperienced cook, I could have used more suggestions as to how long things would take to prepare (a gimmick could have been ratings–novice, journeyman, master); and perhaps hints on possible substitutions (I had a tough time tracking down tomatillos), and something that’s always perplexed me–what to do with the extra ingredients when you inevitably buy more than the recipe calls for.

That said, I’m looking forward to revisiting the meals I’ve accomplished so far and approaching meals I haven’t yet found the time for; my wife insisted that I get a copy to keep in addition to the one we raffle off.

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