Cooking as Courtship

Introductory explanations and insistences to spur the faint of heart and calm the enthusiastic.

Cooking as a means of courtship. Courtship as a means of drawing others toward you and persuading them to remain of their own free will. It may be courtship of an intended love, though it might as soon be a parent or child or colleagues or friends or a very old and beloved love. Cooking as courtship because food will somehow be prepared and served, perhaps elaborately, but probably not. Perhaps by you, but not always.

Some squirm, uncomfortable with the idea of courting others, or confused by the thought that food might be for something besides maintaining one’s weight. They imagine it dishonest to do anything sheerly for the pleasure of another, fearing it may even be a betrayal of oneself.

Others wonder why anyone would bother to mention, let alone discuss at length, the courting of others through food. “Naturally one courts others and of course that courtship takes place through the offering of food; metaphor for sustenance, for sex, gesture or token of love, of affection, care and concern, devotion,” they remark dismissively. “In Hindu culture the gods themselves are courted with gorgeous, extravagant offerings of food, which the deities then generously share with their beloved devotees. What were you planning to say about it?”

Oh dear.

The author of this book should be far more successful than I at courtship. Yet such a one, having much sweeter things to do, might not have the inclination to write. Certainly the author should be a much better cook than I. But then a talented chef would never have been pressed to learn how to effect courtship at mealtime in the almost certain absence of an excellent entrée. Sublime food will seduce with little further effort, and chefs have only to remember not to be very very awful.

I tell you now and you will know later: This is not a cookbook. In order to cook you will likely want to acquire a few real cookbooks written by real cooks. For reference and occasional inspiration, if not for clear instructions. It makes little difference which books you choose, as long as you choose wisely. In order to cook as a means of courtship you might as soon offer another a bite of apple as prepare and serve an awe-inspiring repast. It is a matter of something else entirely.

Try to believe this is not a book of rules and does not mean to proscribe a style of living nor being. Opinion and admonitions are just that. Sometimes it may seem the same thought is repeated over and over and that the whole book could be distilled into a single sentence, a phrase, a word, if only the right one had surfaced. Clearly it didn’t.

The pages before you fall into two main parts: first a collection of essays meandering around various facets of cooking in the context of courtship; then a mess of what might be mistaken for recipes. A third, appended bit offers information mined casually from the heads of professional chefs. Anything that seems wrong to you probably is, for you. Commandments for one are crimes for another.

You will be fine. Anything made in love (1). and offered freely will warm and court.


1 That word. Good, I suppose, that it comes up so soon, since so many believe one only courts those with whom one hopes to share romantic love. This book is not so much about romantic love. It is about large love, the love that encompasses all things, even those things you don’t particularly like. So to do anything in love does not at all mean to Be In Love. It means maybe to be within love, to be love, as opposed to hate and all its many avatars. It means to forsake the thieves of love, to banish greed and pride and desire and anger and jealousy and fear. It is harder than you might think to bring such strength to romantic love itself. Easier perhaps to love truly that which does not mean so much to you.

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