Review: Cooking Your Way to Romance by Carl R. Wendtland

Friday, February 8, 2008

'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.


- reddit, digg, facebook, stumbleupon, etc... please! ;)
posted by kaolin

32 comments; 0 subscribers

Friday, February 8, 2008 / 03:27:29
To win GUD's copies of "Cooking Your Way to Romance", leave a comment below giving us a taste of the most romantic meal you've had. :)

We'll choose TWO winners at random from the valid entries received. Contest open to US/Canada shipping addresses, and closes on 13th February (midnight pacific time).

One winner gets the "Advance Reading Copy - NOT FOR SALE" + errata sheet; and one an updated copy, retail version.

And yes, that still leaves me with one to finish going through with my wife. :)
Friday, February 8, 2008 / 09:52:33
This looks like something my husband and I can share to spice up our life.
Friday, February 8, 2008 / 10:31:54
The most romantic dinner I have had at home was a bourbon glazed salmon that my huband cooked for me. It was accompanied by jasmine rice and crisp stemed greenbeans. He lit taper candles and drizzled the sauce around the edges of the plate. It was a feast for the eyes and soul.
Friday, February 8, 2008 / 18:04:03
I find Korean food the most romantic. The primal spice and cut of kimchee and the earthy flavors of the raw skate evoke romance.
Friday, February 8, 2008 / 19:27:05
Every and every meal is the most romantic dinner I experience because it's not the meal that's important it's the person your with.
Friday, February 8, 2008 / 21:10:50
The most romantic dinner I had was with my wife 5 years ago when we first started dating and she invited me over for turkey dinner and we've been together ever since.
She still cooks a turkey 3 or 4 times a year and I always remember that dinner.
Friday, February 8, 2008 / 22:37:28
my hubby and i went and ate seafood in this really nice oplace and it had a bar like cheers and they delivered us a special layered tray of fansy snacks
Friday, February 8, 2008 / 22:38:00
I've never had a romantic meal, I'd love to though.
Saturday, February 9, 2008 / 08:00:19
It wasn't a meal. It was late at night and we went to 7-11. We gave home and feed each other snacks.
Saturday, February 9, 2008 / 10:09:27
Last Valentine's Day, our 20th anniversary, DH rented a furnished cabin in the mountains. He brought along all the food we needed. He set out a beautiful table with red heart themed plates and napkins, stemware, candles, and the works. Honestly, I can't remember what the dish was (I believe it was chicken based and had capers), but the presentation was incredible.
Saturday, February 9, 2008 / 11:00:05
My husband and I went out to a very nice place for our anniversary one year, and I had a filet mignon with truffles served with a delicious claret, and I've never felt more in love!
Saturday, February 9, 2008 / 11:17:34
I'm not one to drift into the world of romance. When people say romance, I always envision two people completely comfortable with each other, who've probably known one another for a long time.

I've yet to have that in my life yet. But once, I took a young woman out to dinner. (Who I knew as a casual friend)

It was a pretty horrible experience for me. My hands would not stop shaking and I was constantly worried she was conscious of this. Conversation was sparse, but I did manage to let her do most of the talking. The only time I felt comfortable talking was when I was criticizing myself.

The meal wasn't good in any way. All in all, it was just boring. But as we left the restaurant, she commented on my music and we found out we have the exact same taste in music. So our night ended on the peak of our conversations and we agreed to meet again.
Saturday, February 9, 2008 / 12:07:14
Probably steak and potatoes is still the most romantic
Saturday, February 9, 2008 / 13:32:51
I've never had a romantic meal. The closest I came to a romantic meal was at prom but my prom date decided to sit with his friends and I sat with my friends so it wasn't really that romantic except for the candles. We had chicken and veggies and sparkling non-alcoholic wine.
Saturday, February 9, 2008 / 17:57:59
It was a pb&j sandwich. I worked with a guy who had a crush on me. One day he came to work with a lunch he made for us. It was so sweet and romantic.
Sunday, February 10, 2008 / 18:29:21
A dinner with my wife in Williamsburg on a foggy fall night at the Chef's table at the shield's arms tavern.
Monday, February 11, 2008 / 17:37:09
I won a contest once selling strawberries where I worked, and the prize was dinner for two at the local la-dee-da restaurant. It was all very candle-light and cloth napkin, but the fun part was when we hopped on my date's motor scooter afterward--I was in high heels! Thanks to my date being a bit of a smart ass, we managed to get chased down the street by a bunch of kegger attendees who threw bottles of Bud Lite at us like they were molatov cocktails. They missed, thank God, but we were laughing so hard we ended up in a ditch down the road anyway.
Monday, February 11, 2008 / 18:10:39
I am the cook in our family, but my wife has made a few things for me, and that is really nice. She sort of specializes in desserts, and is really very artistic and can make them look (and taste!) very delicious!
Monday, February 11, 2008 / 21:18:45
Our most romantic meal was a cheese and fruit picnic in the park.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 / 06:45:17
My husband made me fondue. That was really romantic!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 / 16:03:21
Wine and Beef Wellington with a fire in the fireplace and soft jazz music playing. Topped off with an assortment of french pastries for dessert.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 / 19:37:53
The most romantic meal I've ever had was the first morning of our honeymoon. The first morning that we were husband and wife.

We ordered our breakfast through room service. Simply eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and OJ.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 / 20:10:39
My husband makes the greatest steak diane and twice baked potatoes...he makes it every Valentine's day for me.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 / 21:46:51
My husband made me the best steak ever on the grill.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 / 21:49:24
My husband made me pasta with just butter and garlic and spices and parmesan cheese--it was a very romantic gesture!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008 / 16:39:09
I'd have to say a special dinner at a quaint little Italian restaurant with the checkered tableclothes and the violin music playing in the background
Wednesday, February 13, 2008 / 18:34:59
Well, it may not sound like much to some people, but I would have to say the most romantic meal I have had was when my husband cooked pasta and sauce from a jar. He normally doesn't cook at all, so this was a really big thing for me.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008 / 20:34:28
My boyfrien made me my absolute favorite, fettuchine Alfredo!
Thursday, February 14, 2008 / 00:10:04
The most romantic meal I've ever had was one I barely remember. It was about two weeks after I met J. and B., who are both in a triad marriage with me now -- there's your happy ending, or at least a happy middle.

Right then they were married to each other, and J. and I had just gotten involved, with B.'s awareness and permission, but not yet her blessing. It didn't help that there had been a communication snare which left B. angry with J. and uncomfortable with me.

Now, J. always cooks, and I can describe a lot of his cooking: Thai curries with Kafir lime leaf, wild mushroom risotto with cashews and leeks, roasted cherry tomatoes over ice cream (try it), polenta with shallots in red wine sauce -- sometimes our friends call us up saying they haven't had one of his meals in too long.

The night B. and I had the talk, he had to stay out of it because the whole point was that she and I were talking to each other, without intercession, without proxy or artificial smoothness. Bridging the gap from being intimate by chance to becoming friends. Approaching each other like two proud cats introduced to the same household.

While we were talking, he was in the kitchen cooking. And after the talk, we had a meal.

I can tell you what J. cooked -- kitsune udon, Japanese noodles in fish broth with delectable, sweet fried tofu; a salad on the side with Balsamic vinegar dressing -- but I can only tell you the flavors because I've had the dish many more times since. Right then it only tasted like love, tenuous and new and real.
Thursday, February 14, 2008 / 15:27:50
Thank you for all the great entries! Our random number generator selected TheaMRead and Fangirl for the two copies, and those will be going out shortly.

And just a note--we have two other book/ebook raffles going on at the moment, so be sure to check them out if you haven't yet! (Ten Plagues, and Shutterbug)

And of course, plenty more to come. I've got a shelf full of reading to do. :)
Thursday, February 21, 2008 / 14:10:03
She was waiting for me in the cemetary and it felt like we were alone, even though a busy street was only half a block away. We saw each other and walked toward a monument and, as we reached it, she took my hand and slipped me a York peppermint patty.
Thursday, February 21, 2008 / 14:56:16
I received my copy of Cooking Your Way To Romance today. It is a very amusing and great cookbook. The photos are very helpful for showing how to present the dishes in the most beautiful fashion possible. The section on wine parings is also a very nice addition. Thank-you very much Kaolin.

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