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You got game.

Like anything in life, preparation is key. Have at least some framework of a game plan when you start and you'll find that your execution is easy.

The Basics

  • You'll want to work in items from the major food groups: vegetables, fruit, grains, starches, legumes, protein, and of course alcohol. For instance, you might call the veggies the salad and then the protein and starch(like steak and potatoes) the entree.
  • The first step is to mentally construct some sort of menu. Consider whether you want an appetizer, soup, salad, entree, and dessert, or keep it really simple like a plate of pasta with a salad on the side.
    1. Now, the more things you make, the more complex it is, the more time it requires, etc. However, it also gives you a chance to incorporate different ingredients and to tie in flavors from dish to dish. I recommend you consider how much time you have, how hungry you are, and if cooking for a date, how hot she is. Here is an example of a simple meal I made for a second date and also an example of a complex meal that I made for my father's retirement party.
  • Ok, now that you've decided whether you want the meal simple or complex, lets go for a "flavor" or "theme." If you decide on a steak and potatoes meal, then a standard salad and then ice cream for dessert goes well. If you have pasta, then maybe go for a caprese salad(of mozzarella cheese and tomatoes and chopped basil). By no means do you have to follow a theme and you can deviate as much as you like, but there is something to be said for consistency. Certain things go well together and certain things don't. Like peanut butter is really tasty and most people like ketchup......but would you eat a peanut butter and ketchup sandwich? ...On second thought, don't answer that.

Keeping it smooth

  • A few *little* things to compliment a meal: Forks and knives for starters, but sparkling mineral water with a wedge of lemon or lime is always good. Tea, coffee, or port/sherry with dessert also adds a nice touch and flavor variety. And if its a meal for a truly special occasion, you may even want to plan the menu and print it out(on a small piece of paper) to be placed at the table.
  • Ok, etiquette for setting the table if you have a guest.
    1. Plate in the middle. On the left, first and closest, the large fork, then the small fork. On the right the knife(blade pointed in to the plate), then the soup spoon if you're having soup. If not, still keep it handy for mashed potato flinging if your buddies are coming over.
    2. When in doubt, place the utensils from outside in, as you would use them during the meal.
    3. Since most people are right-handed, put the glasses just to the upper right of the plate. If you know your guest is left-handed, put it to the left. "...and its a HIT deep to center field!!"
    4. Don't friggin chew with your mouth open. Now, if you truly can't break yourself of this nasty habit, wear a surgical mask and pretend you're a doctor on call.
  • One last important thought to preparing a meal. Timing. If you can, have stuff(chopped ingredients, spices) put out on the counter and ready to go. If something has to sit at room temp, like butter(for whatever you may use it for...), set it out ahead of time.

    Thoughts on Size

    Here is a common mistake that I used to make(among so many others) when preparing a more complex meal. I would make an extravagant meal with several courses.....and I would keep the portions at "normal" servings. Turns out, I had enough to feed not only my date and myself, but her entire extended family. That's ok if she's from some small South American fishing village and actually brings them along. Not ok otherwise, especially if she's trying to watch her weight. Strike one, just swung and missed the "considerate" pitch. Keep the portions pretty small, just enough to whet the appetite......and keep her wanting more.

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