Eric Renderking Fisk rants about what to do on a special occasion when going out to a restaurant is not an option. Intimacy can - and often does - start in what might be the most unromantic room in the house.
“Why Staying Home On Special Occasions
Is Sometimes Better...”
This month my wife and I celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary. My wife Solera Fisk (she named herself after the cat) and I have been married for a whole decade... Three thousand, six hundred and fifty days... Five hundred and sixty weeks... One hundred and twenty months. That's no small accomplishment in a world full of temptation and a mindset that if a relationship hits some rocky patches just quit no matter how deeply involved you are or how many children are along for the ride. Because of, not in spite of, everything we've been through I love my wife now more then ever. I love her more then my own life because we've endured a lot as she proved so many things to me such as her strength and character. The woman has about as much tenacity as she does beauty.
For this kind of once-in-a-lifetime love affair, you think she deserves something like a dinner out. People were asking us where we were going or doing on our special day. Funny how that would inspire a new rant.
My Original Intention...
I had this idea of returning to the beach where my wife and I exchanged our vows exactly 10 years ago that night. It would be just the two of us reminiscing about the how we meet, our first two years together before we tied the knot and the decade since. I wanted to reflect on the changes in our lives while we ate dinner in the same Inn where we celebrated our new marriage with a few close friends and family members so many years earlier. The plan fell apart when the sitter had a change in her availability. It was then that the thought dawned on that maybe we would be better off if the two of us stayed home and cooked something special for each other. Granted, that doesn't seem like the right thing to do - it seems like traditionally speaking you MUST go out to a fancy restaurant and dine out.
What everyone reading this article has to know and come to grips with is that there are some nights when going out to eat just isn't an option. That's not a question about your character or finances - there are just some nights when there's nothing available or the time isn't there. As my life has proven time and again, sometimes you need a Plan B that's better then Plan A.
A naughty little secret I've learned in the past two decades working in and out of restaurants is that you can spend a quarter the amount of money on groceries and drink and have a fabulous meal that's just as good as anything you can while eating out. And, in some extreme cases you can actually eat better and healthier then many of the same restaurants where I've worked in the past. [I'm having flashbacks to my 'food poisoning' rant I wrote a while back. Sometimes staying at home might actually save your life.] I'm at the point now in my life where it takes a real talented chef in a restaurant's kitchen to outshine what I can out do here at home.
Trust Your Culinary Instincts
There are three tricks to making an incredible meal at the last minute, whether or not it's for a special occasion for just the two of you or a small gathering of family and friends. I have found that when ever I am under pressure (the right kind of pressure) that this is when I'm at my best. When I'm under the gun and feeling the strain of putting something together fast, usually the first idea that springs to mind when I have to create a culinary delight on the fly is usually the right thing to do. Disaster always strikes when I second guess myself.
My first piece of advice to all of you reading this - go with your instinct.
When these special events occur, I usually go to the local store and go right through the vegetable produce isle and quickly check to see what's there on my may to the meat section that's against the wall at the far end of the building. Find some meat that looks interesting and will cook up well, such as the pork loin that my wife chose on the night of our anniversary. Then go back to the vegetable produce section and find something to go with it.
You can complement almost any vegetable with any meat you're roasting by mixing the chopped vegetables with a moderate amount of olive oil and the same rub you used. If I'm going to do the pork loin with a Cajun season, I'll prepare my vegetables using the same rub. I took the asparagus we also bought and removed the woodish stems from the bottom. Then I laid them down on a baking sheet, pour some light oil and seasoning on them. Then, I whipped the pan with the asparagus that was already laid out to make sure that there was even distribution of oil and Cajun seasoning on every stock. ALWAYS use much less (1/8th -1/4th) the amount of seasoning on the vegetables that use on the meat. You don't want a homogeneous-flavor everywhere on the plate.
Two other things I need to mention here, if you don't want to use the same seasoning on your vegetables that you use on the meat, then I suggest that you plan to spend some time over in the herb and spices section of the produce isle. Take a sniff of everything (be sure not to leave any spittle behind) and just imagine what the herbs your smelling would taste like together with your vegetable. For this meal idea, take a sprig of rosemary with the asparagus, put them both together and take a good long inhale.
... don't worry if people think you look crazy. Forget them; they'll be mimicking you before long... unless they're content with choking down some frozen entree from the frozen food isle and are willing to settle for that.
Getting to know vegetables, herbs and spices is the best and fastest way to become an incredible chef at home.
Cue The Music, Kill The Video
The second piece of advice I have to offer to everyone has nothing to do with the kitchen, and has everything to do with the living room or where else you have a Television. Keep the thing off. A TV is the equivalent to have a third person hanging out during an intimate dinner meant for two. The Idiot Box is a jealous god, demanding attention from all of it's devotees, it cares not what day it is or how special the occasion.
For the night to be perfect, someone needs to pick out some music that will set the mood. I have no idea what music suits everyone for every special occasion, but I will say that if you have anything in your collection like some classic smooth jazz - any quartette with at least an up-right base, a piano and saxophone - you'll be all set. There is nothing like standing side by side (or hip to hip with an arm around each other) with someone you love picking out the perfect music for the two of you.
But the action is in the kitchen, that's where the real heat and passion builds while the two of you are preparing the food together. Talk while you're cooking, share a bottle of wine or specialty carbonated juice that's becoming all the rage now. While the two of you confine each other in the kitchen, there's less of a chance of burning or undercooking anything. When everything is finally ready, sit down and enjoy the meal together. And when dinner is done, and desert is finished - you're already where the two of you want to be at the end of the night.
I can almost guarantee that if you follow these easy steps, you'll have a much more memorable time, save some money and strengthen your relationship.
Also, this article contains the perfect second date for new love-birds. Cooking together is such a romantic way for two people to get to know each other and an incredible way to make a lasting relationship even stronger. Intimacy can - and often does - start in what might be the most unromantic room in the house.