A Cook's Diary

Do you agree that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?

One of the most quoted saying I heard in my childhood is that “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Isn’t that so darn medieval? The message is that a woman can beguile a man by pleasing him through womanly ways — like being an efficient housekeeper and a good cook. You know, based on feudal notions that certain activities are a woman’s domain. Worse, the same saying suggests that men are unable to appreciate things that do not affect his senses directly. If you’ve seen The Ugly Truth, you might remember the scene where Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler) first appears. He is hosting his television show, The Ugly Truth, and he tells the viewers:

Now, listen up, ladies, because I’m only gonna say this once… and it is just three little words: Men are simple. We cannot be trained. All this, “men are from Venus” crap is a waste of your time and money. You wanna be a lonely hag, then that’s fine… keep reading these stupid books. But you want a relationship, then here’s how you get one: It’s called a Stairmaster. Get on it, and get skinny… and get some trashy lingerie while you’re at it… because at the end of the day, all we’re interested in is looks.

If Mike Chadway is correct that all men are really that simple and shallow, then, I will concede that the best way to a man’s heart is indeed through his stomach.

But Mike Chadway is not correct. In fact, he proved himself wrong by the end of the movie. And even if we weren’t talking about movies, we know that not all men are stupid apes who would make an indecent proposal to an electric post wrapped with a woman’s skirt. Take Speedy, for instance. My friend, Lisa, likes to go around telling people how Speedy fell for me after hearing me berate a security guard at my office because Speedy finds the image of a strong woman very sexy. And that’s a true story.

And I’ll tell you another true story. When Speedy and I were dating, I gave him a bag of cheese cookies that I baked. I later found out that he hated them. I found the bag of cookies in his room months later — dark with mold. I asked him why he didn’t just throw them away if he hated them so much. Because, he said, I gave them to him and the giving made them special even if the cookies made him choke with disgust.

And here’s another true story. A girl friend from the UP College of Law was such a bad cook that, after she got engaged, she asked her fiance if they would need to hire a live-in cook. And he said there was no need — he didn’t mind living on canned goods. Last I heard, they have three kids and the marriage is going great. And my girl friend still can’t cook.

Now, you may be wondering. Why would someone like me write in such a vein? Surely, I can’t be saying that cooking is an overrated skill. Right, I’m definitely not saying that. But for anyone who aspires to become a good cook, having the right motivation can be an important factor. Perhaps, you want to eat healthier and you are convinced that by learning how to cook, you can control the amount of fat and salt and sugar that you ingest. Perhaps, you are a creative person and cooking is an expression and outlet for creativity. Perhaps, you’re sick and tired of the overpriced restaurant food that you encounter everyday and you know that you can replicate then, at half the cost, by cooking the same dishes at home.

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But if you say you want to be a good cook in order to get some man, or to make sure that your boyfriend or your husband does not leave you for another woman who cooks well, there’s something off. First of all, a man who will propose marriage because of your cooking sees the food and not you, and he will make you a cook and maid all throughout your married life. And a man who will only stick with you for as long as you serve him good food is a pig. Get a dog instead — dogs show more loyalty.

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Being a good cook starts with loving what you do. If you don’t love cooking, if you only do it to work at getting or retaining something — like a piggy man — then it becomes a chore. And chores are monotonous and tiresome and unexciting.

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Why am I writing all this? Because. Because I get so many comments from women who have tried this or that recipe from this blog and saying how much their boyfriends or husbands loved the dishes. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not laughing at these women. And I’m not belittling them. I know how good it feels to be shown appreciation as when Speedy and the girls love something I cooked so much that they end up with second and third helpings. I know the feeling.

But here’s the thing. When a reader says her boyfriend or husband loved the dish, how come there is rarely an accompanying comment that the reader herself, the one who did the cooking, liked the dish too? Even more important, did she enjoy the experience? Did she feel that she learned a new skill or that she developed a better appreciation for, say, ingredients that she had taken for granted in the past?

Sure, appreciation and praise for your effort are nice little extras. But, in the end, good cooking is about you, how you approach the undertaking, how you enjoy the process and feeling good that you created something wonderful.

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