Chemistry between food and romance

What is it about food and love? Why do we so enjoy the prospect of sharing a meal with someone we would consider sharing our life with, if only for a flickering while?

Psychologists have attempted to analyse the chemistry between food and romance and food writers have expended many words on why restaurants are such preferred spots for making up, not to forget breaking up.

For, make no mistake, the dining table can be a battle ground, too. Or, at the least, a dreary place. This is why the captivating M F K Fisher writes in an Alphabet for Gourmets that 'snug, misanthropic solitude is better than hit-or-miss congeniality.'

Dining with a woman who pecks at her food infuriates them, say many men. Gluttons, at the other end of the spectrum, are a turn-off, too. As are men who snap their fingers at waiters, tip like misers and order burnt garlic fried rice on the first date. And if he believes 'guess-what-a-killing-I-made-on-the-stock market' makes for table talk, then that makes him the dining companion from hell. Yes, there are times when misanthropic solitude may seem better.

But what a joy it can be to dine with someone who arrives on time, orders with elan, eats with enjoyment and makes scintillating conversation! How can any woman resist the man who notices her wince at the badly-mixed margarita, insists she push it away and calls for champagne, instead? How can she not want a second date with the one who tells her with a deadpan expression his retirement plans - a bar in Brazil with topless waitresses - she collapses in laughter into her hot chocolate souffle!

The dream dining companion is someone to cherish. Two people who know how to woo with food as well as flattery are set for endless dining pleasure. And they must choose their restaurant with care. It can be a crowded bistro or an elegant award-winning showcase for culinary excellence. The choice is yours, but it helps if a first date venue has a romantic air about it. Sorry, but the hole-in-the-wall that serves the best paya won't do. You can always indulge in those rough adventures later when it's acceptable to meet for dinner in shorts and flip-flops.

The restaurant should offer service that is discrete and intelligent; the latter because the dishes must come at the pace you want them to, giving you enough time to sip your wine, enjoy the food and engage in conversation.

The restaurant must certainly serve good food. You don't want to be complaining that the lamb chops are overdone; you should in fact be sighing in pleasure as the foie gras melts on your tongue.

What to order? Newspaper columns that provide first date advice will tell you to avoid messy, hard-to-handle food. So leave the burger for another time, as also the shawarma roll, though these appear to be the flavour of the season. Give the spaghetti Bolognaise and the linguini and clams a miss as well. Meat on the bone, crab in the shell and smelly things are best left alone, too. There'll be time enough for tucking in with abandon later on.

Much has been written about aphrodisiac foods, but while their efficacy is nebulous territory, if you are in the right mood and your partner is on the same vibe, you will tend to order sexy food, dishes that can be described as spicy, steamy, luscious, gooey, and fiery. Get the connection? Not for nothing is gastronomy known as the sister art of love.

A stylish pre-dinner drink before you set out on your date, sets the mood and allows you to relax. A pomegranate martini is just perfect.

You will need...

1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
2 shots premium vodka
150 ml freshly extracted pomegranate juice
Juice of one lime
Crushed ice

Warm the water and sugar to make a thin syrup. Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake for 30 seconds and pour into martini glasses rimmed with sugar. To do this, rub the rim of the glass with a lime wedge, overturn and dip in soft sugar. Try and keep the sugar to the outer rim of the glass.

Cheers and have a great date.

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