How Learning To Cook Refined My Taste In Men

Becoming an amateur chef has made me pickier about men -- and I couldn't be happier about it.

Woman cooking Antonio_Diaz | Getty Images / andresr | Getty Images Signature

"Toast with avocado or salad with avocado tonight?"

For years, these were the only options I gave dates I was entertaining at my home. Sad, but true: I only knew how to make two things, and they required next to nothing in terms of preparation.

I hated cooking and I didn't particularly love my dating life, either.

Instead of cooking for my significant others, I would always insist (er, "suggest") that we go out to eat, whether it was to the local gastropub I was obsessed with or to somewhere brand-new that neither of us had tried.


It was an excuse to get semi-dressed up, experience new tastes, and enjoy the atmosphere of an intriguing place with one another. Plus, I didn't have to learn to cook or do any cleaning later on — perhaps the most appealing part of this habit.

This was all proverbial gravy (albeit likely made in somebody else's proverbial kitchen, too) while I was in my teens, but then I hit my early 20s and was still a terrible — and I do mean terrible — cook.

Have you ever watched Desperate Housewives and wondered how anyone could actually be as bad at making things as Susan? Hi, I'm Sam, and I have both undercooked and overcooked many a dish. I've burned so many pizzas that my oven has reeked of seared cheese for months.




RELATED: How To Cook An Entire Meal In Your Dishwasher

The only thing I have ever been good at making was cocktails, toast, and salad, which led to my pretending I was a decent enough hostess because I could slice cheese and put it on mini-baguettes served with a Manhattan, then once again insist we go out to eat.

But as more and more of my friends started holding delicious dinners and talking about the great meals they made with their boyfriends, I realized this was not acceptable.


When you're 21, have lived on your own for three years, and have a pretty fantastic kitchen, you should be able to make stuff. Not just products with the tagline "ready in 3 minutes!" but actual food.

Dining out on dates is not only expensive (I almost always insist on going Dutch, unless it's a special occasion), but it's usually not very intimate. You have little control over exactly how your meal is prepared, you rely on a server to take your orders and settle your concerns — which can take a considerable amount of time on a busy Thursday night — and you have to share the room with a dozen or more other people. 

So that year, with the encouragement of some of my chef friends, I began to learn how to cook.

RELATED: 10 Tips For Making Cooking As A Couple Fun & Efficient

First, I went with easy (and I do mean easy) recipes: simple sandwiches, baked chicken, and stir-fry. Recipes that didn't involve a whole lot of preparation, but still came out looking lovely.


My then-boyfriend was thrilled; up until that point, he had always made our fun brunches and evening snacks — or we'd just jet out of the house for our meals. We cooked together on a regular basis, which felt more intimate and involved more communication than simply deciding on a restaurant or ordering in.

I previously had thought it was silly to spend so much time preparing a meal but as time went on, I stopped dreading the process — and started actually enjoying it as much as eating. Later that year, when I became single again, I started inviting my dates over.

You know those awkwardly forced getting-to-know-you conversations over a too-long table in a large room where you can hardly hear one another? Those were eliminated! I could hear them talk, hear myself think, and avoid awkward pauses because I was somewhat busy cooking.

We could do it together, even: He could chop vegetables while I make the sauce, or he could prepare the salad while I set the table. We were a team, and I loved the activity of it all.


Plus, my new hobby allowed me to filter prospective partners: If somebody was generally boring and useless while I was cooking (i.e. wouldn't so much as open the bottle of wine or grab me something from another room), I knew we were likely not a good match.



On the flip side, if I felt reliability and chemistry while creating meals, including coming up with new ideas together and offering various techniques, I would be more likely to consider someone for a second date.

RELATED: Men Share 21 Easy Dinner Ideas Sure To Impress The Guy In Your Life


When you're sitting at a table and your conversation stalls frequently while you stare at your menus or wait for your food, it's more difficult to properly assess your compatibility. It's like test-driving a car to see how it feels in action versus looking at it from afar and wondering what it might be like.

I even began to hold dinner parties which, for the record, are one of the most oddly impressive things to do in the eyes of other people. I would hold intimate gatherings with six or so people, one of whom I might be interested in, as well as large ones to encourage mingling among friends (as well as between myself and certain boys). 

Even though I still burn things — probably more often than I'd care to admit — I'm so glad I started cooking for myself and others. In addition to keeping my spending at bay and letting my creative juices (literally) flow, it's worked wonders for my dating life.

RELATED: 5 Easy Ways To Cook Yourself A Meal Amidst A Chaotic Life


Sam H. Escobar is the Deputy Director at Allure Magazine.