In an effort to keep the romance alive now that I have "nabbed" a man, last night I decided to enrapture him with a menu from 1970's A Cookbook for Lovers.
I have a vast collection of seduction-worth cookery manuals, from 1917's A Thousand Way to Please a Husband, to 1952's Date Bait, to, obviously, Helen Gurley Brown's Single Girl's Cookbook. But for my first attempt at entrapment, I turned to the exceedingly ridiculous 1970-time-machine, Ernest Carteris' A Cookbook for Lovers.
The menu given for "romantic seduction" was a greatest-hits of the genre: oysters, champagne, chicken breasts in champagne Veronique, and coeur a la creme. Because my ungentrified neighborhood isn't exactly the epicenter of commonly-accepted ideas of "romance", it quickly became clear that the champagne would be Cook's, the oysters, smoked, and the coeur a la creme less "coeur-shaped" than "bowl-shaped." Whatevs. I threw myself into the meal preparation with gusto, taking the time to leave a sultry, "bring a healthy appetite," voicemail, and listening exclusively to Chicago as I laboriously separated a pile of anemic-looking canned grapes from an economy-sized fruit cocktail to obtain the requisite one cup. The "Veronique" chicken dish was easy enough - just a saute, plus Cook's champagne and the grapes, but its last-minute prep didn't strike me as very romantic, so I made the executive decision to pre-cook it and plate it under foil so as to have time to beautify.
I greeted Slim at the door clad in a caftan, amulet and a choking cloud of "blue jeans perfume for women." The Carpenters were playing, pink candles were lit, the tablecloth was a satisfying mustard shade. "Oysters?" I offered throatily, pouring him a cup of Cook's Champagne. He looked towards the plate of saltines topped with dabs of putrid tar dubiously.
"Jesus, is this Cook's champagne?" he exclaimed after taking a swig,
"Naturally," I drawled. (I was trying to channel Love Boat.)
"If you'll excuse me a moment...no, no," I added as he rose to help me. "Stay there and look handsome."
I went to get our plates. The sauce had congealed, the canned grapes floating like eyeballs in formaldehyde. I reached for more parsley.
When I returned with the plates, there was a random dude sitting at the table, and Slim had turned on the overhead light.
"Who are you?" I demanded.
"This is John!" said Slim cheerfully. "He came by to drop off some bootlegs!"
"Hi," said John.
"I asked him to stay, that's cool, right?" said Slim with his typical insouciance. For some reason there was also a Casio keyboard on the table.
"Sure," I muttered, thrusting the plates at them. So much for the big seduction.
Gradually, under the influence of the Red Stripe that the random guy generously provided from the bodega, my sullenness dissipated. John, it seemed was some kind of grad student Slim had met in San Francisco. He was from Nebraska, didn't miss the winters, and was experimenting with a new form of sound art. I noticed both guys had discreet piles of canned grapes on the side of their plates. The coeur a la creme, after I'd smushed it really carefully, almost looked like a big cream cheese heart, if you were drunk.
The evening quickly evolved into a Captain and Tenille dance party. John, whoever he was, did all the dishes. And it struck me that a wacky menage a trois - even a platonic one - was really more in keeping with the era anyway.
Next Time: Seduction, Helen Gurley Brown style!