As we’ve said many times, you should not/must not/can not go to dinner on a first internet date. It’s expensive, takes too long, and locks you in for an hour with someone you might want to murder before the Bloomin Onion arrives. (Also: don’t go anywhere they serve food that’s “Bloomin.” Never trust a missing “g.”) In fact, there’s only one idea worse idea than dining out, and that, of course, is cooking in.
Let’s be honest, you’re not a good cook. Your friends say you are, but they’re probably just being nice. I mean look, they let you wear that shirt to work today without saying a damn thing, so how can they be trusted? OK, I guess it’s possible you’re good in the kitchen, but do you really want to take that chance on a first date, or an early date of any kind? You’ve gotta invite a stranger over to your house, a move that has Jeffrey Dahmer written all over it, then deal with the stress of not ruining the food. And having enough to talk about. And not ruining the food. I’m not sure how long I’d wait for a home-cooked dinner date, but I will say this: it’s longer than you wait for sex. If sex is date 3, then dinner is date 33. BJs before Beef Bourguignon, I always say. Well, I don’t, but I’d really like to.
There will come a time however when every man must cook for his woman. You’ll go out to dinner several times, then she’ll probably cook for you once or twice, then it will come time for you to return the favor. This is a right of passage, a thing you must do, and a thing you almost certainly screw up. Which is why, loyal reader, I am here to guide you. Because believe me, I’ve already screwed up so many more things than you have
So here now is a guide to cooking dinner for your date, in a mere 25 steps.
1. Do everything you can to convince your date not to let you cook dinner. “Hey, I hear Applebee’s is doing some really interesting things lately!” or “I wonder how many Flaming Cheetos it takes to constitute a whole meal?” and “My oven was stolen by a robber” are phrases you should consider.
2. Do not say “I really can’t cook.” She’ll just think you’re being a guy, and that obviously you can cook one or two things. Say, “I burned a girl once in a fire.” When she asks how, say only, “Pork chops.” She’ll laugh, but at least you tried to explain your shortcomings in advance. Remember that for later when she starts to yell.
3. When she says, “Come on. It’ll be fun. I’ll like it no matter how it tastes, because you made it,” handle it with aplomb. Reply “OK, no problem, honey. I’ll whip something up no problem.” with confidence and panache.
5. Consider your go-to recipes. Realize that a spoonful of peanut butter on top of a peeled banana is more of a breakfast thing, and that tuna fish sandwiched between two thin slices of pickle Stackers is more of a eat alone in the dark then immediately wash your entire body thing.
6. Cry again.
7. Check your freezer. Certainly there’s something to eat in there. Hmmm. Strawberry Fruit Bars and ice. Google “Dinner recipes with ice as main ingredient.” When autofill completes the sentence for you, realize that means you’ve searched for this exact phrase before. Take stock in your life and consider making some serious changes.
8. Make no serious changes.
9. Turn on The Food Network for inspiration. As Ina Garten introduces Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, start to feel a swell of confidence. You can make that. It’s just chicken and a bunch of garlic. How easy is that?
10. Watch the show for more than 90 seconds and realize there’s actually a bunch more ingredients required. Begin to feel depressed. Yell, “What sort of a name is Ina anyway?!” at no one in particular, then eat a room temperature Pop Tart. Obviously it’s going to be a while before dinner is served, and you’ll need your energy.
11. Take a nap. You’ve earned it.
12. Call your mom and ask what you should do. Leave a voicemail even though she has no idea how to check her voicemail.
13. Look at pictures of food on friends’ Instagram accounts for inspiration. Realize that is only making you hungry, and eat another Pop Tart.
14. When your date texts to ask how dinner is coming, don’t respond. That’s what a true chef would do in the midst of battle. As far as you know. Also, you’re afraid that if you respond you may start crying a third time and you don’t want the neighbors to worry. Well, worry more than they already do.
15. Accuse your cat of holding out on you. You’ve seen Ratatouille, if that friggin’ cartoon rat could cook, so can kitty. Discontinue your interrogation when she begins to lick her own butt.
16. Remember that in college, a friend’s mom told you that the easiest way to make a real dinner is to buy chicken breast and salad dressing and put it all in a ziploc bag overnight. It’s 5pm, so overnight is out of the question, but you are nothing if not cool under pressure.
17. Go to the grocery store and see that every register has a line five customers deep. Ask “What are all these idiots doing here?” aloud. Be surprised when an old lady next to you says, “Buying dinner, you idiot.” Promptly leave the store.
18. Mutter “Fucking old ladies” under breath as you walk to the car.
19. Pull into 7-11, with 30 minutes until your date is due to arrive. The good news is, there’s no line. The bad news is they don’t sell chicken breast or salad dressing. Pick up some turkey slices and Cool Ranch Doritos instead. That’s basically the same thing, right?
20. Arrive home and combine your two ingredients in a dish you’ve dubbed Crushed Ranch Turkito Explosion. Take one bite and spit it out into the sink.
21. Consider which restaurant you can order takeout from that will be good enough that your girlfriend will want to eat it, but bad enough that it’s at all plausible you made it. Consider getting food from the italian place and putting pickle Stackers in it, as that’s something you’d actually do. You know, what? Screw it. Just do that.
22. When your date arrives, dish out the pasta and say “Voila!” without laughing.
23. Be relieved beyond words when she pulls out a bag of chinese food and says “Thank you for trying, but I brought real food!” Wonder how you met such an awesome girl online. Give her a kiss.
24. Eat the chinese food and promise that next week you’ll cook for real.