Nothing is wrong with dinner and a movie, but don't let your dating life get stuck in a rut. Taking a cooking class and trying new food - procuring it, cooking it and enjoying it together - is a fabulous way to add a spark of romance to an everyday activity and open new doors to recipes that you and your significant other may not have tried on your own.
"When a guy typically meets a lady, he'll ask if he can take her out to dinner," says chef Jernard Wells, who earned his nickname "The Love Chef" at 15 years old when neighborhood girls would call him to place orders for food that he cooked out of his mother's kitchen in Mississippi. "Before kissing or anything, a guy will take a lady out for dinner. We think that first base is getting a kiss or whatever, but if first base doesn't transpire around food, it isn't going any further. Food is always first base."
As important as food is to romance, Wells says mealtime can be a real source of stress for couples because we tend to think that we don't have the time. Instead of resorting to a take-out menu or frozen pizza, Wells recommends choosing to make time together for cooking and tackle your meals as a team.
"Normally people have scattered lives," he says. "Some eat before they come home or in front of the TV; instead, do it together. It makes for a more exciting experience. It puts both of you in the room together and allows you to communicate together."
Taking a cooking class - which typically runs from $29-$70 per person and includes chef instruction as well as a full meal - and learning to work with each other in the kitchen can be a launch pad to start viewing cooking as a means of bonding as a couple.
"People come out and want something different and fun to do and hopefully they walk away with a bit of knowledge, as well," says Marcy Kelch, owner of Mia Cucina, a North Shore cookware store and cooking school that offers couples classes on Friday and Saturday nights.
"The classes are for a range of abilities from beginners to experts. We've seen everyone from children to adults to people that are novices that would like to learn the basics or people that are a little more advanced and want instruction from the chefs."
Wells, who also offers cooking classes at Eastgate Mall or privately at your home, says that his biggest goal with his classes is to show people the romantic side of food and teach people to create relationships they keep "one bite at a time."
"With my passion for food, I show people how to connect through it," he says. "I wanted to find a way to help rejuvenate the love back in the home through food."
No matter what kind of cuisine tickles your taste buds, there is a cooking class for every skill level and cooking style. "We use all sorts of area and local chefs from executive chefs to instructors; it varies. We have a rotation of about seven chefs we use, such as an Italian chef from Sicily focused on Italian food," says Kelch. "We have classes on anything from pasta-making to healthy living to a kids Harry Potter-themed class. It runs the gamut, really."
Find out how to sway your date with these fantastic food tips from Wells:
Cook sugar snap peas with ginger and soy. Beyond being tasty, Wells says this dish can make a person open up and talk more.
The "love chemical":
Pure chocolate - a well-known aphrodisiac - contains compounds including anandamide, the psychoactive feel-good chemical, and PEA (phenylethylamine), the "love chemical," which releases dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain inducing feelings of excitement, attraction and euphoria.
Heat it up:
Asparagus, a great source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin and folic acid, is said to boost histamine production necessary for the ability to reach climax in both sexes.
Sit back and relax:
Blend paprika with truffle mushroom or truffle olive oil and coat on vegetables for a tasty side to your meal. Wells says that these ingredients have an extract that, when blended together, relaxes a person and calms them down similar to the effects of sipping chamomile or ginseng tea.
Get the heart pumping:
The aroma of basil is said to have an aphrodisiac effect and is supposedly very stimulating. Use basil as a garnish or sweet basil in a pasta sauce to get your heart racing.