34 COVER STORY
If the way to a man's heart (and woman's) is through the stomach, it's time to take the Valentine's Day woo to the table. But to eat out, or in? ANTHONY HUCKSTEP and KATE GIBBS hitch themselves to the debate
Join the great Valentine’s Day debate – to eat out, or not, on February 14?
ARE YOU kidding? You’ve got enough to worry about on Valentine’s Day to spend any of your time cooking. I mean it’s not only your signature soufflé that needs to rise, right?
Sure, you can cook. You’ve mastered Jamie Oliver’s 15-minute feeds in 13.5 minutes (well done, you), but you can’t cook your trusty Tuesday night chicken parmi with a tikka twist on Valentine’s, oh no. You have to do something special, don’t you? Something that challenges the realms of gastronomy and leaves your partner’s mouth agape, as the dangerous combination of sharp knives, fire, fatigue and fat fingers risk it all for a culinary form of foreplay.
You need a dish that makes Ramsay look like an idiot sandwich, and Heston like a Squib (if you don’t read Harry Potter, Google it). Nothing short of a menagerie of molecular morsels normally mastered by a brigade of the world’s best restaurants will do.
Yep, three days of solid prep using every pan in your periphery means a pile of dirty dishes higher than a hippie. And there’s nothing sexy about washing up.
Take the pressure off – go to a restaurant. Dining out simply provides the platform for the intention of the actual day: to spend quality time with your loved one, rather than spend five hours in emergency because you flambéed your eyebrows.
Even the professionals screw up a romantic dinner at home. ‘ The naked chef’ himself, Jamie Oliver decided not to dress to impress while cooking for his now-wife Jools. When he opened the fan-forced oven to take a gander at his whole sea bass a jet of hot steam attacked his manhood, forcing it to swell to such extremes it looked like a sea bass itself. Talk about coitus interruptus. Where you choose to dine is vital. With the throng of lovebirds looking to lure Cupid’s arrow, you need to act early, and act smart. Now, I might be breaking the code here, but I’ve got a secret to the success of your Valentine’s Day adventure. Before you pick a restaurant, just pretend you already have. Ask your partner to guess where they’ll be going. Their first guess is, of course, their ultimate destination. Now you have to get a table at all costs – good luck! If they say, “You’re not taking me to Bob’s Sushi & Pizza World again are you?” – don’t, whatever you do, take them there. Save that for the break-up. Unless of course, Valentine’s Day ends in a happily ever after, which you can formalise after dessert, not in the hospital. EVERY year, without sympathy or apology, it’s Valentine’s Day again. Terror stricken, too many of us try to throw money at the problem, booking in to the most expensive and apparently swoon-worthy place we can think of, lest we spend next year alone. It does sound romantic; being organised and thoughtful enough to secure a table weeks, even months, ahead – and that’s what you have to do, unless you want to wine and dine your beloved at Pho Sure on the high street, jostling with all the other beleaguered couples who also forgot to care about V-day until the last minute.
But even the efficient are destined to fail when it comes to eating out in a bid to celebrate love on that day. The best laid plans of mice and men usually turn to zip, especially on high-stakes nights. A loved-up pair slurping oysters and playing footsies is no aphrodisiac for every other poor soul in the room hoping to rise to the occasion later.
And nothing steals the romance from a two-hundred dollar prix fixe than a man or woman getting down on one knee at the adjacent table. Cue every other unhitched human in the place bracing themselves for an evening of Champagne-fuelled battles of why-not-yet and then-when. Restaurants are a dead end for those not necessarily locking in love-for-life tonight. Eating at home is chic, it’s cheap(er), and it was romantic enough for Meghan Markle when Prince Harry, we gather, got down on one knee over a roast chook. There’s time to consensually and consciously lock in a restaurant any time of year, but only the disorganised, the incapable (and maybe chefs) should set foot amongst the madness – the overwrought waiters and overpriced menus – on February 14. Chilled oysters on a plate. By gosh, the man can cook. A good chicken in the oven, salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon, does a hero make. Revealing your prowess in the kitchen is sexy. If you can’t conjure the energy to put a meal together, what else will you not quite muster when desire comes? To have found someone energetic and nimble enough to cook for you, someone to manage the tedious hustle of grocery shopping, to choose a lush Italian salad recipe involving peaches and prosciutto they think you’d love, makes you extraordinarily lucky. Effort trumps a hefty bill any day. If I put my hand on my heart – because it’s about love after all – in this modern world the most romantic thing you can do for your beloved on Valentine’s Day is to propose… that you do the washing up. @kategibbs