Romantic Food

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(HOST) To update an old saying, the way to a person’s heart is through his – or her – stomach, and commentator Marialisa Calta has some advice for heating things up in the kitchen.

(CALTA) Ah, Romance. Now that it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, you can break out your Byron or Shelley. Or you can do as I do and break out the collected works of Jinx Kragen and Judy Perry, who, back in the 1960s, wrote Saucepans & the Single Girl and The How to Keep Him (After You’ve Caught Him) Cookbook. These two slim volumes pack in more recipes and more advice on relationships than a year of Oprah.

I was drawn to these books – which I purchased used, as they are now out of print – by their catchy titles and the photo of the pert and perky authors wearing “career girl” suits and stirring fondue at the office. But it was clear from the get-go that these two were no bimbos. They were Stanford graduates, for goodness sake, and the authors notes said that Jinx was producing a movie while Judy was “collaborating on a new musical comedy.”

They were no culinary slouches, either. There they were, more than 40 years ago, cooking up gnocchi, curries and cioppino, along with the more predictable meat loaf and casseroles. And they offer formidable dating advice. “For each category of man there is a perfect menu,” they intone. “So have a swig of that cooking sherry and relax.” What better place to find Valentine’s Day recipes?

The only other book I can think of is How to Make Love and Dinner at the Same Time, written last year by Rebecca Field Jager. This book promises that its slow-cooker recipes will allow you to “heat up the bedroom instead of the kitchen.”

Now, the Crock Pot is not exactly the item I think of when I think of Valentine’s Day. In fact, it has garnered a bit of a “granny-ish” image since its introduction by the Rival Company in 1971. But Jager – a competitive volleyball player and former actress from Toronto – is definitely not the “granny” type. Her cookbook can make me blush. (Okay, I admit it: I embarrass easily.) Double entendres abound about such subjects as breasts (chicken), thighs (also chicken) and “technique”. There’s a paragraph on “frigidity” which advises you on how to thaw frozen vegetables. But at its core, the book has a truly useful message: that in the real world – a world of jobs, kids, community projects, household chores and, yes, romance – most of us need all the help we can get.

So this year, instead of traditional gifts like chocolate or flowers, you might pick up a copy of one of Jinx and Judy’s books, or give your “significant other” something really romantic – like, say, a slow-cooker.

This is Marialisa Calta in Calais.

Marialisa’s Upside-Down Cake Recipe

Marialisa Calta is a freelance writer and cookbook author.

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