Making a Meal for a Date: When Is the Right Time?

In a scene from the 1997 romantic comedy “Love Jones,” a young poet named Darius recounts to his friend over a game of pool how his first date went with Nina, a beautiful photographer he recently met. They ended up having sex that night, and the next morning, he got up and made breakfast.

“You made breakfast?” his friend asks in disbelief. Darius barely knows this woman.

“I was in there cooking,” Darius answers.

“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait — you cooked what?”

“A cheese omelet.”

Cooking in the early stages of dating can be impossibly loaded with meaning. Sometimes, as in Darius’s case, it’s an impulsive act that signals real feelings — whether or not the cooker is aware of them yet. It can also be an intentional Friday night plan. Regardless, there’s usually a lot of thought that goes into that first meal. And a lot riding on it, too.

Despite Darius’s claims that he and Nina were “just kickin’ it,” the eggs were a clear sign that he had already fallen hard.

So when is the right time to cook for someone you’re dating but not yet in a relationship with? Do you try a new recipe, or stick to what you know? And do certain dishes create certain impressions? An editor I work with joked that once you roast a chicken together, you’re in full relationship mode. And if you ask social media, any variation of Alfredo pasta is hopelessly played out.

One morning I woke up with someone I was dating and had the urge to make breakfast. Usually I would have waited until he had left or would have kept it simple with eggs, but then I remembered he had mentioned liking French toast. Before I knew it, I was dipping slices of bread into milk and beaten eggs to pan-fry and eat with a man I wasn’t officially with. I later laughed at the realization that, like Darius, I liked this person a lot more than I was able to see at the time.

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