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Cooking that clinched the deal

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ENGAGEMENT CHICKEN Sometimes all it takes is a great roast chicken to seal the deal. (Illustration: behance.net/runamokstudios)

The routes to a man’s heart may be more varied than the cliché would have us believe, but sometimes the one right through his stomach is the one that seals the deal.

Editors at Glamour magazine have been so sure that food does the trick that they espouse a roast chicken recipe famously dubbed “Engagement Chicken.” As the story goes, the recipe has made the rounds among Glamour staffers, several of whom became engaged soon after making the chicken for their boyfriends. Even Howard Stern’s wife claims Engagement Chicken prompted the radio DJ, married three times prior, to relinquish his beloved bachelor status.

Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa, claims it’s roast chicken that’s kept her husband driving a four-hour commute to come home every Friday night. The famous cookbook author put her own spin on Engagement Chicken, brightening the Glamour recipe with extra herbs while perpetuating the dish’s promise.

Some local couples’ love stories also have had a little help from food. One Memorial couple married for 25 years (no names please, they asked) remembers the pasta with salmon and caviar that the wife would make when the two were courting in New York City in the ’90s.

“It didn’t really seal the deal,” the wife says, explaining that the couple knew they’d marry after dating for a mere two weeks. “But it was a nice accessory and said I was going to make a great wife!

“We were poor and living in New York,” she says, “so I would cook in his dorm room [at Columbia University]. I guess the pasta was a little ’90s fancy, but I was impressing him.”

“I thought it was pretty awesome,” says the husband. “Of course she made enough for a whole crew [of roommates], so that was pretty cool. She made the salmon caviar whatchacallit bowtie pasta.”

“Farfalle,” the wife chimes in.

“Farfalle,” the husband remembers. “She brought it out…”

“And your roommates thought I was amazing!” she says. “It was fun cooking for all the roommates. The shocker was when they all came back from Spring Break like, ‘What did you do?’ and he was like, ‘Oh, I got engaged.’ Poof!”

“Yes, it was fast,” the husband says. “Who would do such a thing?”

“It was love! And here we are 27 years later after 25 years of marriage,” says the wife.

Does she still serve farfalle with salmon and caviar? “No, I don’t make that pasta anymore,” she says.  “But maybe I need to resurrect it. Maybe for Valentine’s Day.

“But of course I don’t like cooking for those holidays anymore. You can hook ’em, and then it’s time for them to take you out!”

Another Memorial couple (also no names please, they requested) who just celebrated their first anniversary together cite culinary skill as a clincher preceding their engagement. Coincidentally, both are expert cheesecake bakers. Years ago the husband baked cheesecakes for the original Ruggles restaurant. “He would send them to friends for Thanksgiving,” the wife says. “When we were dating, I told him I also had a little cheesecake business. I brought one over for him and his friends, and they all told him, ‘Yours just got beat!’ It was funny and so coincidental.”

And there’s more. “When we were first dating, we had been out maybe to a movie and hadn’t stopped for dinner,” the wife says. “He came inside to drop me off, and I asked if he wanted anything to eat or drink. Of all things, he told me he was kind of craving a chicken quesadilla.

“Luckily, the day before I had made chicken enchiladas and put the filling in a baggie in the fridge. So I had the chicken and tortillas and cheese right there. He was so impressed because the chicken was already seasoned – it wasn’t just plain chicken. He’s told so many people that I just pulled that quesadilla out of thin air!”

Between them, the couple has six children ranging in age from 13 to late 20s. “It’s kind of rare now that it’s just the two of us,” the wife says. “But the kids still request chicken enchiladas, and every once and a while I’ll have a little chicken left over. I know he likes the quesadillas, so when I have the chicken I’ll still make them for him.”

What is it really about food that makes us swoon? Jeffrey Garten may have pegged it. When he explains what it was about Ina that hooked him, he says, “She looked like she would take care of me.” Almost 50 years later, she’s still taking care of him with food.

Email us at [email protected] if you want to brag on a life partner who caught you with food.

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