Photo by Tim Gunther

RECENTLY, A BOOK WITH the unpromising title Cook to Bang landed in the mailbin at Mercury HQ. The cover features an apron-clad man, spatula in hand, surrounded by adoring women—chapters like "Culinary Seduction Blueprints" and "Aphrodisiacs Anonymous" purport to instruct hapless hornballs on the art of preparing "orgasmic meals." It's a pretty terrible book, but author Spencer Walker's biggest transgression is not that his little manifesto is thuddingly unfunny, or that his recipes are boring—it's that his basic premise is so unoriginal.

There's nothing novel about the claim that cooking is a great way to get a piece. The idea that a modern girl will drop trou at the mere whiff of a home-cooked meal is as exhausted as the once-common conviction that knowing how to whip up a respectable casserole was a prereq for getting hitched (the ol' "heart via stomach" route). It's nice when men cook for women. It's nice when women cook for men. Overburden a meal with expectations and pressure—fuck me, marry me, love me—and things, well... things get a little less nice. But optimistic suitors will overburden—and so, in search of vicarious embarrassment (or vindication), we asked a few local writers and Mercury readers to chime in with their own experiences of dating and food.

When I was just out of high school, a boy I was dating invited me over for dinner ('cause his parents were out of town. Giggity). When I got there he poured me a glass of "champagne" and said that dinner would be ready in just a few minutes. When I asked what we were having he said (I kid you not) "wieners in a cloud." In case you were wondering, champagne does not feel good when blown through your nose.

He tried to impress. He really did. He set an elegant table and even used matching plates. But that casserole was something else. It was made of hot dogs split lengthwise and draped across layers of instant mashed potatoes and strips of American cheese. It was both terrible and adorable. He told me that he knew I liked vegetables so he made me corn (canned) and a wee little side salad to go with it (iceberg and cherry tomatoes). He burned himself trying to set the dish down, cursed when he knocked over the champagne, and apologized for forgetting the ketchup (apparently the dish is just not the same without it). And, in case you are wondering, he totally got laid. --HOLLYANNA SMITH

I once made spaghetti Bolognese for an Irish girlfriend and her parents. They were polite enough not to mention anything, but when I started reading Irish literature more contemporary than Beckett, I discovered there is a literary tradition of the clueless college bachelor cooking bad spaghetti Bolognese for his girlfriend's parents. --BEN BREMINGTON

From a nerd's point of view, cooking seems like the kind of thing that would earn you points with a prospective mate but ultimately ends up being another tool for a predatory partner to take advantage. As a well-known doormat, my incredible baking skills or occasional forays into cooking are just another way in which I've put myself out there only to get nothing back. The home economics class I took in junior high paid off with a skill for making incredibly huge chocolate chip cookies for my high school "sweetheart," but chocolate orgasms were all either of us ended up with whenever I put on an apron. Likewise, making my dad's curry recipe for an adult gal pal filled my house with a tantalizing smell, but never the smell of sex. Satisfying her appetites left mine unattended. Apparently, a doormat in the kitchen is equal to being a doormat in the bedroom. If only I had a fetish for spike heels, then I'd finally get something out of being walked all over. --JAMIE S. RICH

We'd been living together for a while, and I was slipping away from him. I think he could feel it. He wasn't working or taking any classes, and I'd come home after a full day on campus to find him still in his boxers, puffing off the bong and watching reruns of Andy Griffith. One morning he got ambitious and woke me with breakfast in bed. He brought me toast (not toasted enough for my taste) and scrambled eggs. I looked at them, arranged nicely on the plate, garnished with paprika. I took a hearty bite. That wasn't paprika in the eggs. It. Was. CINNAMON. I couldn't really mask the horror on my face, and his fell. Poor guy. Basically, he'd made scrambled eggs out of what should have been French toast batter. I didn't want to hurt his feelings; I still was enough in love to worry about that. So I ate it. Three weeks later, though, I moved out. It had almost nothing to do with the fact that he couldn't cook worth a damn. --TARA DUBLIN

Portland's got a smarter, funnier, and generally more trustworthy alternative to Cook to Bang in Alex Neely's blog Cooking for Assholes (cookingforassholes.blogspot.com). If you are inclined to put all your eggs in one omelet and go all out on impressing a date over dinner, see Alex's recipe for blackened catfish (below).

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You are so desperate to get some action you are actually willing to cook, huh? Well I have a dish that even your incompetent ass will be able to pull off and your victim, I mean lady friend, will enjoy. Chicks love cats, because they like to be bossed around, and chicks dig fish, because they heard on Oprah that it makes them skinny, so what better entrée to make than blackened catfish?

Asshole's Blackened Catfish

1 catfish fillet

3/4 teaspoon white pepper

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons Old Bay

1 teaspoon cayenne

Combine paprika, Old Bay, cayenne, white pepper, black pepper, thyme, and oregano. "What if I don't have all those spices?" Fucking improvise, dumbass. Damn. Coat your fish with the spice mixture and let it sit for a minute. "My spices are not sticking very well." Did you thaw your fish? "No." Well there is your fucking problem, genius. Heat a heavily oiled cast iron skillet, or equally heavy pan, to medium-high heat. Use vegetable oil, not olive oil. Sear it for about four to five minutes per side depending on the size of the fillet. Serve with a homemade remoulade and red beans and rice. Who am I kidding? Just break out the ketchup and Zatarain's, loser. Eat it. --ALEX NEELY