Cooking for the Ones We Love—Mealtime Magic? Or a Recipe for Disaster?

To celebrate the publication of Ree Drummond’s romantic memoir, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, we invited our Secret Ingredient contributors to share their personal stories under the subject of “cooking for a loved one.” Enjoy, and feel free to share your own!

“Ree Drummond’s cookbook promises delicious food, accolades, and marriage proposals, so last year I decided to put her claims to the test. For weeks I whipped up dozens of recipes for my then-boyfriend of eight years—Cinnamon Rolls, Chicken Pot Pie, Penne alla Betsy, Red Velvet Cake, and Mocha Brownies, to name a few. Only days after he gobbled up the last brownie, he got down on one knee and proposed. Coincidence? I think not!”

“Back in 2007, I celebrated my first Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend, E. After almost a year as a couple, we considered ourselves to be the collegiate foodies of Binghamton University, despite a shoestring collegiate budget. For Valentine’s Day, we decided to spare no expense on dinner. E would make the appetizer and the entrée, and I would make an elaborate dessert. The challenge? To keep the dishes themselves a secret until we served each other. Of course, our school was located deep in a “valley system,” and Valentine’s Day happened to fall in the middle of a terrible blizzard. We had slept over E’s apartment and woke up on the morning of February 14, realizing—with horror—that all our ingredients were at my apartment and the car was completely snowed in. That morning, we worked for over an hour in the accumulating snow—shoveling, shoveling, shoveling—until it was time to try our luck on the highway. The snow was so heavy that we couldn’t see the road; a ten-minute trip took us over an hour of white-knuckling, cursing, and praying. We did eventually arrive in one piece, and vowed to keep our exploits from our parents, lest they think we risked our lives for prosciutto sliders, broiled salmon, and chocolate mousse.”

“One year for Mother’s Day I told my mom that I would bring dessert to dinner (my dad was making the meal). I had a bunch of bananas that were on their way out, so I decided to make banana ice cream (I am the family “expert”). After whipping up the custard I realized I still had some bananas left over, so I made banana bread. Dessert would be a banana bonanza! I toted my homemade desserts to Long Island, keeping them a secret until I carried out the dishes after dinner. My mom took one look at the plate and then stared up at me. I was beaming, proud that I’d made something special for my mother, but she said to me, “Are you trying to kill me?” I thought for sure she meant she’d want multiple sinful servings of my wonderful dessert, but no—I had just completely forgotten about the severe allergy she had recently developed to bananas! If she ate my dessert, she would end up in the hospital! This has now become family legend—how I tried to kill my mother with a banana.”

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