Swipe. Match. Cook.
If first dates weren’t a prerequisite to second dates, we’d probably skip them all together.
First dates are awkward by nature: your goal is to assess someone against all other dates you’ve ever had, over the span of a dinner, while appearing to be present and interested in the two years your date spent at taxidermy school.
Second dates, now those are where the magic happens, or where the potential for magic exists. If first dates are constrained by practicalities--central location for convenience, ambience to make sure you can communicate, length of activity for a quick getaway in case aforementioned communication is terrible--then second dates should be ruled purely by enjoyment. Actually enjoying yourself is your reward for making it this far: don’t squander it by having a second first date.
If you’re looking for an activity that’s entertaining, intimate yet relaxed, gratifying and informative, try cooking. You might be surprised by how many dating conundrums a night in the kitchen can solve.
Conundrum: Dating is expensive!
Solution: Cook at home. It’s an inexpensive date, not a cheap date--and there is a difference. Selecting a recipe and picking up the ingredients shows thoughtfulness and attention to detail. Cooking preparation is a time commitment (albeit a small one) and tells your date they were worth more than a few thumb taps on Open Table.
Better than: Chi-chi restaurants. Emptying your wallet on a second date is a lot like gambling: you’re betting on good food and good conversation but most of the variables are outside of your control. A bad date can ruin your night, but it doesn’t need to ruin your bank account. Yep, you did just eat a $14 plate of “deconstructed” hummus (i.e. a bowl of Goya chickpeas).
Conundrum: Finding an activity that matches experience levels.
Solution: Cook with a new recipe. Even if one person is more advanced in the kitchen than the other, a new recipe is a challenge for any chef. There’s still room for friendly chopping lessons without declaring yourself lead chef and there's no better feeling than creating something with your hands that you can hopefully put in your mouth.
Better than: Bowling. If one person is rolling strikes all night and the other keeps landing in the gutter, then someone’s going home with a bruised ego. Also, it’s hard to have a conversation when it’s alway someone’s “turn”: you’ll be like two ships passing in the...alley.
Conundrum: Running out of things to say.
Solution: Talking about food. Food is a neutral starting point given both of you will have eaten it before and probably plan to again. Cooking together can provide natural segues to the hard-hitting date questions you want to ask, but, until now, haven’t been able to. For example: “You’re really going after that cilantro! Do you love seasonings or is there some suppressed anger thing going on that I should know about?” or “Oh, onions make you cry too? When was the last time you cried and why, sparing no detail?” For traditionalists, “What’s your favorite food and where did you last eat it?” works too.
Better than: Almost any other topic as a starter. Nothing is more universal than the need to eat. Politics, religion, and kids all seem better suited to date three, but if you’re so inclined, “Do you need any salt or are you salty enough over the election…?” is as good an entryway as any.
Conundrum: Okay, okay, I’m sold on cooking, but my kitchen could use some work.
Solution: Distract with shiny objects. If you’re planning on spending time in the kitchen, invest in cookware that looks like it put in some effort. You wouldn’t show up to a date in your hygge pants would you? Show that you’ve invested in yourself (in your health and your quality of life) and that your date should too by having grown-up tools. If your tools won’t go the distance, your date will think, will you?
Better than: Those little plastic bundles of utensils with the salt and pepper packets designed in the 80s. Leave those for meals on the run, and even then, the napkin is too small to really be useful, and then there’s always that one utensil left in the pack and you feel wasteful throwing it out even though you don’t need it, so you save it and it winds up lost in your pen drawer so that when you reach for it, it won’t be sanitary. Don’t use those or their equivalent.
Get the tools they’ll all be swiping right for.