The first date is important, but the first time you cook a homemade meal for a special friend is more important. The first home cooked meal is the next step in a romantic relationship and making a good second first impression is critical. My daughter tackled this topic on her new food blog, Break-the-Plate. She titled the blog First Homemade Meal for the Third Date. I reminded her that the psychology of food preparation is as crucial to making a meal as the measure of ingredients used. Her choices for the first home cooked meal included beef Wellington, pizza, and penne pasta. I will examine each of her choices from a psychological perspective.

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington is meat eater’s delight with an impressive presentation. This dish is easy to make, but gives the impression that you are a master in the kitchen. This first home cooked meal sets up the primacy effect. We tend to remember the first things we see, hear, or do. The first home cooked meal may only last for an hour or two but will be remembered for years to come. Furthermore, any meal thereafter will be compared to the first meal you cooked. This dish could be a disaster if your dinner guest is a vegetarian. Determining if your new friend is a meat eater takes a bit of detective work. The first few dates typically include dining out. This is a perfect time to discover what types of food the other person likes. Initiating casual conversation about food is appropriate since you are both sharing a meal. Cute and a good cook too is a romantic one-two punch that is hard to dodge.


I raised my eyebrow when my daughter presented this selection. I envisioned spontaneous get togethers, football games, and drinking beer from a can. Upon reflection, I decided that pizza is perfect for the first home cooked meal from a psychological perspective. Pizza creates a relaxed environment, which will be a welcomed relief from the tension of the first few dates. The key to the success of this meal is inviting your guest to help prepare the meal. Making a pizza is something that you and your dinner guest can do together. The more each of you invests in the preparation of the meal, the greater emotional connection you will experience during the act of consuming the meal. To create a greater emotional connection, your dinner date could begin by going to the store with your dinner guest and selecting the ingredients that you like most. This also solves the problem of not knowing if your dinner guest is a meat eater or not. If your tastes differ, make half the pizza with your favorites and make the other half of the pizza with your guest’s favorites. To enhance the experience, you could make your dinner guest’s half of the pizza and have your dinner guest make your half of the pizza. This symbolizes your growing interaction in each other’s lives.

Penne Pasta

This is an interesting selection. Making pasta for your first home cooked meal together is like serving a time bomb to your dinner guest. One slip of the fork and your clothes becomes a crime scene. I lost several expensive dress shirts and ties to misdirected strands of spaghetti or the splat of tomato sauce. Wearing a red stained piece of clothing the rest of the evening can be psychologically devastating. Again, my daughter’s logic prevailed. She said there is nothing more devastating than preparing a meal that flops, especially on the first home cooked meal date. Penne pasta is the perfect meal for people who lack culinary talent. Pasta is simple to make yet, elegant in presentation thus, creating the desired primacy effect. With proper planning, the time bomb can be defused. First, use penne pasta or similar products to avoid spoon twirling and slurping faux pas. Second, use a cream sauce or light oil to dress the pasta instead of marinara sauce. Third,the flexibility of toppings satisfies the meat eater and vegetarian alike. Add a bottle of wine and the psychological stage is set for a pleasant evening.

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  • romantic home cooked meal
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John R. “Jack” Schafer, Ph.D. is a professor at Western Illinois University in the Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA) Department. He is a retired FBI Special Agent. He served as behavioral analyst assigned to FBI’s National Security Behavioral Analysis Program. He authored a book titled “Psychological Narrative Analysis: A Professional Method to Detect Deception in Written and Oral Communications.” He also co-authored a book titled “Advanced Interviewing Techniques: Proven strategies for Law Enforcement, Military, and Security Personnel.” He has published numerous articles on a wide range of topics including the psychopathology of hate, ethics in law enforcement, and detecting deception. Dr. Schafer earned his Ph.D. in psychology at Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California. Dr. Schafer owns his own consulting company and lectures and consults in the United States and abroad.