The following is a cheap and easy way to impress your special lady, written especially for those of us with absolutely no special skills whatsoever.

Assumptions I have made when describing how to undertake this endeavor:

  • Most college students don't know how to cook. At all. Have no fear however. I survived and I'm notorious for not being able to cook.
  • I'm assuming that you're old enough to purchase alcoholic products.
  • I'm assuming that (though you don't know how to cook) you have some basic skills, like how to turn on an oven and how to light a candle
  • I'll assume that you have the necessary tools (a frying pan, matches, oxygen, whatever.)
  • I'll also assume that you've already provided the companion. If not, there are numerous other nodes to help you with that.
  • I'll assume that you have roughtly $30 USD to spend, as well as a quiet place to host.
  • I will also do you the service of assuming that you are romantically inept. If you don't take offense, you might just learn something.

Though this is a quick solution, it will still take roughly a day to pull off, depending on a few factors that you will see arise soon enough.

Part 1 - Preparation:

So hopefully you have at least 24 hours before ground zero. First you need to survey what you are working with. This is important, so don't skip this step. Your significant other will dig it if you make sure everything is clean. This will score you extra romantic points if you're normally a slob (you never thought that would pay off, did you?)

This is also the time in which you need to take inventory. Do you not have a candle? Do you not have a frying pan? What ingredients do you have? (take a glance down if you're using this as a step-by-step guide, I'll go over exactly what you need.) Remember that being prepared is sexy. The last thing you want is to have the need to run out for some key supply at the last second, you'll look like you don't have it together, and in my experience, "having it together" follows from confidence. Those two coupled together will make anyone melt.

Stepping back, I can't stress enough cleanliness. Make sure there aren't any empty beer bottles lying around. Make sure that your bed is made. Make sure that the kitchen is clean. This can naturally be done before you hit the store, or while you're waiting for dinner to cook.

Another part of preparation is to know who you are hosting. My experience does not extend to vegetarians, so the recipe I will provide contains meat, but with a little bit of research, I'm sure you could find a vegetarian substitution of similar simplicity. The point however, is that you don't want to fix pork chops for someone who doesn't eat meat. If you haven't caught on by now, I'm going to walk you through how to make the simple, yet very impressive dish: pork chops in mushroom sauce.

Part 2 - The Store: List in hand as well as a schedule lined out for exactly how you will do things, make your way to store. It may be slightly frightening (for those of you who do not cook) but we will be venturing into the meat section.

  • Two large pork chops - Roughly $5
  • One bag of salad (the pre-made kind. Avoid ceasar, it doesn't go well with the taste we're shooting for) - Roughly $5
  • One bottle of salad dressing (Avoid ranch. Ranch makes you look uncreative, and just about 50% of people in the world dislike it. Furthermore, Blue Cheese is disliked by everyone except a select few. If you know your date likes it, go for it. You generally can not go wrong with an italian dressing though) - About $3
  • Two cans of Cambell's Golden Mushroom soup. - $2
  • One candle (scented works well, especially for a guy's house) - $3
  • Butter - $2
  • A can of 3 bean salad - $2
  • A bottle of wine, I'll go over selection later. - ~$10

Total cost: ~$32 depending on options.

As I said, do not freak out about what you are making. One of the first things you will notice as you're shopping for these things is how many women check you out in the store (sorry girls if you're adapting this to treat your guy, but we're used to seeing you shop for a bunch of romantic food stuff.) This should show you that you're on the right track.

Further if you have a membership card at the store for which you're shopping, you'll probably save a significant amount of money. Since these are free, if you don't have one I highly recommend you take 2 minutes and fill out the name and address questionnairre to get one.

Part 2b - Wine Selection: Alright, if you've never picked out a wine before, keep this in mind: confidence is key. Also, knowing what you are looking for doesn't seem to hurt. There are plenty of websites around that will tell you what wine to serve with what food, but since you're hopelessly reading this, I'll give you the quick and dirty. Your first decision is whether you like red or white. You can serve either with pork chops, and if you can't make the decision, go with blush. Assume you pick red: You can't go wrong with a merlot in the $7 - $8 range. Most people, when asked even describe merlot as their favorite wine. White is slightly trickier to find. What I've found works best is a Reisling. Its a lesser known german wine. What I use (and believe me it tastes amazing) is Kendall Jackson Reisling. The vintage does not necissarily matter, just make sure it isn't too old.

Part 3 - Preparation: Get everything home. That should be a given. Make sure that you have a time set for when your friend will be showing up, or when you will be picking her up. You will need roughly an hour and a half to prepare the food (though much of that time can be spent watching TV.

When the time comes, begin the pork chops. Put a quarter inch of a stick of butter in your frying pan and drop the meat in. A medium setting on most flame-stoves works well. If you cook the meat too hot, you will set off the fire alarm (that is why you do this part while your SO has not yet arrived - it prevents embarrassment.) Fry the meat. The basic idea behind this is to brown it on both sides. Now, so long as you're cooking them on medium, the pork chops will get done all the way through even if you burn them. Another great point behind cooking these is that burnt pork does not have an exceptionally objectionable taste.

Through the process of frying, flipping, and frying some more, roughly fifteen to twenty minutes will have passed. This is the only part that takes your undivided attention, so you can play some relaxing video games through the rest of the process.
First drain the oil out of your pan. Then, find a way to cover the fry pan you are using. Tin foil works wonders for this, but before you cover it open a can of that Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup and dump the contents into the frypan. Fill the can halfway with water, and dump that into the pan as well. Cover the pan with aluminum foil (or when I did it I placed a cookie sheet over the top - we were out of tin foil. Improvise if needed!)

Place the covered fry pan into your oven, and set it at about 360 degrees fahrenheit. Leave it there for an hour. Relax.

With about fifteen minutes to go, open up the oven (carefully) lift the lid of your fry pan (whatever that lid may be) and make sure the soup is not dry. If it is, repeat the open-a-can-and-pour-some-water process. Leave it in the oven for another thirty minutes. If your date shows up while your food is still in the oven, you're still in the clear as it simply shows that you're using an oven and that you're actually putting forth an effort. Keep in mind that the longer your pork chops are in the oven, the more tender they will be.

While you're the pork chops are on their last leg of cooking, open the wine to let it breathe. Set the table. Don't forget napkins.
Open the three bean salad and find a serving dish for it.
Put the salad in some sort of salad bowl, and place it on the table.
Light your candle that you bought. Place that on the table.
Place the wine, and two wine glasses on the table, right next to the candle (this makes for dramatic lighting.)
Dim the lights.
Put on deodorant/cologne and make yourself smell good.
Start some soft music if you wish. Soft is the key, as it won't interrupt conversation. Go with a good standby such as Dave Matthews.

Part 4 - Execution: You're ready, and everything is set. If you've properly prepared, there isn't much to this section. Just remember to stay confident, and consistently look into her eyes. Tell her how gorgeous she is. Do not let her lead the toast, or she will attempt to toast you. As flattering as that is, its bad form. Instead, toast to a great night, or something un-threatening. If you're brave, toast "to us." Do not waver when serving the pork chops (but definitely remember your oven mitts) trust me, they'll be fine. The soup makes for an awesome gravy. Do not let her help with the dishes. Put the icing on the cake, and grab one of your favorite movies after the dinner (you'll obviously already own this) and pop it in. Grab a quilt from your bed, (even though it was made) and cuddle on the couch basking in the mood that your amazing dinner has set.

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