I was cruising the vendor booths at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in Atlanta a few weeks ago. Tucked away among the merchants selling everything from orange juice to exotic sea salts was a small cubicle occupied by a charming and friendly couple, Dave and Denise Valletta. They weren't hawking barbecue sauce or kitchen gadgets; they were selling romance.
I'm a firm believer in the romantic possibilities of the kitchen. I have frequently spoken and written on the subject of cooking as a form of couples' therapy. My wife and I live in our kitchen. It's where we exercise our culinary passion to create delicious food. It's also where we go to talk, laugh, and have a good time together. Whether commercial or home, there are no “chores” or “tasks” in our kitchens. There is no drudgery, only mutual enjoyment of a shared activity. So I was immediately drawn to and intrigued by Dave's book, “To Romance, With Love.”
Subtitled as “A Cookbook for Lovers and Those Who Want to Be,” the book is 115 pages of fun. The first thing you'll notice is the book's unique design. It's a sturdy spiral-bound hardback with slick, glossy pages that are intended to actually be used in the kitchen. The text is cleverly divided into chapters with headings like “Ready for a Romantic Dinner,” which outlines the “ingredients” for the perfect romantic evening. “Being Equipped to Romance” lists the pots and pans and kitchen tools you'll need to execute the recipes contained in the book's later chapters. There are also chapters on “The Passionate Pantry,” “The Menu,” and other nuts-and-bolts topics as well as some cute chapters with titles like, “The First Time Ever She Saw Him Cook.”
One of the book's most interesting features are the recipes themselves. They are all organized on individual “menu” pages that are neatly tucked into their own little pockets. For instance, the “I Got You, Babe” menu consists of an appetizer of bruschetta followed by an arugula w/ tomato and Parmesan salad. The entrée is Chicken Marsala with a vegetable side of asparagus with garlic. The dessert “suggestion” calls for strawberries with chocolate sauce. There's a gorgeous photo facing the little pocket containing the menu card. On the reverse side of the card are the actual recipes for the entire meal. As a bonus, the pocket also contains a shopping list for all the ingredients. I mean, a real list you can actually take out and carry to the grocery store.
To add to the fun, the pockets all feature quotes on love and romance. The quote accompanying the “I Got You, Babe” menu on page 33 says, “A happy man marries the girl he loves; a happier man loves the girl he marries.” – Anonymous.
According to his bio blurb on Amazon.com, “Dave Valletta has had a lifelong romance with food. Ever since his mother first showed him how to prepare sauces as a young boy, Dave developed a love for cooking. He continued to experiment with different flavors, putting his own sumptuous spin on classic meals. He is a frequent host for friends and family, who ultimately convinced him that he needed to share his unique recipes with others."
"Although Dave is passionate about cooking, the true love of his life, and the inspiration for this cookbook, is his wife Denise. For the past 26 years they have enjoyed a loving marriage filled with great fun, food, faith and four wonderful children. As a hopeless romantic, Dave uses every opportunity to romance his wife and believes that is the key to a happy successful marriage. He truly believes that preparing a romantic night for your spouse is one of the most rewarding experiences."
"Dave has spent the last three years compiling his delectable recipes and romance tips to create 'To Romance, With Love', the ultimate guide to igniting the flame in any marriage.”
Part cookbook, part advice column, and part philosophy of love and romance, “To Romance, With Love” is a wonderful addition to any lovers' kitchen – or, as the subtitle indicates, to the kitchen of anyone desirous of being a lover. Any couple, newlywed or old retread, will benefit from the advice and techniques contained within these pages.
The recipes, text, and photographs for “To Romance, With Love” are all by Dave Valletta, who states that the book is “not possible without Denise Valletta.” It is richly illustrated by Christine Kerrick and is privately published by To Romance With Love, LLC, ©2009. Available through www.toromancewithlove.com, the book is also listed on Amazon.com.
Buy a copy today and cook something for – or, better still, with – someone you love tonight.