This book is a prize, not only because it's a bit of (very well written) mid-century madness, but a supremely useful book for a beginner cook.
The recipes are organized, as was then fashionable, situationally: this menu is for a casual dinner at home, that one is for company, and this is a couples menu. With the help of this book, you can prepare anything from a lick and a promise when you're exhausted from work to catering an out and out bash, with some fun and interesting stuff along the way. There's also, infamously, recipes for the five stages of a love affair.
Two words of caution: first, this book is about fifty years old. That means if you're any kind of vegetarian, heart-healthy, gluten-free, paleo, recovering, or otherwise picky eater, you're probably going to be disappointed in your choices here. There is a nod to "health food", but only in a high-protein, low-carb, 60's sense. There's also a lot more drinking going on than you'd probably wish (remember, this was the era of Revlon’s color “Wine With Everything!”), but considering that one of the themes of this cookbook is that this is emphatically more for the tastes of Fanny Hill than Fannie Farmer, you're probably forewarned.
The second is that you're probably going to be let down by the quality of the recipes, especially concerning the more "gourmet" side of things. This was the age of canned cream of mushroom soup and bouillon cubes: you just didn't have stock in a carton, and fresh vegetables were often unavailable. (White sauce is not too hard to make, if you're completely can-averse, as well.) Authenticity was compromised in favor of sheer availability of ingredients: now that you can get almost anything with a few keystrokes and a click, you can make dinner with authentic cà cuống or ras el hanout even if you live far from a Vietnamese or Moroccan community, it seems silly to make pesto sauce, in the name of economy, with half basil leaves and half spinach. (And yet, come to think of it, you just might like a more subtle flavor in your sauce. Adapt accordingly.)
On the other hand, this is a really good cookbook to learn on: starting with setting up a pantry, with seasonings, cans and frozen goods that can be reassembled with this and that for quick meals, it ranges through very casual eating at home (the kind you do to refuel, more than eat, per se), stews and casseroles for fledgling cooks, and a few cocktails and easy-peasy menus for when some of the gang at work drops by. "Hon, help me pod the peas, and we'll have dinner in a jiff. So, Frank's leaving for Xerox? Good Lord, does he know what he's in for?" Everything is explained and timed out so you're not caught, for instance, making a complex dessert while the soufflé is in the oven.
There is lots of good advice in between the recipes, too: fake booze for managing drunks at a party, how to cook in a sophisticated, yet unthreatening manner for visiting older relatives (or repel the ones you don’t like), how to impress your hip friends with foreign food, how to comfort the bereaved and lovelorn. In short, not all recipes may be your cup of tea. There is not enough Mexican, and no one’s heard of sushi or Thai. But they’re all tasty, and none of these recipes will steer you too far wrong.
Being that this is Cosmo, there's a lot of sex talk in with the food, beginning with the masturbatory -- if your love life is having a dry spell, augment your literary/film fantasy life with a few special recipes around this theme (Atticus Finch’s breakfast fried chicken, James Bond's eggs, etc.) Of course, there's a great deal of "what to feed a couple" ideas — casseroles and picnic baskets for outdoor sports, what to do with a gift fish, and the aforementioned Cooking for the Five Stages of Love.
For the Approach, one must be friendly but noncommittal: offer a varied tray of hors d’oeuvres (to get a preview of what he likes), make food that's tasty, but casual, so as not to frighten the poor fellow, so to speak.
The Chase narrows down the focus with food that has a little bit of a wow factor (roast potatoes on skewers, for instance), in other words, gee you're interesting, I'm kind of that way too…
Full Passion's foods are, of course, comfort deluxe, luxurious and lavish. Nothing too offbeat, just a little bit of sparkles on your gold, paint on your already splendid lily...
Exoticism creeps back in for the cuisine of Jealousy -- "food he'd only read about in National Geographic", I believe is the phrase used--in other words, if he's getting bored, this will unbore him in short order. Also, there's the unspoken subtext -- "She'd never serve you this.”
Indifference is signaled by careless, lackluster cooking, with subtly frightening undertones: hamburgers with stinky cheese, sardines on toast, herbal dumplings and/or such unfamiliar-in-a-bad-way delicacies. (There's a thin line between "She's so original!" and “She's getting creepy weird." )
Then, there is Breakup material: grilled kidneys, sweetbreads, other giblets, and an egg dish that will make sure that this date will definitely be the last. It's the color of decomposing human flesh, a color that probably meant a lot more back when most males spent some time in the Armed Services. As a note suggests, add a little Kitchen Bouquet, and it looks and tastes just dandy. (In another note, they point out that what would actively revolt one suitor, would totally charm another. In other words, as I've said before, evaluate your audience!)
Add to that, some holiday and party ideas, a survey of celebrity food binges (suggested as a palliative for holidays and birthdays spent alone), and a truly magical Valentine's Day menu I've served to several men to great acclaim (little birdies flambé).
Though I’ve never been able to get men to eat jellied consommé.
Wonder why that is.