The recession is lingering, and the popularity of fedoras and "Mad Men" belies an increasing nostalgia-induced love of the days when the economy was strong, when men wore suits and women wore aprons.
As this trend has intensified, magazines and books have started hawking recipes guaranteed to help women nab men. In 2004, Glamour magazine published an article for Engagement Chicken, which allegedly guaranteed a ring for the woman within weeks (if not days) of her making it for her man.
Since then, Glamour has published an entire book of recipes of this ilk, including Marry Me Lasagna, Hook Him Apple Pie and Just Kiss Me Garlic Bread.
Even before Glamour made man-catching meals famous, Cathy Guisewite (author of the long-running Cathy comic strip) published a book called "Girl Food," in which she told women how to make Seduction Steak, Marry Me Mousse and I Think He Loves Me Muffins. Guisewite promises that this book is for every woman who wants to be sexy, confident and, above all, romantically involved.
The feminist movement—when a woman needed a man like a fish needed a bicycle—apparently has given way to an era when a woman needs brownies, because a woman needs a man. And we all know men love brownies.
The only problem with this method is that if it works, it can be easy for foodies to mistake a deep and abiding affection for their patented triple-chocolate coconut cake for love.
Sometimes I am seriously concerned about this, and the evidence is everywhere. I'm not a fool. I've had someone tell me he fell in love with me after trying my pumpkin gingerbread, and Maggie the News Hound, our office beagle, only loves me because of the bag of dog treats I keep in my drawer.
Still, when Valentine's Day rolls around, it's nice to know that you have a recipe up your sleeve good enough to induce even temporary infatuation in anyone who tries it.
I could give you a recipe for an excellent roasted chicken, but honestly, if your boyfriend is prompted to propose by ingesting a properly prepared bird carcass, I can't shake the feeling that he might not be worth marrying.
Brownies are a better option. These are adapted from Guisewite's cookbook, in which she claims they are so good that any man will immediately drag you to the jewelry store and have you pick out something incredible.
I have never tested this tactic, which might explain my disgraceful lack of jewelry. But the truly best part of these brownies is that even if you don't find anyone to share them with, you get the entire pan to savor by yourself.
Sometimes, food really can replace love—at least on Valentine's Day.
Katherine Wutz: email@example.com
Cathy's 'Can We Stop By the Jewelry Store?' Brownies
Adapted from Girl Food by Cathy Guisewite
1 cup unsalted butter
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (can use mint or peanut butter chips as well)
Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly butter sides and bottom of a 13x9-inch glass pan.
In a large, microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter and chocolate in a microwave on high power for 1 to 3 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking, until the chocolate is melted. Let stand until room temperature.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugars until light in color. Beat in chocolate and vanilla, then beat in flour until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Cool on wire rack. Cut and serve.