For more than 30 years, Central Florida residents Bruce Cadle and his wife Valerie have had a Friday date night ritual that they’ve almost never missed: they stay at home and cook a romantic meal together. With absolutely no formal culinary training to help him, the self-taught gourmand used only his palate and his creativity to guide him. In 2011, he chronicled his cooking in a cookbook titled, Party for Two: Fun, Fancy & Easy Romantic Recipes from the Date Night Chef.  

With today being Valentine’s Day and knowing that many will be celebrating at home, I thought it was a good time to share Bruce’s book and the inspiration behind his steadfast commitment to date night. (BTW: here's a link to many of Bruce's romantic recipes in case you need help with tonight's plans).

Early on our marriage we quickly realized that Valerie and I loved being together but we had stopped dating once we got married. We were together a lot but that was being together in our regular, daily lives versus setting aside special time to focus just on each other,” Bruce says. “I realized that we needed to start setting aside date night time on a regular basis but we couldn’t afford to go to restaurants and have a sitter so we stayed home.”

At first Valerie was doing all the cooking, just as she did all the other six nights of the week, but soon Bruce happily took over the task. “I just started watching cooking shows and creating my own spin on dishes.” After a while, fans of his Facebook page started requesting his recipes so he decided he better write them down and voila… a cookbook was born! Bruce and I chatted yesterday and I hope you'll enjoy this Q&A based on that conversation.

Why do you think food and romance go hand-in-hand?
I think food, even if it’s not roast beef or mac n’ cheese, it’s all comforting, and it really does give us pleasure. So to have a night dedicated to our favorite foods, recipes and wines feels very good.

6a00e553850047883301a5116c15b2970c-250wiAny tips for having a great date night dinner at home?
We start planning early in the week, typically based on what’s available or on sale at our local market. If they have lobster on sale, we have lobster. The planning relieves the stress and makes it easier to get the ingredients together during the week. And I plan the courses so that there might be one thing that’s a little complicated and a few easy things. I try to think through the timing. And getting really great ingredients makes a big difference too. Everything just tastes better.

What if a couple is just a pair of bad cooks?
I couldn’t cook at all when we started this. I learned as I went. I don’t think anyone has the excuse of having to remain a bad cook. There are so many resources available than ever in the history of the world, including cookbooks, online courses and cooking shows.

How did you pick the recipes in your book?
They are all our favorites, and they’re almost all really easy. The easier the recipe the more relaxing date night is. I don’t want date night to be stressful so I am a proponent of keeping things simple and building on your experience.

What’s the secret to your 38-year marriage?
My parents were divorced after 29 years of marriage and I decided that I was never going to do that. We’ve had hard times—health, finances, each other—it hasn’t always been an easy road. But divorce was never an option. It’s always been a forever commitment. And we’ve really tried to serve the other person, always asking what can I do for you rather than what can you do for me.

Where can people get your cookbook?
Best place is Amazon. It usually sells for $14.95 or less if it’s on sale.