Cook, flirt, love

2010-10-15 00:00

“There’s nowhere to go when you are single and over 30,” said a frustrated woman to her nodding audience of single people.

Being single when all your friends are married or in committed relationships is as fun as watching Dogville on replay, with your arms tied and your eyes held open.

But singles’ evenings are a brilliant way to make friends (if nothing more) with other single people, giving you a chance to lose your perpetual third-wheel rank at social gatherings, and there’s one in Pietermaritzburg.

Catherine da Costa’s Cookalooks Cookery School adds some spice to her monthly singles’ evenings to make the mingling singles more at ease in the form of cooking lessons.

“The cooking makes you forget about being self-conscious,” said one participant.

The target age is roughly 30 to 65 years or anyone from anywhere who is single, lonely and in need of some company, whether divorced, widowed or always the bridesmaid.

“Instead of having to prop yourself up against the bar counter pretending to enjoy yourself while secretly thinking ‘pick me, pick me’, you are standing around my butcher’s block preparing something to eat. Anything from home-made samoosas, tortilla wraps and even flambéing fillet steaks. This is a wonderful icebreaker and by the time the singles sit down to enjoy the fruits of their labour, everyone is relaxed and friendships are blossoming,” explained Da Costa.

While conversations may steer towards child custody and ex-spouses, heartbreaks and wrinkles, the atmosphere is fun with lots of wine, music and fumbling over Da Costa’s cooking instructions (which, thankfully, are simple). There’s also no need to worry about calories as there is a disco after all is cooked and eaten. If you do happen to feel a subtle tremor that barely registers on the Richter scale while chatting to someone, the rule is to whisper something into Da Costa’s ear and she will inconspicuously arrange a way for the two of you to get to know each other.

There seems to be a social stigma attached to such events. One woman voiced her embarrassment by saying that she was unable to tell her friends about going to a singles’ evening and most refused to have their photo taken or names mentioned. Opting to attend these evenings when you have no idea where to find that special person seems desperate and is often sneered at by happy couples. But society may be missing the point.

One avid participant admitted that the last time he had gone out was the previous month’s singles’ evening, while a 30-something woman complained that there was no place for her to “hang out” without feeling like a golden girl among kids.

“I have had couples hooking up afterwards which is always a good thing,” explained Da Costa. “For those who don’t, I know they have at least formed friendships, had a thoroughly good time, improved their culinary skills and even danced the night away to Abba … okay maybe I shouldn’t mention that we dance to Abba.”

With her growing database, Da Costa is hoping to separate the age groups to (perhaps) increase the chances of meeting that someone.

“My biggest problem is that the women outnumber the men by far,” said Da Costa, “but so far I have always had equal numbers of men and women at my evenings. The challenge is getting the men to commit. I send out an e-mail and within five minutes flat I have 20 women down, their deposits in my account but not one man. I have to phone, SMS, e-mail, phone again and at the last minute [the men] commit. It can be frustrating but I’m getting used to it now.”

Her Cookalooks Cookery School has been running for just over five years with a variety of classes from bed-and-breakfast workshops to murder mystery evenings, gourmet cooking classes and lessons on cooking and cleaning for domestic helpers.

“After my divorce, I found myself wondering ‘what the heck am I supposed to do now’, since I had been a stay-at-home mum for 10 years. So I started with kiddies’ classes during the holidays and through word of mouth I managed to grow my business to include themed evening cooking classes for adults, a tailor-made catering service and corporate team-building exercises.”

• The next singles evening is on November  5. Theme: Chinese braai. For more information, call Catherine da Costa at 033 345 2434.

Looking for a date? Check out Maritzburg Matchmaker.

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