When I'm not pretending to be modest, I like to tell myself (and anyone who will listen) that I'm a "catch." Any man would be lucky to have a blond, statuesque, long-limbed neurotic like me on his SoCal tanned and toned arm. I work out with the regularity of a professional athlete, I'm not afraid to get dirty (see "Diana Takes a Bite... of Dirt"), I have the brain of a woman with a much darker hair color, and I even eat carbs. In a rational world (ie. not LA), men would be in fisticuffs vying for my affections.
Of course, because all men are intimidated by my beauty, wit and brawny brain power, most of the fisticuffs in my life involve watching The Hills' Lauren and Heidi duke it out over she-she martinis at Les Deux. Some may mock my television viewing habits, but The Hills has taught me something other than the words to Natasha Bedingfeld's "Unwritten." If being pretty and moderately personable was enough to please a man, Lauren and Brody would be half-way down the aisle by now. Female competition in LA is fiercer than the stage on American Idol: In order to get the nod of approval from the judges, or the companionship of a man with a large bank account, contestants, and women, need an edge over their competitors.
For some, it's plastic surgery. For others, it's sluttiness. For me, it's chicken Marsala.
In their January 2004 issue, Glamour published a recipe for "engagement chicken." According to the piece, soon after three female Glamour staffers whipped up the rather basic roast bird for their honeys, they each received a wedding proposal. While cynics may shake their heads and scoff at the notion that a simple recipe can secure a rock, I secretly harbor the romantic belief that when I make my chicken Marsala for a special (ie. taned and toned) future boyfriend, he will immediately drop to one knee and demand I give him my perfectly manicured hand in marriage.
To this end, I have been making and perfecting my chicken Marsala recipe since I made it for the first time at my parents' 25th anniversary party when I was 14. I have cooked the surprisingly easy entree so many times that I no longer even need to measure the ingredients and have become one of those annoying chefs who tells people that they cook on instinct, adding a splash of this and a splash of that until the dish looks "just right." Over the years, my chicken Marsala has evolved to include roasted shallots, thyme and even a little lemon pepper, all depending on my mood and cabinet contents. Despite these subtle changes, every time I sit down to a plate of my never-fail dinner, I marvel at how it keeps getting better. I can't help but feel as though I am perfecting it for my future husband until I really do have it "just right."
I have yet to make my chicken Marsala for anyone other than family members, and don't intend to make it for anyone else until I find someone worthy of what I consider my version of Glamour's "engagement chicken." Love doesn't always come at first sight, but I'm fairly convinced that any man lucky enough to date my fabulous blond self, will immediately fall in love with me after the first bite of this dish. And if he doesn't, I'll slip something in his wine glass.
As for the recipe? It's not to follow. Go find your own edge. (I hear pregnancy is really in right now.)