In the 1950s women were domestic goddesses - keeping house while the men went out to work. LOUISE NAUGHTON talks to the authors of new dating guide 'The Dish' who are telling women they should be proud to wear their aprons once again
THE world of dating can be a minefield, with so-called experts frequently bombarding us with the do's and don'ts involved in getting our dream man, or failing that, any man. Usually these publications follow the same format, but The Dish - coauthored by Penny Isaacs, 43, who grew up in Dearne Close, Stanmore - comes at us from a different angle.
The book starts by encouraging women to take control of their love life, to be more calculating and organised in the search to find their 'dish' (dream man).
This isn't a revolutionary idea since throughout the noughties especially, women have been told time and time again to become more shrewd and savvy when it comes to men as they simply cannot dedicate as much time to the process of finding love as the generation before.
According to Penny and her co-author Sarah Lockett, 45, a home-cooked meal, if prepared and served correctly, can send subliminal messages to your 'dish' that you are 'marriage material'.
The girls hold your hand through every meal, whether it be the first time you cook for him, the dreaded evening with your prospective in-laws or gaining acceptance from the WAGS - your target's friends' wives and girlfriends.
They give you the recipes, tell you what to wear, how to set the mood, what music to play, but then I think they go into overdrive when they talk about the details.
They argue that the little things can make or break an evening, and these are what scared the living daylights out of me.
Details like: "If you serve him weak coffee after your meal, you can undermine the impression you have created", "Don't have the ketchup bottle on the table", "Coffee mugs are for you on your own and the cleaning lady" and "Don't have coffee with him afterwards, have hot water and lemon," to name a few.
However, the quote that really got me going was "He may ask to dry up. Politely decline, telling him that he has had a hard day at work."
To be honest, no words can convey how offended I felt by that comment.
I asked Sarah and Penny what they meant and they replied: "Well, you wouldn't let him do it would you? You would say 'I'll do it later'. You want him to associate you cooking for him as spoiling him, not hard work."
Okay, maybe you should do the washing up (note I said 'maybe'), but you definitely shouldn't excuse him not doing it because he has been working - he hasn't had to cook, has he?
To me, that statement squarely places you as the dutiful housewife - your career secondary to his.
Sarah and Penny did allay my fears somewhat by telling me that the book is not prescriptive, and that you don't have to follow everything to the letter, and the message of making the best of yourself is key.
The duo, who both live in Hampstead, met through their children, and their friendship blossomed when they realised that they had the same idea for a book.
Penny had already written up the first draft, while Sarah had interest from a publishing company she approached with the idea a couple of years earlier. They started working together and The Dish was born.
By their own admission, there was no thorough scientific research undertaken, it was simply what had worked for them.
But the problem with their work is that they try to be funny and be tongue in cheek about dating but it could come across as patronising and offensive to anyone who doesn't listen to opera and drink herbal tea.
After meeting with Sarah and Penny, I can confirm that they are genuinely witty people but for some reason this doesn't translate in the written word.
* The Dish is published by Troubador and costs £9.95. Visit www.thedishbook.co.uk where Sarah and Penny invite you to comment.