Dinner dates, coffee dates, a comedy show then dessert. We’ve all been on them, they’re a major part of our social makeup and a really good litmus test on how compatible you may be. If dinner dates weren’t important, dating sites wouldn’t ask your favorite types of foods.
I had a first date that was a disaster from the time the guy walked into the restaurant and let the door close in my face. But even then, I stayed and listened to every story he told about his ex-girlfriend. The only way I got through the night was by worrying that the broccoli from the gnocchi dish I ordered was in my teeth and if the chunks of garlic were a turn-off. Honestly, in that case, I would have been happy if there was broccoli in my teeth. The truth is that a date can be nerve-wracking for all sorts of reasons, but hopefully if you avoid these dishes, you’ll be able to have a successful date with less to stress about.
You’re probably thinking an entrée salad is a great choice for a date, right? Wrong. Salads may be acceptable for lunch every weekday at your desk, but not so much for a dinner date. Chopped salads can fall off the fork, while some salad greens are so big you end up with stems hanging out of your mouth. And, not to get too personal, but I’ve gotten food poisoning from salad at least three times. Talk about a date night disaster.
And then there’s the dressing — mixed-in and it can become a gloppy mess, if you get it on the side you have to figure out how to mix everything together while keeping it in that over-sized, yet not quite big enough bowl. There aren’t many graceful ways to do that.
Margaritas, chips, and salsa sound like the beginning of a great night, right? Well, hold that thought. Think about the last time you ate at a Mexican restaurant. Were you ready to go for a walk afterward, or were you closer to being rolled out of the restaurant hoping for a nap? From that first chip, loaded down with spicy, drippy, salsa, you not only have to worry about spilling on yourself, but also whether or not you’re going to start sweating from said salsa. You may even end up getting a corner of chip caught in your throat as you try to laugh at a joke and end up red-faced and coughing, gripping for the closest drink.
But, if you can endure the starter, just think about that chimichanga you want to get. Filled with rice and beans, seasoned meat, deep-fried and laden with spicy sauce, smothered in cheese and crema? Pass the napkins and maybe the antacids and anti-gas, because a meal that heavy may turn you into a sweaty, bloated mess. Not the best look for a date, right?
Anything that requires a bib
Let’s face it, dates can be awkward. Do you really think adding a giant plastic bib is going to make it any easier? Yes, lobster and crab legs are delicious, but trying to wrestle them open is a task best left to a backyard boil. You may also want to skip whole fish (hello bones), and escargot. Those buggers can be slippery and if you don’t grip the shell properly you could end up flinging them across the restaurant. The next time you’re on a date and seafood is calling to you, go for a fish fillet or maybe some scallops, anything that doesn’t require more tools than a knife and fork.
Soup’s a hard one because it’s filling and delicious — I’m looking at you French onion soup with your pully strands of cheese. But, there’s the almost certain guarantee of spillage, not to mention all the other etiquette questions it brings up. Should you blow on it? Is slurping OK? When it comes to crackers, should I crumble or not crumble? What about soup in a bread bowl? Do you eat the bowl, leave it? And my personal favorite, the soup sweats. Unless you’re in an air-conditioned room, have you ever eaten a bowl of soup and not had a little brow moisture? Take Ramen or Pho for instance, you not only have to contend with the hot broth, but the spiciness (more sweating) and risk flinging broth onto your date from slurping the noodles. Soup-er awkward.
Nachos, ribs, and hot wings are all great bar foods, but if you need a wet nap to make it through a dish, you should probably keep it for girl’s or guy’s night out. In the same regard, while a cuisine like Ethiopian is delicious, relying on injera bread for your utensil may make for messy eating. These types foods were made for eating with your hands, and there is nothing wrong with that, but maybe a more conventional dish is best for date night. Hot sauce fingers and rib stains are better suited for Saturday watching the game and less Friday night trying to have game.
I love onions in all forms. Raw, cooked, caramelized — I’ve never met an onion I didn’t think was delicious. While most onions should be avoided on date night, onion rings should be at the top of the list. And, it’s not just because of the breath issue or intestinal fireworks that seem to be set off at the first taste of deep-fried deliciousness. Whether it’s onion rings, onion straws, onion loaf, or flowering fried onions, problems are going to arise. The deep-fried delights are greasy, do you just dig in with your hands? Even if you decide to add a touch of class and eat them with a fork to cut down on greasy fingers, you’ll inevitably have an onion tail hanging out of your mouth. And isn’t that the real reason onions cause you to cry?
Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli, or kale are delicious and full of vitamins, but they can be a beast to digest and even contribute to IBS. That’s dinner conversation your date may not want to hear about. These hard to digest vegetables can make your tummy extra rumbly, or worse, you get a rogue piece stuck in your teeth, the fear of which can be a nightmare.
What can be simpler that conversing over a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese? Unless you’re two cartoon dogs, odds are high that you’ll end up getting sauce on you, your date, and maybe even the tablecloth. And if you’re not in the comfort of home, mopping up the last bit of sauce with bread could be a no-no.
If you’re going out for Italian, opt for a shorter pasta for minimum splatter or something without red sauce, like chicken Marsala.
There’s nothing really wrong with pizza, but why is it always ten times hotter when you’re eating with someone else than when you’re alone? It’s extremely hot and the cheese is still bubbling. You blow on the pizza… and inevitably your date’s face. You have to do that weird half bite thing a few times to test the temperature and you’ll still end up scalding the roof of your mouth. And there you sit, your mouth opened like a big bass fish trying to cool down. No, put that fork down, you’re not going to eat that pizza with a knife and fork.
Did you just order chicken fingers, a grilled cheese or maybe a glass of milk to go with your extra-decadent dessert? Are you sure you’re old enough to be on a date? Yes, chicken fingers are magical spears of awesome and sometimes ice-cold milk does go well with big, chocolatey desserts, but for a date? You’ll just end up looking like a kid with an unrefined palate. The only exception to this rule would be if you’re at a ballgame and you order a hot dog. I know stadiums keep creating bigger, fancier items but nothing is quite as satisfying as a dog slathered in mustard while you cheer on your favorite team.
Do you have a hankering for corn on the cob? Maybe save it for a night other than date night. For starters, even if you have the little corn holders, you still have to pick it up and eat it with your hands. Have you ever eaten corn on the cob and not gotten a mouthful of kernels all stuck in your teeth and on each cheek? As delicious and decadent as Mexican street corn is, slathered in spicy crema, and cheese, it’s a mess, and you’ll have to resist licking the drippings off your hand and face. If you’re going on a movie date, you may also want to rethink that popcorn. It’s a shovel-it-in kind of snack, not a polite snack. Your date may not be a germaphobe but at the first sign of you licking your fingers and sticking them back into the bucket, they may suddenly turn into one.
I know this doesn’t leave much to go on so please take these suggestions with a grain of salt — another thing you might want to avoid for fear of bloating.