Date-approved food for thought

Though the way to your date’s heart may be through their stomach, it can be a tricky route

Learning to master various difficult first-date foods is a useful skill in preventing food-related accidents or unwanted embarrassing situations.
Learning to master various difficult first-date foods is a useful skill in preventing food-related accidents or unwanted embarrassing situations.

Everyone’s been there—the first day of school, the first job interview and the first day of university. These life experiences have an important aspect in common: the unshakable hold of first impressions. Many psychological studies have found that the first impression of an individual sticks—and it tends to be extremely difficult to shake. So it’s no wonder that when people voluntarily put themselves into a position in which they’re most open to such judgements—along with potential mortifying mishaps—many have come to fear and dread the first date.

Attempts at telepathy all-the-while trying to maintain a straight posture and keep up a conversation are stressful enough. Add some broccoli in your teeth and you’re guaranteed to be remembered—but not in the most flattering way.

According to dating website eHarmony, what you eat on a date can affect its direction. Menu choices can become a turn-off—or if you’re lucky, a turn-on.

“Showing a sense of adventure on a first date should be reserved for the activities, not the food,” the website said.

Clingy, leafy greens such as spinach are liable to get stuck in your teeth, as are corn kernels, poppy, sesame and strawberry seeds. Stinky sustenance like beans, cheese, garlic and onions should also be avoided for maximum mouth freshness.

According to dating experts and restaurateurs alike, many people embarking on first dates are aware of potential food follies.

Lisa Winn, the General Manager at Chez Piggy Restaurant and Bar on Princess St. has noticed common menu choices among daters.

Winn said the restaurant attracts an eclectic group of first daters—including students.

“The younger people tend to order lighter foods, such as pasta and Caesar salad,” she said.

Winn said champagne or various cocktails are popular drink choices on first dates.

Winn said that safer choices in terms of easy-to-eat and more common dishes are frequent among younger crowds. “Female daters are also more likely to play it safe with menu choices,” she said. “People don’t want to worry about getting anything on their clothes.” “First dates can be very awkward,” Winn said. “People also seem to gain more confidence on dates as they get older. What people choose to eat on a date is an age thing, as well as a confidence thing.”

Many students can relate to less-than-flattering menu picks when they’re out on a date. Melissa Heisey, ArtsSci ’12, said she too once got into a slightly messy situation.

“We went out for dinner and I was eating spaghetti,” she said. “I ended up with a tomato-sauce moustache—it was really beautiful.

“Etiquette is still good to know these days, especially for things like interviews, business dinners or meeting a boyfriend’s parents,” she said. Bryce Conley, manager of the Grizzly Grill on Princess St., said tricky foods should be eaten carefully.

“You never eat wings with a knife and fork—that’s a no-no,” he said. “Use your hands.”

When it comes to pastas, Conley said the best way to attack a dish is with a fork and spoon. “Put a spoon underneath your fork and twirl the pasta,” he said. “Always have a napkin on your shirt so you don’t get any on your clothes. Don’t slurp.”

Pasta choices are often tricky—almost all varieties contain a potential mishap.

“Cream-based pastas usually contain a lot of garlic, while pastas with a red sauce tend to stay on your clothes,” Conley said.

For seafood choices, Conley suggested using the proper utensils rather than your hands. “You definitely can eat mussels with a fork—as long as it’s a seafood fork.” In addition to people choose to eat and how to eat without complete mortification, eHarmony experts said restaurant choice is an important factor in first-date success. If people don’t know each other well yet, it’s best to hold off on the latest exotic location.

“Play it safe and go for a restaurant that offers plenty of menu options so your date can choose something that suits everyone’s fancy,” the website said.

Another thing that can be avoided at a well-known, variety-filled restaurant is the possibility of having to eat with one’s hands or use tricky utensils.

“Eating with your hands might be sexy, but save it for when you are little more familiar with each other.”

—With files from Alice Greenberg

First-date food tips

Ribs French onion soup Lobster in the shell Mile-high sandwich Prepare for battle. Have a stack of napkins ready, and create a buffer zone between your ribs and your lap. Keep the side order closest to the you and the ribs are on the far side, which reduces chances of an unfortunate drop. Let it cool, and take it slow. Insulated by a thick Gruyère-custard topping, this soup is volcanically hot. Painful and messy mistakes happen when you eat [it] too fast. Get the help you need. If you can’t even crack a walnut without making a mess, have the kitchen perform this surgery for you. At the least, use some chest protection—i.e., a bib. Tuck a napkin in your collar. And don’t be embarrassed about it. Come in at noon and you’ll see 50 people wearing napkins like their office shirts depend on it. Be direct. Timidity doesn’t work with ribs. It’s a finger food. People who try to gingerly eat them with utensils either have never had them before or are putting on airs. Mix the cheese with the broth. This blends all the flavors together, helps the soup cool faster, and makes that clump of cheese creamier and easier to deal with. Know your tools: a lobster cracker and a demi fork—period. Tail, torso, claws: The tail and torso are the easiest to deal with. Eat them first, and then move on to the legs and claws. Two major cracks--at the ‘thumb’ joint and right in the middle of the main claw--are usually sufficient. Use your pinkie. Eating an eight-inch-thick sandwich is a two-hand, 10-finger job. Maneuver your pinkie next to your thumb for double support on the bottom of the sandwich, and cover the top with your ring, middle and index fingers. Use both hands and know your animal. Start at one end, gently pull the rib off the main bone, and eat it with two hands like corn on the cob Use your spoon like a knife. Sever the cheese against the side of the bowl with the edge of your spoon to avoid long, messy strands. A knife is okay in emergencies but keep your fingers out of that equation Don’t confuse a lobster leg for a kazoo. Is sucking that last morsel out of the far end of the spindly crustacean leg really worth the spectacle? Take smaller bites. This sounds counterintuitive to eating a huge sandwich, but it’s literally the only way around it.


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