Thursday, March 29, 2012

Picky Eaters Need Not Apply

If love is a transcending experience, then I’m convinced food is the barometer for it.
I’ve theorized about this subject in the past, but pushed it aside when I stumbled upon dating prospects who lack an interest in food. I almost saw this as a redeeming quality, for perhaps I could be the one to give them a new appreciation. I now realize what a mistake that was.
My last few dating attempts proved this theory and could have spared me a lot of time and heartbreak had I recognized it at the time.
Most recently was Jim, your classic meat and potatoes guy- but way down at the Hamburger Helper and boxed mashed potato end. You all know him- this is the guy who orders chicken parmesan at a nice restaurant and it’s the most exotic thing he’s ever had. He refuses to eat anything green besides Caesar salad, but thinks he’s health conscious by drinking protein shakes and eating egg white omelettes. 
Being with him made me think of the cowboy’s credo from City Slickers, that food should be “hot, brown, and there’s plenty of it.” He cringed when I made him runny yolk scrambled eggs cooked in bacon fat. Even when he couldn’t deny how much more delicious they were than his bland, low cholesterol preference, I could tell he was calculating how many extra miles he’d have to run to make up for the damage.
He also hated dessert. I can’t even get started on this. 
Next was Adrian, who had the palate of a 5-year-old. Though I must give him credit for trying new things, he would squeeze his eyes shut upon tasting the tiniest speck of something unfamiliar as if it was burning his lips. He’d then promptly announce, “I don’t like it.” He hated everything.  
I must take responsibility, for even on the first date, I was forewarned. After singing the praises of cheese due to my Wisconsin upbringing, he paused before flatly responding, “I don’t like cheese.” This alone was worthy of being a deal breaker. As I let the statement fully resonate, he turned to me and reassured me, “But I do love pizza.” I ignored my intuition and forged on, since his snarky puns were priceless and mozzarella cheese is only four bucks a pound.
Danny was the most difficult to pin-point. He loved food and cooking new things, he was open-minded to food adventures and curious about trends and the buzz. For this, my hat goes off to him as he coins himself a “wannabe foodie.” Going out to eat with him was a blast, so long as I discreetly added a few bucks to his tip on our way out, but that’s another story. We never went to the same place twice, he was humble and not afraid to ask questions about the menu, and there was nothing he wouldn’t try. 
For me, the mismatch lay in how he ate. He was someone who would eat a candy bar with a knife and fork. When we cooked together, he would gingerly roll up his sleeves over his delicate corporate wrists and touch food with his fingertips to avoid getting too dirty. He hounded me when I added things to the pot, asking “how much salt was that?” or “is this considered a small dice or a brunoise?” I don’t know, it’s an 8-o’clock-and-we-haven’t-had-dinner-yet chop. He wasn’t amused.
And why did you continue? you ask. I have no excuse. Maybe I didn’t want to discriminate against anti-foodies or be a food snob. Maybe I wanted to be the mentor they needed to break the chain of being a bad eater. Or maybe I was just following my heart when I should have followed my stomach.
Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon, they say. Can you do one recklessly and not the other? If one can’t comfortably rub a chicken in butter or do blind taste tests when I hold out a spoon, how can they possibly love me when I come home from work with flour in my hair and chocolate on the backs of my arms? 
The beauty of love is in spontaneity and the adventure of the unknown. The beauty of food is trying new things, exploring another culture and breaking from pattern and comfort. In a busy world of routine, food can be the most accessible way to make each day different and memorable. What other way could a relationship deepen than with a dose of dining together with a little spontaneity in the menu? For many couples, breaking bread is the only quality time they can get on a daily basis.
So gentlemen, I implore you. Let her eat off your plate. Try what she has when she holds out her fork. Order dessert. Bring home that weird thing you saw at the grocery store. Even if it turns out to be terrible, you will probably have a new inside joke or learn something about your loved one.

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