I've long had a theory that you can learn a lot about your romantic compatibility with someone by eating with them, and Dan feels the same way. In fact, he dedicates a very helpful few pages in Eat More Better to deciphering the sharing behavior of your date.
Watch carefully, and your partner may reveal the depths of their soul in one bite:
- Doesn't share food at all: This person has been hurt before and now has a real fear of commitment, coupled with anal-retentive tendencies. Even after you break down their culinary barriers and get a little nibble, other issues will linger.
- Cuts off a bite and places it on your plate: This person wants to share new experiences but also places a high priority on boundaries. This taste is a nice tease, but it may be a while before you're swapping fork spit.
- Hands you their fork with the bite still on it: This person eschews pretense, knows what they like, and has the confidence to go for it. Savor that bite, and look forward to seconds.
- Hands you their entire plate and lets you take what you want: Tough call. This person could be a supportive and unselfish partner who wants you to choose your own path, or a lazy one who's unprepared for the hard work of a real relationship. Take an open-minded mouthful, but chew with caution.
- Sticks their knife and fork into your plate and takes a bite without asking: This person is an asshole.
- Feeds you the bite from their fork: Ooh la la! Some may find this a little forward, but don't assume that anyone who's this into you has something wrong with them. Sink your teeth into this bad boy or girl.
Once you've made it past the first few dates (and the silent agony and anxiety of choosing restaurants for them), there are still cues to be taken from dining a deux. My personal list of romantic eating-related hurdles to clear includes:
- Tipping and waiter etiquette. Are they polite and kind to your server? Do they joke around, or mumble two-word demands? Are they tipping less than generously? Rude behavior and stingy tips are big red flags.
- Sushi-ordering. This is the Olympics of romantic food sharing: ordering sushi is a land mine for date-night disasters but also has the possibility of proving true compatibility. I'm personally weary of people who eat whole rolls of one kind, order only for themselves, or worse, don't like raw fish. Also, if you like rolls with cream cheese, we cannot be friends, let alone lovers. To thine own sushi rules be true.
- Cooking. Getting into the kitchen is the eater's equivalent of getting into bed with someone for the first time. Are you bumping into each other, or moving seamlessly around the stove? Do you feed off of each other's creativity, or follow a complex recipe fastidiously? Is one of you the clear lead, and are you okay with that? You've basically predicted your entire relationship dynamic by the time you've sauteed the asparagus and seared the steak.
What about you, eaters -- what are your date eating do's and don'ts? Leave us your tips for dating and dining in the comments.
Talia Ralph is a freelance writer pursuing her Master's in Food Systems at NYU. She also helps produce Eating Matters on Heritage Radio Network and contributes to VICE Munchies, Lucky Peach, and several Edible magazines. Follow her on Twitter @TaliaBethRalph.
Photos by Edgar Jimenez and Flickr CC / Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts