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How not to date a foodie – A Valentine’s Day post

You better try that spicy beef tendon.

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”  – MFK Fisher

One of my friends is a half-Asian stunner who loves food as much as I do. We were sharing some very forgettable Indian tapas and swapping stories about our love lives.

“He’s great, and so sweet,” she said of her boyfriend. “But I know he’s not the One. He doesn’t like to eat.”

She imitated his face when she forced him to try something new. It looked like a beaten puppy. “He’ll at least try it,” she allowed.

Wedding bells were not in their future.

Another foodie friend, along with a requirement that prospective dates should take regular showers, stipulated the following: “[He] can’t blanch at the idea of eating a roasted pig’s head.”

I feel their pain. I once tried to turn a carnivore onto the idea of eating vegetarian pizza. Nothing scary – just a Mexican black bean pizza smothered in cheese, beans, salsa, and guac, on an addictive flatbread crust. I scarfed down a scrumptious Portobello mushroom pizza while a third of his dish remained untouched.

I will never forget what he said next.

“Do you know what would make this better?” he asked. “Meat.”

“You didn’t even finish it,” I said.

“I know,” he said. “I already ate.”


“Because I didn’t think I would like it,” he said.

“Ah,” I replied, aghast.

The thing is, as many of my foodie friends have expressed, it’s not so much the literal crumbs that you’re willing to put in your mouth.* Conduct at the dinner table is all to expressive of conduct elsewhere – and indeed, the self-professed carnivore was equally dogmatic on other matters.

And it’s not just about what you’re willing to eat. It’s also about why you’re there in the first place.

There have been beautiful meals I’ve eaten with soul-shreddingly horrible conversations. I remember one of them – the food was inventive and beautifully presented. The service was flawless; the dining room perfectly balancing elegant and unpretentious.

But dinner conversation consisted of him talking about the money he made and the venture capitalists he tried to impress. “I’ve dated legitimate models,” he mused, then recounted accosting a blonde, South African lovely.

As my spoon broke the surface of the creme brulee, his reaction was to whine that I’d stolen his next move. The food might as well have been sawdust.

Being a food blogger adds another twist in the story. Dining companion’s reactions to my camera is a litmus test of sorts. And those reactions run the gamut, everything from, “I should bring my LSR next time! Here’s my plate. Do you want to photograph the bread basket too?” to sullen tolerance, sabotaging the plating before I finish, and outright sneering.

Maybe it’s petty for me to add a third party to the relationship, but if you can’t love the camera, mealtimes will be very, very awkward.

“Eating is such an intimate act,” one dining companion complained as I did my rounds.

In one shot, he’s caught looking into the camera with an expression somewhere between death and surprise. Possibly closer to death.

My gorgeous friend? When we caught up two months later, she and her boyfriend had broken up.

People are what make the food. But some of us need the right people to eat well.

* Lingbo’s note: I got a comment from a reader about the ethics of using the quote included, without context, “I always order the equivalent of steak and potatoes,” in a column for The Harvard Crimson. I initially thought that I did something wrong and removed the line. But actually, there is nothing unethical about it, and I regret that I edited the post – which was my misstep. Here’s how it appears originally: A guy who says, “I always order the equivalent of steak and potatoes,” no matter what the restaurant is expressing a generalizable facet of his personality.


12 Responses to “How not to date a foodie – A Valentine’s Day post”

  1. I LOVE this blog post and can totally relate! Thankfully B shares a common love of food and is fairly adventurous. Plus, he is my photographer although he does get a little cranky sometimes when he just wants to sit down and eat something delicious instead of letting it go cold for the perfect shot! Happy Friday!

    Posted by Michelle | February 12, 2010, 8:11 am
  2. Love the article and I couldn’t agree more.

    Posted by Richard | February 12, 2010, 9:19 am
  3. You know, after so many dinner dates with non-appreciative eaters (I hate using the “foodie” word capriciously) I just gave up on the idea that I could go out socially and focus on the food. When I date, I leave my food expectations on the roadside…and when I want to explore foodwise, I don’t include a date in the mix. It just works out better that way.

    And I agree, ya better try that spicy beef tendon! I know I would and I’d seriously like it =)

    Posted by Rob Marais | February 12, 2010, 6:28 pm
  4. I basically agree with everything you’ve said, but my problem when I go out to eat is that I just have incredible trouble controlling my table manners. I can pull it off for a few dates, but if you’re going to last you’re going to have to stomach me using my hands, and food sometimes falling out of my mouth. I’m not proud of this; I know it has forestalled what might otherwise have been perfectly beautiful relationships, and I don’t blame a woman one bit for rejecting this behavior. But I just love to eat so much I can’t help myself.

    Posted by bureaucratist | March 10, 2010, 12:06 pm
  5. Also, I forgot the most interesting part, which is that a girl I used to go out with last year told me a story, which we laughed about and repeated back to each other for days, about an article she read where a guy referred to himself as having “dated legitimate models.” It was searching for that phrase (try it yourself; two hits, internetwide) that I came upon this blog. Which leads me to believe that either you dated the guy in the article, or she dated him, and told me it was in an article to calm my notorious jealous streak, or he read the article was impressed by the usage, and so took it for himself. All possibilities are pretty interesting.

    Posted by bureaucratist | March 10, 2010, 7:39 pm
  6. Nothing wrong with leaving a bit of a trail on the table… you should eat Chinese more often, perfectly acceptable to spit out bones at the table.

    Posted by Lingbo Li | March 10, 2010, 9:06 pm
  7. Good advice, especially as spicy Cantonese or Szechuan is the perfect excuse to drink German Riesling, but it is very very difficult to find good Asian food in the southeastern part of this country if you’re not in a large city, which I am not.

    Posted by bureaucratist | March 12, 2010, 9:42 am
  8. Maybe the one I have IS the one then! He loves to eat and I couldn’t ask for a more appreciative audience for my cooking. I love your blog so far – just found it, hilarious stuff.

    Posted by Sasa | April 20, 2010, 1:20 pm
  9. Thanks Sasa! (I feel the same way about my cooking audience.)

    Posted by Lingbo Li | April 20, 2010, 1:24 pm
  10. I really love this article…Thanks so much!

    Posted by John the best cellulite treatment guy | March 28, 2011, 4:21 pm
  11. I stumbled upon this wbsiete this afternoon it is awesome. The recipes are so diferent and unique, I can’t wait to try them and I have just started looking!! Really enjoying looking..thanks , have a nice summer

    Posted by Jean | November 12, 2015, 11:55 am
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Lana Lingbo Li

I'm a world traveler / enthusiastic eater who's now blogging and producing videos over at HelloLana.com. Visit me there!

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