This first saw light of day a while ago on one of my other blogs. Since I didn’t have any readers then, apart from me, Lee Roy, and Johnny Two Rivers/Billy No Mates, I thought it deserved a second outing. I’ve made some additions, anyway.
I’ll write this from a bloke’s point of view, but I’m pretty certain it’s applicable from a female perspective.
Right, it’s all set up. You’ve plucked up the courage to approach the woman you really really like, and she hasn’t turned you down flat. You’ve had a drink together after work, it’s gone absolutely fine, and you’ve asked her for a date. Maybe a meal? Sometime? You know, if you’d like, I’m not pressing you or anything. Just… If you’d like. Maybe.
Hot damn! She said yes! Yowser! Yowser! Yowser! Everybody dance, ooh ooh ooh clap your hands!
Then the doubts set in. Where do you go? You want the right ambience, so here are some suggestions about where not to go.
It will be profoundly embarrassing for both of you when a bunch of guys in sombreros turn up, start stummong guitars and shaking maraccas, and sing Guantanamera for ‘the beeyootiful senorita.’ Paying them to go away won’t help. They’ll break into another rousing chorus.
Same sort of problem, except it will be some wizened octogenarian in a shiny dinner jacket serenading ‘your charming companion’ on an out of tune violin.
Might be a bit posey, and do you really know which cutlery to use? Really? One hundred percent sure?
Problem here with the whole zither/bouzouki music thing. Then at about the time you’ve reached the handholding stage, some drunken hoorays on an out-of-control stag night will finish off the last of the retsina, hit the ouzo, and start smashing crockery while trying to do Zorba’s dance. Might ruin the moment, mightn’t it?
So you’ve picked somewhere not too pretentious, but with no sitars and flock wallpaper. What do you eat? More importantly, what do you not eat? You’re trying to make a good impression.
So here are some of my hot tips about things to avoid.
Getting the pits out of your mouth is hard to do with any aplomb.
Soup. Any kind of soup
Do you tilt the bowl away from you, as the etiquette books instruct you? How do you avoid slurping as you sip the soup delicately off the spoon? Is it still a social gaff to lick the spoon? And there’s the danger of splashback onto your nice new clothes.
I don’t care how adept you are at twirling a fork. It’s very easy to make a complete hash of this and chuck tomato sauce down the nice brand new shirt you bought especially for the occasion. And if you mistime things, and have to suck the ends of the spaghetti into your mouth then wipe sauce off your eyebrows… Oops.
Same problem, made worse because you’ll be wielding chopsticks in an attempt to look cosmopolitan.
Anything with a fried egg
Really, what were you thinking of? Joe’s Caff is not the place to go on a hot date.
Anything with a poached egg
Very fashionable these days. Nearly every posh venue you go to offers some form of warm salad with a poached egg on top. Fraught with danger. If you’re a bit nervous (and you should be, this is an important date, OK?) you’ll drop egg yolk down your nice new shirt. Even if you don’t, poached egg whites are a bit slippery. You’ll end up chasing them round the plate, and look like a complete tyro.
Any shellfish you have to eat with your fingers
You shelling prawns is not an impressive sight for a first timer. Mussels? Hmm, a similar problem if you’re being flash and using an empty mussel shell as a pair of forceps to ease the meat out of the other mussels. It may well be what the French do, and it’s by far the best way to do it, but as the mariniere sauce runs down your wrist onto the cuffs of your new shirt, you may have a moment of regret.
Forget lobster. Just forget it. If you absolutely must order it, cover yourself with the tablecloth so you can eat unseen. All that fiddling about with those nifty little long forks, the messing about with the claw crackers… Do not do that.
Ditto undressed crab.
Best eaten with your fingers, but the same problems occur as with mussels. Melted butter? Hollandaise sauce? Your shirt really will be looking a bit of a state by now
And come on, asparagus is a bit obvious, isn’t it? You may as well hang a sign round your neck saying ‘Well, fancy a shag later?’ It’s not big and it’s not clever and it’s not funny.
Lay off oysters too, for the same reason. Plus they are absolutely disgusting, like blobs of Vaseline in seawater. Anyway, only the first five work, so they’re not cost effective.
Fish that hasn’t been filleted properly
A good waiter will fillet fish at the table for you, but even the good ones can make a nonsense. Explain to me how you can get rid of a mouthful of fish bones and still look cool and dashing.
Anything with lots of raw garlic or raw onion when your companion has ordered plain poached salmon
Definitely a no-no; even a quick snog is out of the question, and as for anything else, well dream on.
Sounds blameless, doesn’t it? Oh no, my friends, this is a minefield. All those crispy crunchy leaves that are too big to go in your mouth elegantly, but if you cut them up you’ll look like an arriviste. And the dressing will get on your shirt again.
Anything out of season
You’ll be trying to come across as a caring ecowarrior, and you can’t do that while scoffing raspberries in February. It sends out all the wrong signals.
So what does that leave you with?
Looks like mashed potato. That’s pretty safe.
On the other hand if your hot date makes a fuss about a bit of mess at the dinner table… Well, the signs aren’t that good are they? Think about that.