Etiquette Lessons: The Do's and Don'ts of Date Food, According to My Mother

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I have a very, very funny mother. Over the course of my 22 years on this planet she has compiled a lengthy list of foods that I am not allowed to eat in polite company, which has since morphed into a list of foods I’m not allowed to eat on dates. In fairness to her, I will say that I am an unbelievably messy eater and that, if she had her druthers, I would not be allowed to eat anything on dates lest the person sitting across the table flee in horror. What follows is a list of my interpretations of her rules on eating etiquette, and I suggest you follow them. She knows what she's talking about.

Things to Eat:

  • Spaghetti: There is literally no human way to eat spaghetti gracefully or romantically. Forget “Lady & The Tramp”, they were dogs (and also animated). Therefore, eating spaghetti on a date serves a fundamental purpose: it lets you weed out the squeamish types.
  • Steak: Assuming you eat meat, ordering steak just makes you look like a badass. It says that you don’t “do” gender norms and that, contrary to the views perpetrated by the media, you, a woman, eat more than salad. Also it tastes delicious.
  • Anything with avocado: There are very few people on the planet who don’t like avocados. They are a crowd pleaser. Ordering something with avocado can lead to a nice few minutes of conversation on what is sure to be a mutual appreciation for them. That said, if the only thing you have in common is avocados then maybe a second date is not in the cards.
  • French Fries: Excellent for sharing. Crowd pleaser. Allow you to have a fake fight about condiment choices. There is no downside.
  • Tacos (rather than burritos): If you’re going for Mexican (and there is a whole school of thought on whether that’s a good idea because a) beans and b) onions), go for the tacos. Any benefit the burrito has from being slightly-more-contained is negated by the fact that it is a) virtually impossible to fit your mouth around a burrito and b) it always explodes after the first bite anyway. Tacos are easier to eat without looking like you’re trying to give a blow job to a battleship.

Things Not To Eat:

  • Soup: Everybody slurps. There’s just no way around that. And, if you’re me, you might dribble, which is worse. In my mother’s words: just don’t.
  • Sushi: Sushi is awkward because it is awkwardly sized for most peoples’ mouths. One piece is too big to eat in a single bite. But if you want to bite it in half you have to wrestle with seaweed, various kinds of fish that don’t like being separated, the possibility of it falling off your chopsticks, etc. So, many people just go for it and pop the whole thing in their mouth. To paraphrase my mother, that gives you “chipmunk cheeks”. These are unattractive.
  • Salad: I am personally very against ordering salad on a date unless you really, truly love salad. Ordering salad on a date makes you one of “those girls” who order salad, ie one of “those girls” who doesn’t really eat on dates. Take it from me (via both my straight, male friends and my gay, female friends): it’s refreshing to go on dates with girls who actually eat real food.
  • The most expensive thing on the menu (or, really, anything in the top 5 or 10, depending on menu size): There is a caveat to this rule. If you asked the person in question out and, thus, you are intending to pay, you can do whatever you damn well please, price-wise. If such is not the case, don’t. It’s rude.
  • And if you go for pizza, try not to...