The food you eat on a date can reveal who you are
Ordering food on a first date can add an extra helping of nervousness to the encounter
Is ordering the most adventurous item on the menu a sign of someone looking for adventure, or just a sign of a show-off? Photograph: iStock
For some people, dating is an anxiety-riddled battleground. If you find yourself out on a dinner date, whether it is the first or subsequent date, the addition of food to the scenario can add another layer of nerves to the jelly-bellied.
There are obvious foods to avoid if you’re feeling nervous or self-conscious; messy spaghetti or fiddly chicken wings, for example, might push you over the edge. But what about the foods that send out signals about who we are or, at least, who we want to be perceived as?
Is ordering the most adventurous item on the menu a sign of someone looking for adventure, or just a sign of a show-off? When ordering, is frugality versus indulgence a pro or a con? What does it mean if someone orders oysters?
There’s a notion called “consumption stereotypes” which may well add to your dating anxieties. Simply put, consumption stereotypes are judgments we make about others based on their food intake.
American psychologist Maya Aloni explored how some of these consumption stereotypes, particularly for those following a gluten-free diet, play out on dates, in an article called Too Picky for My Taste? on researchgate.net. She writes that gluten-free eaters are “high-maintenance, picky, demanding, complaining and judgmental, yet healthy, self-disciplined, understanding and energetic”.
Her findings pointed out some of the positive stereotypes associated with certain diets, too. Aloni notes that research points to people following a low-fat diet are perceived to be “more physically attractive, healthy, fit, conscientious, intelligent and moral”, although she notes that they can also be viewed as pickier, self-centred, less fun, less happy, serious, boring, and highly strung. This double-edged sword seems to reflect the cruel world of dating in a nutshell.
People who share food on their first date have a strong chance for survival past that initial encounter
According to psychologists at Leeds University, people who share food on their first date have a strong chance for survival past that initial encounter. Their data is from analysing the dining habits of participants in the Channel 4 series First Dates, where they compared 58 dates who shared food against 49 dates where they did not share food. Of those who didn’t share morsels, only 43 per cent wanted to see their date again, while nearly all of the couples of who got a bite of what was on their date’s plate wanted to go on a second date. It seems sharing really is caring.
If food is something you really enjoy then, like any hobby or interest, it’s a bonus to find someone to love who enjoys it as much as you. Perhaps the best approach on a dinner date is – and you may need to sit down to take in this radical piece of unsolicited advice properly – to be yourself. Order what you like, be kind to the waiters, and try not to judge your date unfairly for ordering the gluten-free, low-fat, dairy-free, vegan chicken wings.