A list of things I absolutely cannot eat when trying to make a good first impression
- Salad: Don’t get me wrong, a cherry tomato here and there, even small olive slices, don’t do much harm. With salads, my main fear is the hero component: the leaf. Be it spinach or lettuce, arugula or rocket, there is just no elegant, efficient way to really get leaves folded neatly on a fork. Every time I’ve tried, it’s taken me absurd amounts of focus — usually forcing me to bite my tongue and squint suspiciously at my utensils — and hand-eye coordination (that I do not have) to get the leaves scrunched into manageable sizes. I don’t think it really makes sense to cut up a salad leaf, which I realize leaves me with the choice to either figure out the fork situation, or stuff the whole thing in my mouth. Most of the time, I end up doing the latter. Like something out of beastly lore, I shove as much of the leaf as I physically can into my mouth, and then use strategic, wolf-like mouth manoeuvres to get said leaf completely in my mouth without using my hands. As a last resort, I will use my fingers to assist in the shoving process. God forbid the salad come with dressing; then I have my chin to worry about.
- Pizza: In theory, pizza is kind of the perfect food item. “It comes with its own handle” many like to say, and it can, if desired, provide portions of all the necessary food groups. It’s delightful.
I, myself, have been eating pizza for most of my life, and have developed a set of preferences in terms of sauce ratio, cheese gooeyness, and toppings, depending on my mood. I’ve additionally taken note of how difficult it is for me to eat pizza without having portions of it stretching for miles between my mouth and the rest of a slice, or various toppings and sauces dropping off of said slice onto the plate, table, or my lap. If said slice is hot, the additional hazard of a burnt mouth heightens the probability of pieces of the pie plunging to their doom. In the privacy of my home or in the comfort of friends, I should have the freedom to reach for the overboard toppings and eat them as a little side-snack. In the presence of impressionable company, however, I often must politely dab the edges of my lip, careful not to smudge any lipstick, and brush off anything that hasn’t made it to my mouth.
There is a certain satisfaction to be held in a hearty cheese pull, and a saucy bite, but not when you run the risk of feeding your clothing and coating the rim of your mouth in your meal. Yes, of course I could use a knife and fork, but that’s just sick.
- Spaghetti: Oh dear god. The slurping. The long noodles. The heavy sauce. The meatballs. The desire for another heap of shredded parmesan. Spaghetti is the best way to ensure that you ingest all of the expensive lipstick you’ve applied, but fret not — you’ve got some sauce that’ll redden your lips up just as well, and it’ll taste a lot better.
- Soup: Drinking soup spoonful-by-spoonful is one of the most daunting tasks I can think of. I cannot express how profoundly agitated I feel while repressing the urge to lift up the bowl and slurp down its contents. I believe that this is why they make soup so hot — to further prevent you from being able to consume it efficiently. It is for these reasons that drinking soup drives me a little over the edge, and I’m sure the twitch in my eye is quite unpleasant for the individual I am trying to impress.
- Crumbly Bread: Bread, at restaurants, almost begs to be eaten with ones hands. I feel that this, at the get-go, removes a layer of politeness, and with it, a barrier of discomfort. Bread can be a leveling food, reducing some of the tension between you and the person across from you. However, crumbly, crispy bread is a disaster waiting to happen. If it’s too crispy, you might lose grip while trying to break off an ingestible piece.
You’re speaking casually, maybe smiling a little after reaching for the bread with your freshly washed hands. After fumbling around a little, you are forced to tighten your grip on the right end of the morsel, securing your palm and four fingers over the edge. With a calculated pressure, coming from your bicep and regulated by your forearm, you press down on the bread and it abruptly gives way before you’ve finished administering this force. Because you’re caught off-guard, the half of the bread in your left hand goes flying, knocking out a waiter who’s carrying a plate of thick, creamy soup over to the table next to you. The soup goes flying, tumbling through the air, before drenching your dinner companion. Meanwhile, the bread breakage sends billions of crumbs flying up and around you like confetti, sprinkling down on your lap and crusting up the makeup you bought especially for the occasion. Just like that, you look like you’ve come from the beach, with sandy crumbs in your hair, eyelids, and blouse. Your companion seems to resemble a marble statue, frozen in pensive shock and coated in the delicate cream of a clam chowder.
- Wine: Wine, almost instantaneously, makes my ears turn red. This beckons the question of whether I’ve suddenly become feverish, cold, or embarrassed. No one likes being questioned excessively when they’re perfectly fine — it makes you feel like you aren’t actually fine, or worse, that you shouldn’t be fine. I do like wine, though, it’s a shame my ears don’t.
- Spicy finger foods: I’ve developed a decent spice tolerance at this point in my life, but I have not (and probably won’t anytime soon) been able to stop touching my eyes all. the. time. Spicy foods are actually kind of fun. They’re great conversation starters (“Wow, how are you eating something so spicy?” or “Gonna be a fun trip to the bathroom tomorrow!” are some great ones) and they let one assert dominance over one’s fellow dinner companion. I will say that spicy food in and of itself can also be quite daunting. If you can’t handle it, you might sweat, or your eyes might water and your nose will almost inevitably run, but at least you’re trying. I worry more about finger foods because the unexpected burn of chilli in one’s eye is quite a buzzkill, and will make your eyes not only water, but turn bloodshot. Finger foods are particularly annoying because, even if your mouth has built up a tolerance for spice, I can promise you that your eyes have not. Good luck to you, and good luck to your eyeliner. (Or maybe you don’t have this issue, in which case, good for you).
- French Fries: I love french fries, and my body’s ability to process how many I’ve eaten does not exist. This is actually the case for a lot of small bites. I used to munch a lot when I studied for exams, and my brain has never really been able to turn the portion control part of my brain back on again for snacks like the delectable fry. I will eat, without batting an eyelid, all of the shared fries at a table. I won’t even be trying to hog them, they’ll just vanish. If you are not keeping pace with me, you will not get any, end of story. If this is the evening where I have to make a good impression, I’m assuming you’re not going to be very happy with me.
- Bony fish/chicken/etc.: How does one spit out a bone in a polite manner? I can only think of two ways to get a bone out: 1) You spit it out. You move your tongue and cheeks around, until you’ve located the bone, do your best to get the meat off of it, and then you spit it out, preferably into a utensil. Sometimes, it’s urgent, and you have to spit it straight on to the plate. Sometimes finding the bone takes a while, and you lose your place in your conversation. Regardless, you look ridiculous moving your mouth around like that. Stop it. 2) You pull it out. No one looks suave reaching into their mouth and producing a 2-inch fish bone, I don’t care who you are.
If you’ve got the skill to thoroughly debone your meat before ingesting it, congratulations. If you decide to teach a class, let me know where I can sign up.
- Ice cream: I’m lactose intolerant, so most dairy items are off bounds, but nothing weakens my knees and my bowels quite like ice cream does. Why is it so delicious? Why is it so cruel? I don’t want to be with a respectable individual while pondering these questions from the restroom, especially five minutes before we have to leave the restaurant.