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Dining and Discipline

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<img hspace="5" vspace="5" align="left" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1135858466/gallery_29805_1195_4989.jpg">by Ya-Roo Yang

You can tell a lot about someone by the way he eats. That was how I started entertaining myself at boring dinner parties, then it became my default pattern of behavior. Over the years, I sat at many tables quietly observing the eating habits of my dining companions, many of whom were dates. Doug, an investment banker I dated a while back, usually tore into his steak the minute the server set it down in front of him. I often wondered if he confused me with the steak. Jake, an equity analyst, on the other hand, liked to take his time to savor everything he ate, believing himself to be one of those refined, sensitive types. Being around Jake was slower than watching corn grow. The meat-and-potato guys are usually conservatives at the core with homespun values, no matter how radical they claim to be. The eclectic ethnic eaters tend to be idealists, always mildly discontent at their lot in life. The devout Michelin/Zagat followers lack backbone as a whole, despite the confidence they exude. The complainers and picky eaters just want to feel like they are in control, although they never really are. Vegans are just about the most oppressive dining companions one can have, no matter how easygoing they appear. As for the wine guys: well, they're a category to themselves.

Anyone reading this may think that I’m one of those spoiled petulant products of the post-feminist chick-lit era, but the truth is far from that. I simply view people in two categories: those who see food as sustenance, and those who see food as one of the ultimate pleasures in life. When it comes to dating, I prefer the latter to the former. And, of the latter, the ideal is to have someone who can delight in a simple fish taco from a beach shack in Baja, California as much as an intricate twelve-course degustation at Alain Ducasse. Of course, not everyone needs to be that way, but it’s an ideal to which I aspire.

“You can’t always get what you want,” my friend Lisa told me. “You have to give everyone a chance. At this rate, you're going to be alone for the rest of your life.” Lisa meant well, but her worries seemed unnecessarily dramatic. And even if it was true, the prospect didn't seem so horrible, as long as I had plenty of dates to keep me entertained at restaurants.

Then of course, the inevitable happened. I broke up with the guy I had been seeing -- a chef, meaning we had conflicting work schedules and never really had the opportunity to eat together, precluding me from any discovery of unappealing character traits --and came down with a bad case of mid-life crisis. I had sailed past the age of forty, blissfully unaware of the old age and decrepitude; I thought I had escaped that tedious malaise. But it caught up with me on the verge of forty-one -- all of a sudden, my biological clock; the waning possibility of a family; the prospect of Social Security and Medicare; and spending the rest of my life alone -- dying in a run-down, clutter-filled apartment with no one to date my ass -- became very real to me. I was in bad shape.

Instead of buying myself a new sports car or having serial affairs with guys half my age, like any of my respectable male friends inflicted with the same bug would do, I decided to double my effort to find Mr. Right. Or maybe just someone I could tolerate across a dinner table for the rest of my life.

Hence Ray, one of the guys Lisa had been dying to set me up with. “He likes food,” she said enthusiastically. “He’s eaten at most of those places you like to go, and he’s really cute!” Great potential, though Lisa’s idea of someone liking food may just mean that he likes to eat indiscriminately.

We met at a Malaysian restaurant on the border of Chinatown: my choice, figuring that it was low-key enough for a casual date, and that the stir-fry kang kong was decent enough to provide interesting diversions, should the date turn out to be a total bust.

Ray, a freelance computer game developer, was certainly everything Lisa described: cute, funny, bright and brimming with Southern California charm. Over dinner, I learned that he loved to travel and surf, and knew how to fly a plane. Good signs. He votes Democrat. Great sign. We shared the same opinions of the French Laundry and Per Se. Really great sign. But the real bonus point came when he ordered tamarind chili fish (unconventional and spontaneous); stir-fried lotus roots (sophisticated) and coconut rice (easy-going). I felt like I had won the dating lottery. We swapped dining adventures, drank Asian beer, dipped paper-thin roti canai in spicy curry sauce, and shared steaming bean curd hot pots. By the end of the dinner, I was beginning to think that maybe I had misjudged Lisa after all. Then he leaned over asked if I wanted to go back to his place.

I missed The Rules. I am not one of those girls who requires the mandatory five dates before the sex. Quite the contrary, if all vital signs seem reasonable, there are certain things one needs to know before committing oneself to the ritual of dating. There’s really no point in going on if certain aspects of the relationship are not up to par. I know, I know. One can always show the other person the proper path to intimate bliss, but seriously, why educate when you can move on to someone else who might do a better job at it?

As I stood on Grand Street pondering the possibilities, he whispered into my ear, “You know, I’ve got lots of toys.”

“Toys?” I muttered. A warning light flickered in my head.

“Yes,” he said in a low voice. “I’ve been very bad, and I need to be disciplined.”

The warning sign was in full flash; sirens were going off as well.

As much as I believe in innovation and experimentation when it comes to food, and perhaps most aspects of life, there are a few things I hold sacred -- my notions of what constitutes good sex being among them. Like good food, sex should never be a three-ring circus. After many years of eating at the best dining establishments in the world, I have concluded that fancy gadgets, chemically enhanced foams and latest scientific techniques are, quite often, ways to disguise a chef’s inability to engage the diner on a simple level. The same goes for sex, if only for the reason that simplicity can sometimes be one of the hardest things to manage. While all this may sound terribly vanilla to many thrill-seekers out there, just remember how extraordinary vanilla can be, especially when it’s a lovely Tahitian vanilla that recalls the breeze of a warm summer night.

“Come on,” I said icily. It was the wrong thing to say. He looked disappointed at first, then his eyes lit up.

“Oh, I get it,’ he said, visibly excited. “You're punishing me. I know I haven’t earned my discipline. I don’t deserve it.” He straightened up suddenly. “I will call you tomorrow.” With that he turned and walked quickly in the opposite direction.

I swore under my breath and called Lisa. “It’s a minor issue,” she said. "If you two really like each other, you should be able to work that out. Besides, how many people do you know that actually have the same taste in food as you do?”

The next morning, my cell phone rang promptly at 9:00 am. It was Ray. “Have you changed your mind?” he asked respectfully.

“No,” I said, feeling rather irritated.

“I see." His voice was breathless with excitement once again. “I am still being punished.” I hung up on him and set my phone to reject his number.

A few weeks later, I was having girl conversation with Lisa when the topic of Ray came up. “Oh, he’s doing fine,” Lisa said. “He’s hot after some girl who’s blocked his call.”

You can tell a lot about the guy by the way he eats. Or so I thought.

Ya-Roo Yang (aka Bond Girl) works in finance and lives in New York City's East Village with her corgi. She hosts the New York forum.

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Is it considered rude to post comments on these things?

If not: I thought that piece was terrific. Just great. Absolutely fantastic. (I would say "absolutely fabulous," but that would bring up all the wrong associations.)


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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This was "one of those days". In the course of my work I tasted 60 wines, 40 of which were mediocre and 20 of which were out-and-out bad; had a lunch fit perhaps for Atilla the Hun (the "chef" used the cheapest possible commercial mayonnaise as a "sauce" for my overdone porterhouse steak); and dined in a place where I was asked no less than 22 times (I counted) "is everything okay?"

In other words..a bad day.

And then I read your article. Even better than Champagne!!!!! Bravo!!

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Excellent. I wish I could say told you so, but then I would be considered one of the "wine guys." :laugh:


Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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What a great article. Thank you for putting a smile on my face at the end of the day!! :biggrin:


Eating pizza with a fork and knife is like making love through an interpreter.

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live and learn.

Thanks,

Jmahl


The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Best thing I've read in ages! Thanks so much. Unfortunately, I can relate all too well to those dates.


Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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Fantastic article! It is so poingnant for those of us still single. And those of us that have had those encounters...

I think all of my girlfriends need to read this too.

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As I stood on Grand Street pondering the possibilities, he whispered into my ear, “You know, I’ve got lots of toys.”

“Toys?” I muttered. A warning light flickered in my head.

You know, I'm fairly sure he was talking about his Vita Mix, his $5000 Italian cappucino machine, his Rational Combi ovens, and his induction burner stove.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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OMG I just read this. This is hysterically funny yet disturbingly familiar. :blink: Damn Bond Girl you were so close to the perfect date and then................ TOYS? I'm pretty much on the same page with you when it comes to that sort of thing.

Besides, it would be hard for me to respect a man in the morning, if I had spent the better part of the previous evening whipping his ass! :hmmm:

Edited for grammar.


Edited by divalasvegas (log)

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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So, well, how long will you continue to punish him?


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Like Mayhaw Man I too would like to know how all of this turns out.

But actually, the more I think about that guy, the more creeped out I get. After all, the entire time he was dining with her, being Mr. Perfect, he knew he had this in mind. Also, the way he set it up, he couldn't lose since:

a) If she was into that scene, they would've both gone back to his place with his treasure chest full of "toys" and a good time would be had by all, or

b) Since she reacted the way she did, he still gets what he wants since calling a woman who is obviously repulsed by you and has completely rejected you is also a turn on for this guy.

My question is when does this stop being amusing and crossover into something to be concerned about?


Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Like Mayhaw Man I too would like to know how all of this turns out.

...

My question is when does this stop being amusing and crossover into something to be concerned about?

Probably when you learn that his "toys" are not 'dishwasher-safe.' :blink:


John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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My friends once joked that I'm probably the biggest turn-on for him since I'm still punishing him after several months.... Seriously, I've not heard anything from him since summer, but it might be because I've programmed my phone not to take his calls. If I've learn anything from this experience, it's that my inability to be a warm and fuzzy date is equally match by my inability to infllict pain on others. At least not intentionally.


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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My friends once joked that I'm probably the biggest turn-on for him since I'm still punishing him after several months.... Seriously, I've not heard anything from him since summer, but it might be because I've programmed my phone not to take his calls.  If I've learn anything from this experience, it's that my inability to be a warm and fuzzy date is equally match by my inability to infllict pain on others. At least not intentionally.

Whew, glad to here that Bond Girl! And once again, this was a great read.


Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Thanks everyone for being so encouraging. Ypu guys are too nice.. :wub: This means a lot to me.


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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What a dumbass. You're not supposed to pull stunts like that until AFTER you've scored once.

Also some advice about males. Many are an ironic combination of overthinking and retarded. When you choose Malaysian, this dude probably ponders it for a while and comes to the conclusion that you are wild, adventurous, and crazy. After all, damned if he even knows where Malaysia is. Sounds kind of exotic!

A tapas joint is a better choice. Either he won't know what it is or he'll think it's trendy/neutral, and it's a great opportunity to see if he's greedy or slovenly. Unfortunately, about a third of men will be sorely disappointed that the waitresses are fully clothed.

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When you choose Malaysian, this dude probably ponders it for a while and comes to the conclusion that you are wild, adventurous, and crazy. After all, damned if he even knows where Malaysia is.  Sounds kind of exotic!

Great! Now, we're on the map as EXOTIC!

Thanks for such a ticklish read, Ya-Roo! Happy Hunting 2006!


TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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Oh BondGirl, my heart goes out to you.

I laughed, I cried, I remembered myself a few years ago. Bad dates, worse dates, beyond description dates - was it worth going on??? Eventually I hit pay dirt :wub: so I really, really believe everyone can!! Keep on trying - never give up.

And, if you meet (and marry) a man who hates seafood (and possibly all fruit and vegetables) - all the more for you :biggrin:

But a word of advice - if you find the man that loves the food, speaks the food and does all the non-food after dinner stuff right - grab him (there aint too many of them).

Outstanding article, please do some more :smile:

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