How trying new foods with a new love enhanced my life.
By Amanda Green — Last updated on Sep 28, 2023
Photo: bit245 | Getty Images / Kzenon | Canva
We’ve all heard the expression “The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” But for John and me, food was the quickest way to our first argument. He said I didn’t eat enough of it, and he didn’t mean portion size.
“How can you live in New York City and not try new foods?” John asked on our fourth date when we’d gone out for pizza. I told him the city was more than a collection of restaurants to me. “I eat to live,” I said frostily. This had always been a good way to shut people up when they said I was too picky. John sighed, “You’re really missing out.”
Having different palates — mine mostly limited to foods children like John’s overrun with ever-evolving flavors and cuisines — wasn’t a dealbreaker. But I know other couples might not agree. People with strict diets often find it hard to date outside of their food preferences.
Even with the growing number of vegan and vegetarian options available in restaurants, eating out just isn’t as fun when your date doesn’t want a bite of your entree or can’t share dessert.
Our eating habits also come with intellectual and ethical implications. I once went out with a vegan who called my meat and dairy consumption “irresponsible” and “nauseating.” I knew that if we continued dating, I’d sneak cheese into his food out of spite.
Jeff Nimoy is an Emmy Award-winning writer and TV producer, who created the now-defunct dating site SamePlate after committing to the strict paleo diet. By eating only food that would’ve been available to primitive hunters and gatherers, he lost 40 pounds — and a lot of dating prospects.
“I’d tell women about this diet that changed my life, and I’d see their eyes glaze over,” Jeff says. “One woman said, ‘You know, you sound like a crazy person right now.’ But I want to find a partner who can eat this way with me six days a week.”
The site matched people by food preferences alone.
Users fill out their age, sex, and zip code, and then disclose food preferences, allergies, and diet. Pictures are completely optional. And essays about your favorite music or what you’re looking for? Nonexistent. The site’s homepage read: “If romance blooms, great. But in the meantime: Share a meal, no big deal.” After all, food can bring people together, but it can’t do all the heavy lifting.
The typical user isn’t on an extreme diet, though. He or she is more likely to be a foodie.
The site was inclusive — among a variety of exotic cuisines, one of the food preferences listed is “finicky/picky.” Had I used it years ago, I never would’ve been matched with John. Life might have been easier and more comfortable in the short term, but a lot less delicious. Over the time we dated, John slowly opened my mind and my palate. He stopped shaming me for being picky.
In fact, he asked questions about my diet: What I ate, what I didn’t eat, how I figured it out.
I realized that many of my food aversions involved severe texture issues from childhood that I’d probably outgrown. (I wasn’t just the kid who wouldn’t eat the crust of her sandwich; I’d never eaten a hamburger because I didn’t like how the soggy bun felt in my mouth.) I’d eaten fish once some 20 years ago and abandoned it altogether. Now I couldn’t even remember what kind I’d tried.
Dating a foodie made it easy for me to start trying new foods with little risk.
At a restaurant, I’d order something I knew I liked and then try anything on John’s plate that piqued my curiosity. I started small with pieces of foreign vegetables and eventually graduated to kangaroo, which I still can’t believe I’ve eaten.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” John had asked. “Try enough to get a real sense of how this tastes.”
He was so patient. I eventually realized that by being so averse to tastes I might not like, I’d been depriving myself of many foods I could’ve been enjoying all along. Like asparagus. And smoked fish. And even — this is embarrassing to admit it — cheeseburgers. I’m still not a foodie, but I no longer feel anxious when I’m not in control of mealtime.
Food is a lot like intimacy that way. You should go into a relationship knowing what already turns you on, but it doesn’t hurt to try something new.
At the very least, the experience will make you and your partner closer. You might even find you’ve developed a taste for something previously unpalatable.
The lesson applied to the rest of life, too it turns out.
Fear of the new and different hadn’t only limited my diet. It had turned me into a curious person who never answered her own questions.
I hated my job, but I was afraid to change careers. I had a bucket list of activities (stand-up comedy, skydiving, fiction writing, etc.) — and the means to pursue them — but I’d never committed to actually signing up. And deep down, though I knew that John probably wasn’t the person I was supposed to be with, I was stuck in my ways. In my adult life, I’d never really been single.
John and I are no longer together, but it’s not because we couldn’t always eat off the same plate. We just weren’t ready for a long-term relationship.
He changed my life, though. And I’m not just talking about the vichyssoise with smoked trout and almonds. Post-John, I became a freelance writer. I survived stand-up comedy and skydiving, which were both frightening. And I got a good, sometimes bitter, taste of the single life.
As for John? Well, we’ll always have cheeseburgers.
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Amanda Green is a writer with experience in copywriting, branded content, social media, and editorial.