Too Many Cooks: Bad Date Food

January 25, 2013

You'll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

People are sick around here. The sub-freezing temperatures are not being kind in these parts, no matter how much soup we make to try and ward them off. In short: we need a little entertainment. (A cookie would probably do us some good, too, but we have other columns for that.) 

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Today, we're talking date food. Worst food on a first date, weirdest food on a sixth date -- any and all are accepted. If there's food and a date and a good story involved, we want to hear it. 

If you're a good friend, you'll share yours in the comments. We'll go first: 

Marian: One time I went on a very awkward church date that ended with the worst omelette ever (the smell and texture of a bad omelette can kill) at a sports bar crowded with loud, drunken football fans -- circa 12 noon. 

Amanda: It was at Gotham Bar & Grill. My date had an allergic reaction to his first course, and the date ended in the emergency room. 

Lauren: A guy I had just started dating cooked me dinner for my birthday. Tuna steaks, as I was just back from living in Japan, and artichokes, because they are one of my favorite foods. The only problem was that he didn't know how to prepare the artichokes. He ended up cutting off every leaf and the heart, and serving me a boiled stem. I ate the whole thing, never mentioned it, and continued to date him. It's the thought that counts! 

Kenzi: My worst dinner date was popcorn. Here's how it went: our date was supposed to be dinner and a movie, and we went to the movie first. Date bought a huge amount of popcorn, which he polished off (mostly) himself. After the movie, Date turned to me and said, "I'm not really that hungry for dinner anymore, are you?" 

Lindsay-Jean: Being a vegetarian in Japan resulted in numerous fun food adventures on dates. One example is when I'd ask for vegetarian sushi rolls. This is the response I'd get: "The chef says he'll do it, but it won't be delicious. Are you sure that's what you want?"

Karl: This question triggers a related thought exercise, "What would be the best meal to serve a date on a hidden camera TV show to get the best reaction and test her patience?" I was imagining serving a plate with two cold hot dogs fresh out of the package and a big squirt of ketchup. When asked about why the hot dogs are cold, I'd say, "Oh it's safe. They're pre-cooked."

Want to avoid bad date food? Put these on the menu: 


Sugar Steak

Champagne Cocktail

Genius Chocolate Cake

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mlouise
  • enbe
  • Aliwaks
  • JadeTree
  • arcane54
Kenzi Wilbur

Written by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.


Mlouise January 30, 2013
Ladies...(Gentlemen, listen) do I detect a weakness for men who are willing to put it on the line and cook for us ? When I met my now husband, I was working as a chef and it seemed people were afraid to invite me to dinner but not my man! Avocado soup, perfectly cooked shad roe with bacon. His repertoire only included a few other dishes but who cared.
enbe January 29, 2013
I'd had some dinner dates around New York with this guy who shared my appreciation for good food and great restaurants. One night he decided to cook me dinner. I was skeptical of his cooking skills but excited to see what he'd come up with. Now I'm a vegetarian, and he's Texas born and bred so he called his mom to ask what to make me.
So he serves dinner and he's all pleased with plating it up nice. He'd been to Citarellas and gotten himself a pre-made nice salmon fillet with two or three sides, all the fixins. And for me, he serves me a ginormous plate of roasted vegetables. Yes, that's it. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, maybe some beets, I don't remember. On top of this, he doesn't really like salt and had none at his house (I'm a salt feind). So the vegetables weren't even seasoned. I could barely eat them and glared bitterly as he enjoyed his salmon. He apologetically took me out to dessert afterwards and I make fun of him to this day. I'm pretty sure that was our last attempt at a date.
Aliwaks January 28, 2013
After I'd been dating my now husband for a couple of weeks, he invited me to dinner, I was thrilled because I'd never had a man offer to cook for me.

And he tried oh how he tried. Sadly he asked his mother for recipes.

We had Pork Chops that would have been cooked in Campbells Tomato Soup + Dried basil, rosemary & thyme + an half an onion and cooked for an 2 hours luck would have it he bought Tomato Paste as awful as it could have been it was less so, but those poor pork chops were just decimated and on the side we had canned potatoes (!) and very well done string beans. At first I was surprised at how much care he'd taken for pare the potatoes into perfect spheres but then I tasted one..oh my were they terrible (he was probably advised to boil these for a half an a hour)

And it was pretty awful, not the worst ever (though that would come as I got to discover a family penchant for food cooked with condensed soups)...and I applauded his gift of cooking for me, because though it was not to my taste he wanted to feed me, just as I had fed him, also there were fresh cannoli for dessert and who can say no to a man who will feed you fresh cannoli (esp one who buys 3 for the two of you to share)and know he still isnt the greatest cook, but he's become a much better eater, likes is meat properly cooked (not to death)and appreciates flavors more subtle than those produced by Campbells.
JadeTree January 27, 2013
The first Valentine's Day with a man I adored and respected came around and I was certain that dear, mutual friends of ours had tipped him off to take me to a new and divine French place for the meal, which he had said would be a surprise. I handed over some homemade chocolate truffles and got in the car - which headed the wrong way on the highway. Hmm. Then I saw the sign looming; it was the infamous local Japanese "grill" place, packed to the gills with romantically-minded teens. Squashed into the long side of the grill table, I kept a firm grip on my martini as our neighbors raucously enjoyed their legally bought Shirley Temples. Then I took a shrimp to the cleavage from an energetic fancy delivery. I could not get that martini down fast enough. My date was beyond mortified, and died a thousand deaths as he realized his mistake. He got my pashmina cleaned, made me a delicious homemade meal the next day and booked a table at the French place a few weeks later, swearing that there would be no more surprises. Reader, I married him.
arcane54 January 25, 2013
Mine was also a blind date. We went to a small Italian restaurant and when it cam time to settle up, my date told me he had a free dinner coming. Turns out he'd been to the restaurant before, order pasta and pesto and threw a hissy fit when (after easting most of it) he learned it had the dread cheese in it! He was very proud of his free dinner. and it went downhill from there... We had one more date. Suffice to say when I didn't cry "when most women did" about his family tragedy I knew it was the last time we'd see one another... and my last blind date.
drbabs January 25, 2013
It was a blind date. My date spent the evening describing in gory detail his extensive medical problems--including and especially a graphic description of his post-nasal drip and what foods tended to make it worse. Needless to say, my appetite (for the food and him) was gone.
Emily C. January 25, 2013
Apparently dating a chef means you have to try to impress her with your skills in the kitchen. A guy I had just started dating wanted to cook me dinner one night. He "loved" Asian food so he made me his specialty. Ground beef cooked with carrots, sesame seeds and soy sauce. I don't think I've ever had a meal that bland, or salty. I would have been more happy with a Stouffer's lasagna. He didn't make the cut.
CarlaCooks January 25, 2013
When I was 16, I decided to 'cook' for my then-boyfriend. At that stage in my life, 'cooing dinner' meant that I went to Panda Express and bought some orange chicken, then came home and made rice in my parents rice cooker. Hey, I made the rice, so it was a home cooked meal! I didn't want the chicken to get cold while the rice was cooking, so I put in, still in its styrofoam container, in a very hot oven (I'm sure you can tell by now that 16 year old me had exactly 0 experience in the kitchen... I promise I've learned a few things since). That was when I learned the valuable lesson of melting styrofoam.
Iris M. January 25, 2013
The story is too long to tell here in the comments section, but let's just say lemon pepper is the reason why I'm not married today. Here's the full story:
CarlaCooks January 25, 2013
Oh man, what a story! Perhaps it's a good thing he didn't get around to that proposal... think how much lemon pepper you would have eaten over the course of your marriage!
aargersi January 25, 2013
Oh dear, is it OK to laugh now? Because that's pretty funny. Plus you are better off I'd say - what would have been next? Canned cream of mushroom soup? BLEAH!
Iris M. January 25, 2013
I'm glad you find my pain funny, ladies (kidding). :) And, yes, you're right--I think I dodged a huge culinary bullet.
drbabs January 25, 2013
Oh, ouch.
CamillaMMann January 25, 2013
In college I made dinner for my then-boyfriend and another couple. Everything was exotic, delicious, and appreciated...until dessert: rosewater custards. When I turned my back (in a small studio apartment) to get coffee, my boyfriend tried to toss the custard out the window and ended up chucking the entire ramekin outside. The other couple was horrified. As was I.