"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." — Virginia Woolf
Have you ever been invited on a date that did not involve food? A romantic date, I mean. As in guy sees girl. Guy asks girl out. Girl accepts. If guy does good, girl might go on a second date. And then another. Guy and girl can be young, middle aged or older; the formula is essentially the same.
At some point, roles reverse. Food is still involved but girl starts cooking for guy. Given the cliché — many would say is true — that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach," if he's done his job well, and she does hers well, Cupid and a happy couple could have cause for a celebration.
Go-getter Oakland entrepreneur, foodie and culinary traveler, Odette Pollar, has long been intrigued by the quirks of the dating game. When a friend told Pollar that she had switched from hoping for maybe "a date this year" to "a date this decade," the seed was planted for Matches that Matter, Pollar's "slow dating" alternative to the personal columns, connecting online, speed dating, Starbucks encounters, and most of what is currently on the table.
Her "slow" concept — its name and nature were inspired by the "slow food" movement (which began as a reaction to fast food) — is geared to helping men and women aged 40 and older find a match that matters. For more on Slow Food, click through to Cuisine Noir's Slow Food Recipes for Sensual, Delicious Living.
Slow dating Pollar-style involves what she calls "flights." You know wine flights, where you get to sample different wines side by side to find one you really like? In these flights, men and women, matched in terms of age and interest, engage in a volunteer activity, usually for a morning or afternoon, three weekends in a row. While doing something worthwhile, everyone gets enough time to savor everyone else (if not literally taste). If there's someone in the group who tickles your fancy, by now you have a history. You can ask the person on a date, which won't be a blind date.
"Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly." — Legendary American food writer M.F.K. Fisher
Pollar says it would be difficult for her to be in a long-term relationship with someone who didn't like food. "For instance, when I travel, I go out of my way to eat the cuisine of the place. To me, it's what makes travel exciting and interesting. So, I found it fun to spend 25 minutes in a cab looking for a hole-in-the-wall place that served the best barbecued conch in Jamaica. And yes, I did find it."
Food for Thought from Pollar
We grilled (pun intended) Pollar in our quest for food-related recipes for relationships. Here are some to start you off. Do you have any to add? Please post them in the comment box below.
- "For two people trying to get to know one another? Choose a nice restaurant, which need not be an expensive restaurant, but somewhere you can spend time and enjoy a shared experience. You want romantic. You don't want noisy. You don't want to be rushed. If you have a favorite place or a favorite food you want to share, that's a good start."
- "Food dates can be very sexy. One of the things eating together often produces is eating off each other's plate. This horrifies some people. But when you say 'taste this,' you physically move closer. Sharing — and you can share many things, even a sandwich — facilitates communication, laughter, bonding and a sensual experience."
- "There are people who see eating simply as something they have to do and who think of food as just fuel. It is so much more. It's the shared experience that can include the love, care and attention that go into planning and preparing any meal. There's the conversation while all this is happening. If you grew up as I did, with a mom who was an excellent cook, food was the focus of everything. Food is intimately tied to family, friendship, conversation, laughter and fun."
- "If you watch people in a restaurant, you can guess what their relationship is. You can tell when people are on a first date. You can tell if two people are in love. You can see when they're looking into one another's eyes. There are foods considered aphrodisiacs. I don't know if it's the foods themselves. I think it's more about being close, feeling close — the sharing and the sensual nature of the experience."
- "Inhaling food, rather than taking time over food, is part of devaluing leisure. Fat is conferred on people who are busy, not on people with leisure time. Europeans tend to spend more time on food than Americans, who tend to negate this essential pleasure. And eating slowly, we often eat less. The body has time to give signals and send messages. To say 'I've had enough' before you've had too much."
- "One of the things that often happens at the end of our flights, the group will suggest going out for lunch or dinner together. They want to continue the relationship. Food is about bonding. It's the easiest way to stay together. For families, it's the glue."
- "My most memorable food experience was being introduced to mussels in Seattle. It was a special restaurant. The conversation was wonderful. The setting was romantic. It was the first time I had mussels and I loved them. Every swallow was fresh, new and exciting. There is a special joy, being introduced to a new food. All of this absolutely would have sparked a romance I am sure, except that he (a work associate) was married."
- "The most sensual form of eating? I'd say Moroccan. Generally Moroccan restaurants are pretty intimately designed. You sit on the floor. You're on pillows. You eat with your hands, no utensils. That's very sensual. Morocco is the next country on my list to visit."
- "Often home kitchens are designed to be these wonderful gourmet places. But people don't cook. They buy take-out meals. They rush. And food is about time — the opposite of rushing. It starts with the sensual experience of choosing the ripe tomato or avocado. You have to touch; to smell the melon to make sure it's good and ripe. Then you do the preparation. Then finally you eat. When you rush you lose a lot of smells, the sensuality, the opportunity for relaxation."
- "If you're going to invite someone for a meal and you don't know them well, ask if there's something they really dislike. You don't want to serve them that. And don't try to create a gourmet 12-course dining experience if it's not something you usually do. Prepare a single item. Do it as well as you can. Then take it slow and enjoy."
Photo credit: Wanda Hennig
Photo captions: Odette Pollar, entrepreneur, foodie and culinary traveler, gets up close and intimate with a seasonal selection at Oakland's Grand Lake Farmers Market. Click on the Matches that Matter link to learn more about her slow dating recipe for meaningful relationships in a fast-paced world.