Date Night

Dating is a bit of a mystery to me.  Sure I’ve been on a few dates, and more often than not, meeting up for coffee or a drink is a valid way to get to know someone.  When I am asked to dinner, or lunch, however, I get really nervous.  There’s the usual, what am I going to wear?  What if he doesn’t come?  What if he hates me?  What if I hate him?  How am I going to leave?  These questions are date questions, regardless of the setting.  Going for a meal however prompts one more question, one very important and difficult question: what am I going to eat?  I am a messy eater under the best of circumstances.  I get food on my dress almost every time I eat, and I get food on my face a surprising amount of the time.  I’m just not an attractive girl to be around whilst there’s food, so one of the key concerns for me on a date involving eating, is to try and choose the tidiest thing to eat.

There are the obvious ones.  Spaghetti and noodles are definitely off the table.  Pizza’s ok as long as I can use my knife to cut bit-size pieces; I’ve too often been the victim of stringy cheese.  Burgers are a no.  Sushi is a no.  Anything needing chopsticks: no.  I’m not bad at wielding them, but usually, if I slip up, my dinner will be in my lap.  Salad is a huge no, those deadly leaves are always flicking vinaigrette on my face, dress, and hair, and I don’t want to spend the whole night scented with a garlic and lemon dressing wafting from my person.  Garlic is obviously contentious.  I don’t mind smelling of garlic if he does, but I have a friend who, although he loves eating garlic, cannot stand the smell, and you never know how the person sitting opposite you feels about it.  I once read that there is a state law in Minnesota declaring that you’re not allowed to go to the cinema within five hours of eating garlic. Perhaps the person I’ll be eating with is a supporter of that law? 

The thing is, though, I usually get so nervous by the very idea of eating in front of someone who I don’t know that well, I turn up either so hungry I’ll eat anything that comes with mashed potatoes, or too nervous to eat more than soup (dangerous: so many things can go wrong). All my deliberations are, therefore, thrown out of the window.

When I am cooking for a date, however, I am most definitely in control.  There maybe a little added pressure on whether he’ll like my cooking or not, but generally I’ll cook something that’s going to make me happy, and if it doesn’t make him happy, well, he’s not the man for me.

So when cooking for a man this weekend, I was feeling, although still a little nervous, more confident.  I picked something I could eat with a spoon (my weapon of choice) and out of a bowl (higher sides to catch any splashing).  Made sure there wasn’t any nuts (he’s highly allergic, and I’d already made a joke about killing him) lit some candles, made a playlist and felt pretty much ready to go.

It turns out, however, that there was one thing I probably should’ve thought about a tiny bit more.  When I refused to let him eat until I’d photographed his bowl, I was met with a some-what puzzled look.  I had, of course, neglected to mention that I write a blog about my cooking, and that comes with photos and stories.  I told him in the end, as an explanation, but I didn’t tell him what it was called.  If I’m not happy with him knowing I’m a messy eater, I’m really not happy about him knowing about my neurosis surrounding being a messy eater, or in fact dater, as I have so coherently chronicled here.

Pig and Beans
enough for about four people

five sausage sized chorizo, in chunks
eight chipolatas
six rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
one onion, chopped
two small leeks, chopped
two carrots, chopped
four cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a large glass of red wine
400ml tomato passata
two bay leaves
one can of butterbeans, drained and rinsed
to finish
juice of half a lemon
a handful of chopped parsley
a large handful of coarse breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 200c

In a heavy casserole pan, fry the sausages and chorizo in a little olive oil until they've got some colour and the fat is beginning to run.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Fry the bacon in the same oil until crisp, and remove that from the pan too.

Turn down the heat and cook the onion, leeks and carrot with the garlic until they're all soft.  Add the wine, stir and cook for a few more minutes.  Then add the tomato.  Throw the sausage, chorizo and bacon back into the pan with the bay leaves and the butterbeans.

Leave to cook over a gently heat for twenty five minutes.  After that, you can remove from the heat and put in the fridge for a day or two if you need

Otherwise, stir the lemon juice and half of the chopped parsley into the pan, cover with breadcrumbs and put into the oven for another 25 minutes.

Serve with the rest of the chopped parsley sprinkled on top, and perhaps a green salad.