When a Non-Foodie Dates in JerseyFeb 27, 2021 04:42PM ● By Matt Preston
As if being single this year isn’t complicated enough, imagine being on the dating scene as a “green-only, non-foodie” guy living in South Jersey.
Let’s start at the grocery store where shopping is essentially a breeze. It doesn’t take long before the aisles are memorized due to the specific clusters of products. There’s really only around three or four aisles that this guy needs to go down to begin with, and that’s usually out of at least a baker’s dozen. And because minute brown rice packs and ready- made salads are a mainstay of his diet, he’s out in under 10 minutes.
Now obviously “dinner at his place” is out as those offers go. Unless she’s really patient and isn’t expecting any quality beyond “chain restaurant fare”, it still may be tough to make a good impression. And that’s through no fault of her own, because who can blame her if she’s confused when she receives a text asking what kind of bagged salad she prefers. Is he serious, or attempting to be ironic; she's not quite sure.
If its dinner at her place, that can get a little dicey as well. By now, he probably worked it into a conversation (or several of them) how he’s a green-only eater, but doesn’t exactly have an advanced palate. This is to make sure she knows what he’s about and/or if she needs to plan that last-minute text that “her friend is broken down in Newark and needs her help.” But somehow the stars align and she thinks the offer is cute, or at least somewhat quirky, and doesn’t mind his basic eating habits.
The problem is, again, he’s not a foodie; which isn’t to say he’s picky, but his wheelhouse is pretty well locked in. And the last thing he’s going to want to do is ask her what a vegetable paella is, let alone pick through it. Say she’s feeling adventurous and wants to make them a tahini broccoli slaw; he’s going to naturally wonder if she’s making up words. And he’ll probably check out all together if she suggests a coconut jasmine rice and edamame meal, assuming she’s just messing with him at that point.
So off to a restaurant they go. But where; this is Jersey during a pandemic. The fast-food places are still closed, take out only, and the smell of tacos fries and/or salad wraps in a car with the windows half cracked doesn’t exactly stimulate the romance.
However, because her heart is solid 24 karat, she finds a place in Philly that’s vegan only, and is “open-ish” to the public. This means they can’t eat indoors because of the lockdown; so, the restaurant built an outdoor eating area, which looks exactly like an indoor eating area, but with space heaters all over the area to add to the ambiance of confusion. And now that they’re finally on the way, she begins to read dinner choices from the menu. He nods of course, although flop sweat does begin to form on his lower back.
“Oh, marinated olives, I bet they’re really tasty …” he says, not having consumed an olive since middle school. “Tofu Butter Masala? Yeah sure, I totally love masala in tofu form!” He laughs nervously, hoping she didn’t pick up on his absolute confusion as to the words she’s saying. “I know, right, how can anyone not love deconstructed hummus pitas?”
The worst part is if he does try something new, he’s afraid what it’ll actually look like. Like that face someone makes when they smell apple cider vinegar; it’s not exactly the best expression to have when sitting across from a date. So various lies and exaggerations swirl through his head to employ, but he doesn’t want to be that guy.
So, when they’ve finally sat down in the corner, next to a thin plastic wall and a space heater that’s beginning to spark, he figures honesty is the best course. And when he has finished, she laughs and says it’s fine, now realizing why he was acting all-squirrelly earlier. So, he’s happy to just get a basic Caesar salad while she goes for the baked jambalaya casserole—the pair laughing at the awkwardness as they fan away the fumes from the malfunctioning space heater.
From there dinner wraps up and as they're standing at his car, he thanks her for being really cool and understanding. She waves it off, smiles, and says she learned those traits from her family... Which she can't wait to introduce him to during their annual hunting and barbecue weekend in upstate PA. She then gets in his car as he looks up at the sky and sighs.
Matt Preston is a creative and professional writer from Gloucester Township in South Jersey. Writing is one of his passions, body mind and soul wellness one of his goals, and belief in destiny his continual motivation. His website and podcast can be found @ TheApatheticVegan.com