Aaah, menu envy, you know what I’m talking about don’t you? And it’s one of the many reasons as to why I’m single (okay okay I’m single because no one seems to be able to put up with me). The thing is it’s a great excuse to justify the coolness of being single without seeming like one of those miserable “cat” people with vodka in her freezer and nothing else. When you eat alone there is no possibility of getting it; well there is one possibility of getting it but the solution is not to look up from your book at any stage during your dinner alone.
Should you happen to look up from the pages of Pride & Prejudice (according to my sources at Hollywood it’s the singleton’s choice whilst dining alone) it’s very likely you’ll be rewarded with one helluva spectacle. You’ll see a parade of suited waiters heading towards a smug couple carrying an entire fatted calf, the lost treasure of the Sierra Madre, a Chinese fire-breathing dragon and just as they’re about to cue the dolphins your plate arrives. It’s a white plate, there’s some brown stuff on it and a stray pea has just managed to cling on. You actually want to swear at the waiter when he sets down your meal and says, ‘enjoy’. And it’s that feeling, that realisation, you feel like a dejected SPCA hound that no one wants. Meanwhile the Colgate couple are sharing a snog over their groaning table of gastronomic delight.
Delia Smith wrote a real keeper of a book called “One is Fun”; clearly Delia has never been single and the “fun” she is referring to does not involve a rampant rabbit. Delia’s last chapter of this seminal book is entitled “Happy Endings”, Delia is a saucy minx. Her melange of chapters include such rare treats as, “Solo Soups”, “One Man’s Meat” (She does love a good generalisation does our Delia) and “The Lone Vegetarian” (I thought all vegetarians were lonely sad individuals, not just the single ones?). Throughout her ramblings on the “fun” in one there isn’t one chapter advising “Drink Through The Shame” or “Suicide”, which I was contemplating after reaching the last page.
With Delia’s help I believe that the stigma of being single has really been rammed home. Up until “One Man’s Meat” (which is a little risqué even for Delia) I was feeling strangely happy about my sans handbrake status. However after flapping through Delia’s patronising, ‘ask your butcher for a roast for one’ and ‘now you don’t need to divide an egg into four to enjoy a delicious dessert for one’ I was ready to hop on board the speed dating train. Delia has single-handedly made me feel utterly shamed and it’s now my goal in life to find any bloke who will have me just so I don’t fall into the “One Is Fun” category.
If you’ve managed to avoid the stigma of being single by ignoring Delia’s “missionary position” on being single then you’re doing okay. But what happens if some bloke actually fancies you enough to spend his hard-earned pounds on you? If you’re lucky enough to be invited out of your cave of shame by an eligible singleton then there are some key factors to consider when on your dinner date.
The dinner date is a personal favourite of mine because they’re a great way to a free meal. Seriously if it’s a “go-Dutch” affair he can fuck off. I’d never date a Dutch bloke because not a fuck am I going to go “halvies” on every meal I eat from now until eternity. I roll in many ways but Dutch is not one of them. Understandably it’s a difficult subject to broach, ‘okay I’ll go out with you but I’m not going Dutch’ or ‘if you pay I’ll go’? Generally I find that bets work; get him pissed and then take a bet with him on something to do with sport. He’ll naturally assume you know fuck all about sport so he’ll take the bait and then voila you’re in like shit to paper. If this approach doesn’t work the secret is to go to the toilet when the bill arrives.
So you’re on your date and you’ve made an effort to look like you’ve not made too much of an effort. He, on the other hand, has made no effort whatsoever and is donning a t-shirt with jeans. Now as you all know I like to do my research so I’ve researched some bad first dates to help you on your way to leaving the “One is Fun” club. (Thank me later.)
I went on a sushi date once. I was obnoxiously hungover and had spent the better part of my day trying not to poke my eyes out in order to get the drilling in my brain to stop. It was also one of those “surprise vomit” types; you’re fine and then your head is in the toilet bowl. Now I’m into raw fish. When I say I could eat a whole tuna I probably could. However I couldn’t even order wine so how I was supposed to snack on raw fish was anyone’s guess. Also, I had the shakes and I was devastatingly nervous because the bloke I happened to be with was pretty fit. I was definitely batting at no. 2 when actually I should have been way down the order with the other spin bowlers. Anyway he was the idiot who took me out so far be it for me to feel like he didn’t deserve what he got next. The problem was my big mouth may have said something like, ‘my folks used to own a Chinese Restaurant (this is partly true) so chopsticks are second nature to me…’ ‘CHEQUE PLEASE!’ So the hangover shakes coupled with nerves resulted in sushi on lap, then in the rush to rescue rogue sushi, jug of water comes crashing down all over his mammoth sushi platter. And there was some blushing, and some dropping of chopsticks, and some pickled ginger may or may not have slid onto my shoes. So he’s looking at me and you can see DOUBT written all over his face as he tries to salvage some of his platter. And he’s trying to be polite but in that moment I knew that he was wishing he’d gone for looks over brains.
I’m sure none of you are stupid enough to have done this but in my defence it was my first date ever and I was just shy of 16. Anyway we’re talking a whole new level of nerves. It’s those 16 year old nerves that made me look at the menu and just point to the first thing I saw, ‘a heaving bowl of spaghetti’. I hear you laughing for we all know the cardinal rule, rule number one, the date rule. NEVER EVER EVER order spaghetti on a date ever. Even if he’s Italian and his mum has cooked it, feign death, run away or just crawl under the table. Not only was said meal covered in garlic but it was so impossible to eat that it almost brought me to tears. Eating pasta in front of your closest friends is hard enough, on a date it’s impossible. When I saw his meat and two veg arrive menu envy was at a whole new level.
My favorite ever failed relationship is with the guy who asked me on a date and we ate lemons. We were supposed to eat a meal but we were so wrapped up in our binge drinking that we never got round to the meal. The salt, lemon and tequila had enough nutrients in them to keep us going until the taxi arrived. I also believe that that particular drinks bill bankrupt him and he never recovered financially, I had to go Dutch on the taxi and shortly after he was binned. I think there’s a lesson to be learnt, if he asks you to dinner and then doesn’t buy you dinner that’s a no-no, despite the fact there’s no chance of menu envy.
In terms of the dating menu I’m constantly envious of what my mates get. When I’m dating “soup of the day” they’ve all got “fragrant Thai curry”, my steak is always overcooked and the vegetables are always limp, discoloured and bland. If I do order a curry it’s so hot and steamy that I pay for it for days afterwards. The desert always tastes good at the time but I regret eating it immediately despite it’s richness and texture. Sometimes when my mates are eating egg & chips I realise that that is what I wanted all along, not the complicated “three ways with salmon platter” that’s just sitting there looking poncy.
I guess I’m looking for a guy to be wheeled in on a trolley, beautifully arranged and then set on fire with lashings of brandy and Cointreau and then, for once, I’ll be on the receiving end of Menu Envy.
Post Script: La Claw does not advocate the setting on fire of men. La Claw does not think that all vegetarian’s are sad and lonely, they’re just hungry.