My girlfriend’s parents were supposed to be in town last weekend. While they never quite made it here, it got me thinking about the difficulty of being a food-centric guy in the classic “dinner with your lady’s folks” situation. It’s a tough spot to be in and there are all kinds of pitfalls. You don’t want to show anybody up (*cough* her father *cough*), but you also don’t want to suffer through a two-hour meal at The International House of Bland and Terrible Food. One bad Falafel Palace suggestion could land you in hot water for years to come, so what’s a guy to do? Sprint in the opposite direction Think like a Turkish crime boss and control the situation without anybody knowing.
For the sake of argument, let’s just say that the roles of “Your Girlfriend’s Parents” will be played by unassuming Midwesterners. Clearly every person is a snowflake and people can’t be grouped into tiny boxes, but for our purposes today, they’re from the suburbs of Milwaukee and they eat at Sizzler every Friday night. Their idea of exotic is ordering chicken lo mein and using more than one of the spicy mustard packets. Getting them to try the upscale Korean fusion restaurant will be harder than getting them to vote Democrat. That’s why you have to always be three steps ahead.
Like any good mafioso, you have to plant the seeds early. Ask Bob as soon as he arrives (he’s always a Bob or a Tom or a Frank) if he’s ever tried Korean. When he inevitably says no, just smile and let it drop. A little later, launch into the real attack. Ask him if he likes steak and eggs. (Of course he does.) What about rice? (Everyone likes rice.) Ever tried them together? (Not a chance, unless he’s a Korean War vet.) Well Bobby Boy, that’s bibimbap and no, it’s not a new dance craze. In fact, the new Korean place down the street serves a pretty righteous bibimbap if you’re willing to give it a shot. Hopefully he’ll be on board and you’ll be home free. If you can make your desired destination sound familiar to foods the parents already like, you just won the game.
If you’re dealing with especially stubborn people, or you just don’t want to spend time laying the groundwork for the place you really want to go, you have two options. You can give in and pull up a feed-sack at P.J. O’Buffet’s, or you can compromise. Let me suggest that you turn the compromise into the most congenial of American traditions: The barbeque. There’s nothing better than grilling meat with the father of the woman you’re sleeping with. That way, you both get what you want and you might even get to know each other a little better. Let Future Pop teach you a thing or two about how to grill a steak and maybe you can impress him with your pork chop brining method. By the time you’re done eating, he’ll be offering you a nice dowry to marry his daughter (assuming you live in 1720s England).
When it comes to dining with your girlfriend’s parents, you don’t want to step on their toes, and they probably don’t want to eat any toes. Finding the perfect place is tough, but if you can control the situation without seeming like a control freak, you’ll most likely wind up a hero. If all else fails, maybe it’s best if you get called away on a very sudden “work trip” for the weekend. Or you can just give up and find a new girlfriend who has foodie parents. The choice is yours.
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