Bonjour. That’s pretty much the extent of my French language knowledge. It’s Bastille Day, which, if I understand French history correctly, is the day that France ran out of baguettes a couple of centuries ago. Regardless of my ignorance, people celebrate Bastille Day here in America. People also celebrate Nowruz (the Persian New Year) and Cinco de Mayo (Mexico’s tribute to mayonnaise and slightly metallic beer). As such, we’re faced with foods and food words that may not be all that familiar to us. When you’re going out to eat with somebody you hope to see naked, it’s pretty hard to seem suave if you’re only down with chicken fingers and mashed potatoes. Learning to expand your food vocabulary is a must for the food dude, but don’t fret, my chicken-finger-loving friends, you don’t need to learn a million languages to impress the opposite sex — you only need to learn a few tricks.
The first trick is the easiest in our modern day era of information tubes and digital super highways. If you know you’re going to a fancy French place for the night, check out the menu online. Chances are, it’ll be on their website or one of the menu aggregators like menupages.com or menupix.com. Study the menu like it’s a test for your French 211 class. Look up the words you don’t know. The internet’s also pretty helpful when it comes to pronunciation. Boeuf bourguignon may look like a bear to say out loud, but a quick trip to Google Translate and you can sound just like a French computer robot. Your date will be impressed scared, so maybe try to ease up on the robot accent a little bit.
If there’s no menu available beforehand, you can always ask the server. Asking the waiter scores you the least amount of points, but it’s often the most expedient solution. After all, it’s part of their job to know what something is and how to pronounce it. You don’t even need to ask for a straight-up pronunciation. Just bait them enough to make them do the hard work. “I’m looking at the dish with leeks and carrots. Can you tell me about it?” That should do the trick. Most servers will give you the name of the dish in their answer. “The loup de mer? That’s one of my favorites. The leeks are melted…” And you’re all set. Now, can somebody please tell me how you melt leeks?
My favorite way to go is asking your date. In almost any situation, I think it’s good to ask for help (besides asking for directions — after all, I do have a penis and, more importantly, an iPhone with a map). In this situation, asking your date reveals: (a) You’re not too proud to ask for help; and (b) You respect her enough to believe she may have the answer. These are good things. Even if she doesn’t know the answer (the majority of the world doesn’t know what sambal is), you just jumped up a few pegs in her book. Plus, you now have the power of the inside joke on your side. Nothing makes for better inside jokes than the shared experience of not knowing how to say avgolemono. At your wedding, it’ll make an excellent inclusion in the toast.
Food is a multicultural experience. That’s both a blessing and a curse. While you may love the flavors of India, you may hate the abundance of vowels on their menus. Don’t let that scare you away — dates can smell weakness. Just be cool, do your homework, and ask some tactical questions. Oh, and be sure to use the Food Republic Word of the Day guide. It’s going to save you from a bad situation in the very near future. Happy Bastille Day everyone!
Have a dating question you want answered in Heart Attack? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or ask away in the comments.
Other good advice from Heart Attack: