• Eating together not only builds relationships in unexpected ways, but helps them stay strong, too. (Getty Images / Izusek)Source: Getty Images / Izusek
Looking for 'The One'? There's no better way to search for them than by making a long list of restaurant reservations, insists Dilvin Yasa.
Dilvin Yasa

11 Feb 2021 - 1:08 PM  UPDATED 16 Feb 2021 - 8:37 PM

Like most long-time married people, I live for the dating stories of my single friends. Tinder, Bumble, Grindr — it's a whole new world out there compared with my analogue days of meeting men in bars and nightclubs. However, what I've been hearing lately has left my blood running cold.

"What do you mean you don't go for dinner dates anymore?" I asked a friend who was filling me in on her latest adventures through one of the dating apps. "No one does," she said. "Usually it's coffee or a drink and that's about it. No one wants to commit to a whole meal."

'How can you commit to a potential relationship if you can't commit to a chicken parmigiana?' I wanted to ask, but instead, all I could say was, "But how can you get to know someone properly unless you break bread together?"

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My husband and I have been together for close to two decades now and I don't think he'd mind me saying that food is basically the glue that holds the entire production in place. He lives to cook and I live to eat and if we're not dining out together, we're talking about food or simply sitting side by side on a rainy Saturday afternoon, flipping through endless cookbooks and food magazines. We dream about dishes the way other couples dream about buying a holiday home on the beach or murdering a horrible in-law to get their hands on a handsome inheritance.

That said, finding my permanent dining companion did not come easily; there were a lot of "character-building" dinner dates on my path to true love, each one teaching me a valuable lesson about what I did and didn't want moving forward.

"We dream about dishes the way other couples dream about buying a holiday home."

For my first date as a teenager, we went to a chocolate restaurant where I was determined to complete the death-by-chocolate challenge, eating eight courses of chocolate desserts to win the certificate and claim my date's heart. I grew green around the gills by dish four and became violently ill by dish six, but I completed the challenge and obtained my certificate. He pretended not to notice my sugar sweats and deathly pallor and I realised the only thing sweeter than the menu was his temperament. We dated for much of high school.

The next in line was a handsome American who swept me off my feet during a European summer. During our long walks around Barcelona, he revealed himself to be witty, intelligent and a total gentleman. Then we met up for breakfast and he produced a can of beer from his coat pocket which he poured straight into his cereal. After that winning moment, I made it a point to meet with people for a meal as soon as we connected.

In my early 20s, my dating heyday, dinner dates flowed thick and furious — many of them disastrous. "I think we could have a future together," said one arrogant suitor. "But only if you first learn to hold a knife and fork properly."

Another took me to an Indian restaurant and made a big fuss about how he was "going to need plenty of ice cubes" once he hit the bathroom. Then there was the guy who locked me in his car to make me listen to The Best of Richard Marx. The alarm bells should have rung loud and clear when he began the evening by scoffing at my suggestion of eating at BBQ King. "I didn't wear a $3,000 suit to eat at BBQ King," he sneered, before taking me to a nearby restaurant and attempting to order mountains of abalone for me to eat, despite my protests.

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Over my years of dinnertime dating, I have watched men fall over drunk in their chairs, pick at their teeth with cutlery, refuse to eat "foreign foods", and take out their phone to calculate who had what. Just when I was about to give up on dating, love and the whole damn thing, I met a guy who couldn't be placed in any of the boxes above. He enjoyed every kind of food, enjoyed my company and made me laugh until my sides hurt. When he prepared an Indonesian banquet in his home for our second date, I knew I wanted to enjoy every meal from that day forward by his side.

To those who are dating, I can only offer the same advice I give my daughters: if you're interested in seeing someone, make a restaurant booking as quickly as you can. One hour across a dinner table from someone will reveal a lot more about their personality than weeks of coffee dates. You might get to eat a fantastic meal and that's great, but if it saves you from just one guy who thinks nothing of pouring beer into his morning Cornflakes, I'd consider that a job well done.

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