Lady and the Tramp, a timeless storyline of class-based differences being overcome by love, is a treasured piece of cinematic history. It is also, coincidentally, a treasured piece of my childhood. Not only did Lady and Tramp educate my younger self about the rebellious, daring nature of love, but also of foods’ role as the primary catalyst for this most powerful emotion. The proof was there right before my eyes. After all, it only took a singular strand of spaghetti to draw our two coy canine companions together.
Whilst I had been studiously examining the apparently timeless romantic ritual of dinner dates, the rest of the world had, inexplicably, moved on.
Ever since watching that famed scene, my young mind nurtured a fervent belief that the one true romance of my future was going to be found in similar circumstances. That is to say, over a candlelit dinner, in a hidden gem of a restaurant. It was a cute assumption, one which was unfortunately doomed to last only as long as my ignorance allowed. This proved to be quite some time; as a teenager I sailed out into the tumultuous ocean of modern dating, white knuckles clutching the lessons learnt in my youth. However, my unquestioning belief in their continued relevance was soon proved to be rather misplaced, and before long I was lost, drowning in an unfathomably deep sea, full of fish who were evidently more preferable suitors than myself. Even exchanging quintessential Italian American cuisine for chic French plates did nothing to improve my circumstances. Dejected, I retreated into harbour, to lick my salty wounds and examine some difficult truths. First and foremost amongst these was that my once treasured secrets were as useful to me as a lifeboat made of concrete. Whilst I had been studiously examining the apparently timeless romantic ritual of dinner dates, the rest of the world had, inexplicably, moved on. In the society that I found myself growing into, the old, sad, sorry, dinner date had been replaced by the speed date. The cheap date. The easy-to-duck-out-of-if-you’re-not-feeling-it date.
In a more pragmatic, logical way this transition makes sense. The costs of playing the field in the traditional manner do soon add up, and if you (like a lot of contemporary first daters) have never actually met your date before, it is quite reasonable to want a comprehensive, and readily available exit strategy to hand. But if love is about being logical or pragmatic then Vincent van Gogh would have died with both ears still firmly attached to his head. Evidentially, as anyone who has been in love knows, logic is one of the first things to be flung out of the window. And history has taught us time and again that the best windows to throw it out of are the floor-to-ceiling ones that whisper inviting promises of deep ruby reds, steaming bowls of pasta, and sumptuous apple-based desserts.
Tramp and Lady, ordered off menu, had no noisy tables to contend with, and listened to live music as they energetically twirled their pasta.
If you believe me to be mistaken concerning the intoxicating influence of the dinner date then consider, where else could you watch a couple tentatively sipping the first drinks of the evening whilst coyly discussing the menu, with the poorly disguised intent that the early date ice remains as resolutely shattered as the shards which cool their perspiring margaritas? The delight witnessed within these windows and walls, the bubbling undercurrent of jovial chatter and utensil clatter, marks the classic dinner date as the antithesis of modern dating, whilst low risk, rapid fire dating strategies facilitate nothing more than fantasies about who might be uncovered during the next swiping session. Instead, the dinner date invites you to be present, to be sucked into your seat with a vehemence that only an audaciously creamy curry can provide.
Yet, despite its myriad advantages, the once in indomitable romantic ritual of our species has undoubtedly been surpassed by its younger, drunker, and indeed, uglier cousin. It is near impossible to pinpoint the exact time, location, or cause of this tragedy. Indeed, many people, from numerous locations, would label me a fool for even suggesting the notion. But, from my generational perspective, the dinner date is indeed dead. A gory post-mortem indicates many blows being inflicted from many perpetrators. Deciphering who should be held accountable is near impossible, yet if I were to step into the great Hercule Poirot’s shoes and hazard a guess, I would point my stubby finger at unmet expectations. Tramp and Lady, ordered off menu, had no noisy tables to contend with, and listened to live music as they energetically twirled their pasta. Which would understandably make poor service, overly salted food, and weak conversation all the more jarring for those of us who have tried to emulate their romantic endeavours. Yet, the excommunication of food from the modern religion of quick-fire dating still strikes me as strange given the fact that it remains the closest representation to love that we humans can physically create. Both eating and falling in love can be surprising, like the sudden bursting of a jam doughnut. Equally, both can be disappointing like a restaurant with rave TripAdvisor reviews. And both, as much as we may try to ignore it, are essential for our continued survival.
In the face of such overwhelming synergy, it seems premature to discard the ancient ritual of food-centric, hope-filled, romantic endeavours just yet. Instead, I think I will wait and hope that for once, this poor old dog is not forced to learn any new tricks.