There’s nothing like carpooling with a female co-worker to illustrate the obvious differences between men and women. Fifteen minutes into our commute, we’d covered ex-boyfriends, current boyfriends and everything in between (including Date #17, who has ricocheted from one category to the next over the past week, through no fault of his own). I’ve been chatting about modern dance with The Preschool’s male site director for nearly two months now and I know nothing about his love life.
“So who was that guy you brought to the art show?” my co-worker asked. “Your brother?”
“My brother?” I laughed. “No, that was the Man from Marshalls… but he was so last month.”
By the time we pulled into the parking lot, I’d given her the full scoop on Date #17, leaving out the fact that I’m meeting the Man from Marshalls for a coffee over the weekend. (In my defense, this is not nearly as scandalous as it sounds. I loaned the Man from Marshalls a library book—a library book taken out on my mother’s account—during The Fairmount Park Incident and he texted me earlier this week to let me know he’d finished it. I was going to tell him to just slip it through the mail slot when he had a chance but even for the likes of the emotionally unavailable Man from Marshalls that seemed rather cold. And so, for the sake of my mother’s library card and the condensed milk coffee I love so much, we’re planning to meet for a quick cup over the weekend.)
My co-worker told me she has a theory about dating on the east coast: the cities are too full of artists and artists are too unstable to form lasting relationships. I’m not sure if this is true (I’ve never dated an artist), nor do I think this phenomenon is limited to the east coast if it does hold water, but I’ve come up with a theory of my own.
My theory revolves around sushi. (Two of my five dates with Date #17 have also revolved around sushi, so either Date #17 really loves sushi or he thinks I really love sushi. Or, quite possibly, he is just trying to demonstrate his impressive BYOB skills and chopstick dexterity by taking me to every sushi restaurant north of Spring Garden.) This is because an appreciation of sushi is absolutely essential in the cosmopolitan world of east coast dating. And everyone knows it. For example: when I suggested to Date #10 that we go for sushi back in September, he replied, “Not to sound like a Philistine or anything, but I don’t really like sushi.”
Upon reading about Date #10’s abject gastronomical ignorance in my blog, Date #9 promptly informed me that he liked sushi. Or maybe that he didn’t like sushi—I can’t even remember anymore, but the point is that the liking or not liking of sushi is a matter of life and death in the dating world.
This is because eating sushi is an art form. First there are the chopsticks, then the little miniature teapots of soy sauce, then the wasabi, then the ginger, and don’t even get me started on the difference between maki and sushi rolls, because I still don’t understand.
Nonetheless, I used to think that I had a leg up on the majority of my American friends, not because I’ve ever been to Japan, or have any Japanese relatives, but because I went in grad school in London and in London, there’s a rotating sushi bar in nearly every train station and also across the street from Harrods.
Given my ability to wield chopsticks while selecting dishes from a rotating belt, I considered myself an experienced sushi consumer. But then, on the evening of our fifth date, Date #17 looked at the menu and asked, “Do you like edamame?”
“Of course!” I replied. Having consumed copious amounts of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Edamame in college, I considered myself an expert in this particular arena of ethnic cuisine as well.
You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I discovered that there is a non-chocolate version of the Japanese soybeans and that it was this version—the naked version—that the waitress brought to our table. In truth, the little green pods weren’t entirely naked (they were glistening with salt crystals) but that didn’t change the fact that I had never before encountered edamame in its pod form. Was I supposed to pop the whole thing in my mouth or pull the beans out one by one?
The pods looked vaguely familiar; maybe they were actually just snap peas pretending to be edamame? Or maybe not snap peas but mange tout instead? (I wasn’t until looking up how to spell “mange tout” that I remembered that mange tout and snap peas are the same thing, just like “rocket” and arugula or “courgettes” and zucchinis, but for all the time I’ve spent in the UK, my knowledge of British vegetable nomenclature did little to solve the mystery of how to eat edamame.)
Fortunately Date #17 plucked a pod from the bowl and popped the beans into his mouth one by one. Brilliant anthropologist that I am, I studied his technique and followed suit. They were delicious, as were the rolls of salmon skin sushi, the “Northern Liberties” roll and the… well, whatever the third one was. I was too embarrassed by my edamame ignorance and the trail of soy sauce dripped across my half of the table to pay much attention.
“Would you like some mochi for dessert?” the waitress asked.
Mochi? “What’s it made out of?” I asked.
“Don’t tell her,” Date #17 interjected with a smile. “Or else she won’t try it.”
And he was right: had I known that the main ingredient in mochi is not chocolate but rather glutinous rice ground into a paste and shaped into a little ice cream jacket, like red wax around a Babybel cheese, I would have deemed these “wasted calories” and insisted on wine for dessert instead. But in my ignorance, I sampled the mochi.
It was alright, as in, “If it was the last food on earth, I wouldn’t starve to death” but I much prefer my soy sauce and the fact that according to my personal sushi theory, Date #17 and I are perfectly suited: he doesn’t like pickled ginger, and I don’t like wasabi, so there’s no danger of us absconding with one another’s condiments.