Food for Thought: faith, food and a dating disaster
April 10, 2012 | 11:00 am
(Updated: January 17, 2013 | 2:36 pm)
My date was a disaster.
Not the kind of disaster where you spill half a bottle of Zinfandel on your Express button-up, or trip over stairs as you lead Mr. Dark and Handsome into your bedroom.
It was the conversation: a volley of one-liners batted back and forth until he asked a rather dangerous question.
“So what do you do with your free time – you know, when you’re not writing about food?”
The question was posed with a teasing smile and a wink. He found something in me – and the conversation – that drew him to it. I was interesting.
Whenever a date asks me what I enjoy doing in my free time, I weigh my options: talk about both of my loves, food and faith, or stick to the safer of the two and regale him with stories about that beet tart I made last weekend and the restaurant with the to-die-for peach bread pudding.
My early dates in the Denver dating scene were spent pretending away my faith in these situations, as though it were an automatic strike against me. I talked up food. I waxed eloquent on writing. I extolled the virtues my favorite authors.
But nothing about faith. Or church. Or religion. It was too risky.
Until, at one point, my best friend told me bluntly on a drunken night: “Buddy, you have to stop trying to please every last homo and just be yourself. They’ll figure it out sooner or later, you know. Maybe you’re just not giving them enough credit.”
His words rang in my head as I stared back at the evening’s Mr. Dark and Handsome. Be honest, I told myself. Go for it.
“I spend a lot of time in my church, volunteering and things like that,” I said casually, tracing figure-eights in my carrot and ginger bisque. “Actually, I’m a deacon.”
Silence. I looked at him and prepared myself calmly for the reaction. My bestie was probably right, I continued to tell myself – I don’t give guys enough credit.
He smiled back at me weakly, and his eyes betrayed a singular, undeniable truth: He had no idea what to say.
“That’s nice,” he commented, returning to his pear and Gorgonzola salad. “What about outdoor activities? Do you ski?” We were moving on.
The date wove its serpentine path through dessert and coffee as the conversation continued. Traveling anecdotes were exchanged and we talked about siblings. Through it all, I worked to smile and carry on confidently, laughing at all the right places.
At the end of the meal, my date gave me a hug and told me he had a wonderful time. There was no invitation to call or see each other again – just a thank you. We quickly parted ways, and as I walked along the 16th Street Mall beneath the glowing marquis, I was suddenly overwhelmed with shame and guilt. I felt truly awful – not because I spoke up about my active faith life, but because it was so easily dismissed, and I had accepted that.
That night, I lay in bed and stared up at the ceiling, thinking. It was a challenge to take the first step, to put myself out there. In some ways I was proud of that.
In others, I wanted to crawl back into my shell and never do it again. But something – a friend’s advice slurred in drunkenness, a persistent inner drive, a faith-fired charge – has pushed me to try again, and again, and again.
And much as I love drawing figure-eights in my soup, these days it’s not necessary to stave off awkwardness. More often than not, my personal revelations are greeted with smiles and support. Some have even smiled wider when I tell them how much I love my church.
Though I will never forget the shame I felt on that first date – not for the rest of my life.
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoons sunflower oil
• 1/2 cup diced celery
• 2 tablespoons minced garlic
• 1/2 pound carrots, peeled
and roughly chopped
• 1 small hand ginger, halved
lengthwise to maximize
• 2 cups chicken stock
• 1/2 teaspoon ground
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1/4 cup sour cream
Optional: Chives for garnish
1. In a 4-quart pot over medium heat, saute onion and celery in butter and oil until soft. Add carrots, ginger and garlic. Stir, and cook until the carrots begin to soften and caramelize – about 8 more minutes. Add stock, salt, pepper, and bay leaf; cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook 30-40 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove bay leaf and discard.
2. Remove the ginger and chop finely in a food processor. Strain the liquid back into the pot, pressing the juice out. Discard the solids. Place the vegetable solids into a blender and add just enough cooking liquid to process until smooth – it will look like baby food.
3. Place processed soup back into the pot and gently reheat. Add the heavy cream and sour cream and adjust the seasoning to your liking.