When you must choose snacks for a first date and they must communicate your truest self

By Marian Bull

Marian Bull is the Associate Editor of Food52. She enjoys writing, eating
and feeding people.


I work in food and have a constant, innate need to feed people, so when planning a first date with a promising male from the internet—a date where we’d be walking, thank God, not sitting across from one another staring face to face like some sort of poorly lit job interview—I offered to bring snacks. He’d be the one showing me around my new neighborhood, which was his neighborhood too, and I’d be the one feeding us during the after-work and before-dinner hours, when the sun and your blood sugar get low.

First dates require you to communicate your truest self through otherwise minor choices: your outfit, your drink order, the lipstick you wear or don’t, the venue you suggest. These are all opportunities for peacocking and I am comfortable with them. Snack-choosing is a whole new genre of self-expression, though, and I was determined to find something that would communicate my zest for life, my impeccable taste, and my refusal to take anything too seriously. These snacks would reflect my soul. I had three days to discover what that meant.

My inclination is usually to make everything myself: I won over my last boyfriend’s friends by glooping together pimento cheese and baking banana muffins for their saturday morning football tailgates. But this time I needed walking snacks; cookies, cakes, pies, and their variants aren’t made for grabbing out of a bag mindlessly while strolling past brownstones and trying to be funny. They are meant to be plated and passed and eaten and watched with expectant eyes: Are you enjoying these cookies? Do you love me?

After excessive Gchatting with coworkers, I decided that I wanted options both sweet and savory, a mix of highbrow and lowbrow. I wasn’t sure what this guy was into. I’d find my platonic ideal of a trail mix, then tack on some sort of salty, processed bodega snack. Bodega snacks are romantic like slices of pizza are romantic: If love blossoms at a slice joint, or over a bag of Cheetos, it is true and real.

At Whole Foods I stared at a wall of bulk goods and thought long and hard about who I really was: I wanted nothing to do with superfoods. I needed chocolate chips. I abhor dried cranberries; my mother uses them like I use finishing salt. I gave in and bought something pre-mixed, a plastic bag the size of two fists. It was almost perfect—I walked home and picked out every single yogurt-covered raisin. I’m just not that kind of girl.

I left my apartment giddy, trail mix tucked into my backpack, and stopped into a very dirty bodega. I like the dingy ones, and I knew their Goldfish selection would be more reliable. Just as the high expectations of a fancy or allegedly “romantic” restaurant don’t bode well for a first date, nor do fancy bodegas and their overpriced organic chips.

My excitement was spilling all over the place, skin and bones trying to contain potential energy; I essentially attacked the clerk with the width of my smile. I jogged to the subway, Chariots of Fire-style. I was young! I was alive! I was about to go on a date—and I was armed with snacks.

Things went well. We both laughed an appropriate amount and ate multiple servings of Goldfish. It got dark and we passed my subway stop, walking on to the next one to buy ourselves a bit more time. I reached into my backpack after remembering the trail mix, disappointed that we hadn’t yet dipped into it.

I worried he’d be the kind of person who wouldn’t always say yes to food. (It’s the overbearing Irish Catholic mother inside of me.) I’m going to spoil my dinner, I said. Do you want to spoil yours? Whether or not he knew I was testing him, he grabbed the bag from my hands and looked inside intently and reached in, not a yogurt-covered raisin in sight.