Student research project provides insight into food, dating and relationships at BYU

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    By Ashley Dickson

    Food plays an interesting role in dating relationships, according to a study recently completed by a BYU senior seminar class called “A Feast of Foodways in Life and Literature.”

    “The purpose of the class is to look at food,” said Jill Rudy, instructor of the English 495 class. “This is the ethnographic part of the class where we see what people actually do with food.”

    The students” assignment was to develop a focus on a specific food habit or food practice, research it in the library and conduct interviews. A wide variety of topics surfaced, but many students chose to emphasize the relationship between food and dating, Rudy said.

    “I focused on eating on the first date,” said Yelka Kaplan, an English major from Slovania. “I think there”s a difference between eating on the first date and later on when you”re used to a person because it”s not just about consuming food, it”s about presenting yourself in front of the other person.”

    Kaplan said she thinks the presentation of eating is symbolic of a person”s appearance. She said the results of her interviews showed that female students don”t really care what they eat on a date as long as they don”t eat more than their date. She discovered that girls also think it”s very important to order food that is easy to eat.

    “A big thing for women is how they eat,” Kaplan said. “They wouldn”t order things like spaghetti or a salad with big pieces of lettuce they can”t chew with their mouths closed. They don”t want to look like pigs.”

    Kaplan said she also found that men felt self-conscious about eating in front of girls and were often more nervous on dates than girls.

    “It seemed that men are really careful about how they ate,” Kaplan said. “Not what they ate, but how they ate.”

    David Wiseman, an English major from Redding, Calif., performed a similar study. He said he searched for common trends and themes in answers to the question of the role food plays in students” dating lives.

    “Most of the answers I got broke down into two categories,” Wiseman said. “Those were that food has the power to divide or unite couples.”

    Wiseman said most of the division comes in gender issues, especially with women. His interviews showed that females seem to feel more uncomfortable eating in social situations and often worry about eating too much or too little, but males are rarely concerned about that.

    Other students said bad etiquette has the power to divide couples.

    “A lot of people also talked about the power of food to save a date,” Wiseman said. “It doesn”t really matter if you have a great personality. Everybody can eat.”

    Wiseman found that students think good food and a good atmosphere can unite a couple on a date. He also concluded that food is used to impress.

    When asked what makes food impressive to a girl or guy on a date, Wiseman said some students responded with the amount of money spent or the restaurant chosen. Other students said the time or thought put into the meal is what”s impressive.

    Kaplan”s studies concluded that students enjoy food most with people they know well.

    “It”s kind of a symbol of intimacy,” she said. “When you”ve known a person for a long time you feel more comfortable eating around them.”

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