How to Enjoy a Romantic Dinner With Distinctly Unromantic Gut Health Issues
The only thing less romantic than sitting down to an intimate Valentine's Day dinner with the wrong person is spending a supposedly sensual meal gripped in terror that it's going to sit poorly, spoiling any chance at (wink, nudge) dessert later.
But for many people with digestive issues, allergies, and food intolerances, the staples of a stereotypical "sexy" meal—cheese, chocolate, seafood, wine, and those cunning little sweets—are often a ticket to Sick City.
That's no fun for either one of you. So how do you commune over food, mark the occasion, and still make sure there's room for a little fun on the menu?
Let's get this out of the way first: A simple solution is to, well, get it out of the way first.
Yes, we were all schooled by our elders and Pink Floyd that "if you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding," but we've (hopefully!) all graduated from that line of thinking—sometimes it's more prudent to have dessert first. If you're going out to a restaurant, make a late reservation, and get to canoodling. If you're cooking at home, prep ahead or make something that takes a long time to simmer, and get things sizzling outside the kitchen.
When you get to the table, you'll be infinitely more relaxed and you'll have no compunctions about getting home, putting on your soft clothes, and just gassily beaching in your bed, either alone or with sympathetic company.
Should you stay in or go out? There are benefits and negatives with either option. A restaurant may make the event seem more momentous, you don't have to cook, and you're surrounded by cooing lovebirds at every table. On the minus side, those two-tops can get pretty jammed in and restaurant kitchens tend to be pretty swamped on Valentine's Day, so it might not be the safest time to ask for alterations to the menu. On the other hand, you could cook at home and know exactly what's going into everything you're eating, though it might feel like just another Wednesday (but with candles), and you still have to wash the dishes.
Consider a compromise. This may not be all hearts and sparkles for you, but it presents a better scenario than having to staple a smile on your face while your gut is twisting at the table, feeling too sick to get frisky later, or—worst case scenario—end up in the ER.
If your heart is set on a particular restaurant, give them a heads-up when you're making the reservation (you are making a reservation, right?) so the kitchen has plenty of time to accommodate your dietary restrictions. This isn't being an annoyance; it's keeping everyone safe.
If you don't mind sacrificing a few Cupids and frills, opt for a favorite restaurant that isn't necessarily doing a V-Day prix fixe, but where you know you can eat safely. Nothing should stop you from dressing up, bringing your own vase and flower, or slightly splurging on something you wouldn't usually order. Also consider getting that meal delivered or packed to go, so you have food that's a little bit fancier than usual (that you didn't have to cook) in the cozy, comfort of your own home—maybe just served on your nicer dishes. And possibly with a tablecloth.
If you are cooking at home, that's certainly the most customizable option of all, but it may lack a little sparkle. Instead of hunkering down in sweats on the couch, make it an occasion. Put on something that makes you feel comfortable and gorgeous, craft a soundtrack, lower the lights, maybe even slow dance. For all the talk of aphrodisiac foods around this time of year, there's really nothing sexier than feeling well in your own body—especially with someone who feels pretty great about your body, too.