Here’s the scene: you’re at a restaurant and your date is gleefully devouring the most impressive chicken sandwich you’ve ever seen, while you stare glumly at the bowl of lettuce and veggies in front of you (which is now looking incredibly dull in comparison.)  Man, those sweet potato fries look good.  If I could just…have…one…

Bam.  Next thing you know, you’re munching on a fry which you’ve just reached across the table and grabbed.  It all happened so fast!  Is your date staring at you in shock and disbelief?  Amusement?  Disgust?  Or, has he or she not even missed a beat?  That depends.  Today, He Said, She Said tackles the touchy (pun intended) subject of eating off a date’s plate.

He Said – by Phil V.

I typically don’t have a problem with a date, significant other or spouse eating off of my plate without asking first, but I definitely think there is a mandatory waiting period before this behavior should be attempted.  The move is a risk too early in a relationship, but on the other hand, if you wait too long to assert your dominance at the dinner table you may have a harder time getting that first food heist pulled off without raising an alarm. So I guess this question is a little trickier than I first thought.

Let’s take the first five dates as a starting point.  A lot happens in these initial encounters, and swiping food off of your date’s plate might be an unnecessary risk.  There are so many other things to worry about when getting to know someone that the chance of making yourself seem pushy or over aggressive by taking food may not be the best play.  Now that isn’t to say that some people might not like the fact that you have asserted yourself, or you seem comfortable enough to grab some food, but in my opinion that is a longshot that is not worth the risk.  I’m going to say NO FOOD STEALING on dates 1-5.

Moving on to the next phase of the relationship, let’s say dates 6-15, I’m going to say this is the sweet spot to let it be known that you may be taking some samples from your date’s plate from time to time.  At this point you should know each other somewhat well and have a decent level of comfort with each other.  Let’s put it at date 8-11 where you make your first move.  Start with a quick, “Ooh, that looks good! I should have ordered that.”  Make that first steal a small one though.  No more than one forkful of food.  You don’t want to take too much food to raise any alarms and an innocent taste never hurt anybody.  The key here is that the stage is now set for your bigger food heists down the road.  Also, don’t steal desert.  Way too early to be stealing desert if it was not expressly stated that desert would be shared.  Save that one for later.

Now that your partner knows you may come in for a little nibble here and there, pace yourself and choose your spots for when you are going to need more.  We’ve all been in those dining situations where you really do want the other person’s order and you can attempt the “let’s split it move” a little easier if your date is accustomed to getting their food stolen.

In summation, I’d say stealing food from your date is perfectly acceptable if you plant the seeds early and don’t go for too much too fast.  Plus, if you are using a certificate they shouldn’t be that upset at getting a little less of their meal since they got a great deal regardless.

She Said – by Elizabeth C.

I’ll start with this: food envy is a powerful force.  Think about when you’re sitting at a restaurant waiting for your food to come and you see a waiter carrying a tray with fajitas that are sizzling so loudly your mouth literally starts watering, or a colorful salad that makes you think, “ugh, I would have been happy with the healthy option!”  It requires no small amount of willpower to resist jumping up and grabbing a bite, or at the very least begging to change your order.  That same principle comes into play even more strongly when the to-die-for entrée is inches away at your own table.

With this knowledge in mind, I think there are a few simple things to consider before lunging across the table and stealing your date’s entrée.

1. Have you asked permission?  This is probably self explanatory to most, but some people are just innately comfortable with sharing food.  I have several friends who grew up in large families who think nothing of reaching over with their fork and trying a bite of your dish.  One friend has even suggested that she only does this to people she feels especially close to, so really it’s a compliment that she’s stealing my French fries.  That said, most people do not play by those rules.  I would strongly suggest asking permission before trying anyone else’s food if you want to avoid having your fork slapped out of your hand.

2. Can you wait? If a dish is truly that delicious, there’s a good chance your date will offer you a bite.  This is ideal.  These days, most restaurants serve portions that could feed multiple people, so the odds that your date won’t need to eat every single bite are pretty good.  If you can control yourself, wait and see if they offer you a bite before taking matters into your own hands.

3. What kind of person is your date? If you’re on a first date, you might not know, but this could be a great way to find out.  Some people just don’t like to share.  That’s their prerogative, but you might want to take some time to learn about a person before casually grabbing one of their nachos.  Some people don’t care or might not notice, but others could be seriously offended, disgusted, or even openly angry.  Until you know what you’re dealing with, don’t chance it.  Which brings me to my next point…

4. At what stage is your relationship?  As with all dining date etiquette, opinions on this will vary based on comfort levels and how well you know each other.  If you’re on a first date, it’s probably not a great idea to go in for a bite of his or her chocolate cake on a whim.  If you’ve been married for 30 years, I’m guessing this is more acceptable.  There’s no clear-cut timeline to tell you when this becomes ok, but I think you’ll know.  Till then, I’d stick to a policy of asking permission, not forgiveness on this one.