FOOD FOR THOUGHT • by Jemma Marie Beggs

Sophie surveyed the menu in front of her.

Slow-roasted Prime Rib — Bet it wouldn’t be as prime as the gorgeous specimen sat opposite her. Sneaking a glance over the top of the menu, she drank in his delicious face: that immaculate hair falling over one of his brooding brown eyes, that nose that could have been carved straight from the face of a Grecian God, and oh, that chiselled jaw was just to die for. His eyes flicked up, and she hastily dropped hers back to the menu. If she wanted a second date, she would have to stop drooling all over him like a demented Labrador. Right, focus, food. The way her stomach was fluttering, it’d be a job to keep anything down. Perhaps a salad would be the safest option.

Classic Greek Salad — Could only be a let-down after having tasting it in the heart of the very country it was named for. Oh, what a summer that had been! Eighteen and carefree, she’d stepped off the plane feeling sure the next three months would be utterly blissful, and at first it had certainly seemed that way. Demetrios was everything she’d ever dreamed of in a man — suave, sophisticated, and sexy as hell. But it had all turned into a horrible cliché when she realised she was just this season’s fling and had been forced to flee back to her parent’s house in Shropshire to lick her wounds for the next two years.  Yes, anything Greek was sure to be a disappointment.

She stole another glance at her date — except for that nose. She could make an exception for that.

Pan Fried Scallops — Although now she came to think of it, she was sure they had given her a nasty rash in a rather delicate area last time she’d eaten them. Her cheeks flushed as that awful memory suddenly swept over in full force. She’d been on a date with a lovely man she’d bumped into at her local library — a shy, scholarly chap, not her usual type at all. He’d taken her to a lovely little restaurant in the Quay and they’d had fresh scallops before she’d badgered him into coming back with her for “coffee”. Things spiced up after she’d plied him with a few whiskies, but just as she ripped off her knickers he gasped in horror, stuttering something about having to water his plants, and ran out the door. She shuddered; scallops were definitely off the table.

Stuffed Oysters — Safe, perhaps. After all, they were supposed to be a natural aphrodisiac. On second thought, however, she didn’t want to seem like she was coming on too strong. Coupled with the rather short skirt and push up bra she had picked out during a pre-date confidence crisis, oysters might give rather the wrong impression, and she was trying to get away from her past of saucy flings and one night stands. A steady relationship might finally stop her mother from harping on about the ticking of her biological clock and her distinct lack of forthcoming grandchildren. No, what she needed was a dish a little less provocative.

Risotto — Aha! What said “perfect girlfriend material” better than a nice risotto? Smoked haddock and spring onion, it sounded delicious. She hadn’t had a decent risotto since… oh, God. Since that night she’d ended up going home with a tattooed body builder who’d lasted about seventy-five seconds and then spent the rest of the night regaling her with tales of various contests, all of which he appeared to have lost, whilst his three dogs panted over her new boots. She’d finally managed to sneak out when he fell asleep around 5:00 and then had to endure the walk of shame before starting a ten-hour shift. She shuddered internally — perhaps not the risotto, then.

Pizza — Surely she couldn’t go wrong with a simple pizza. She could even suggest they share one. Or did that imply she was a little desperate to commit? If she ordered an entire pizza to herself though, he’d think she was a pig and after her last disastrous attempt at dieting, it was probably best she avoided too much stodge.

Nut roast — Innocuous enough, but then her last boyfriend had practically made her live off bloody nut roasts. A lactose-intolerant, gluten-free, vegetarian animal rights activist who liked to share one shower a week in order to preserve the planet’s water and knit his own pants out of biodegradable wool. What on earth had she been thinking?

She was startled out of her ruminations as her date suddenly snapped his menu shut.

“I think I’ll have the steak.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. Steak! Of course! How could she have missed it?

“That’s just what I was thinking, too,” she said as the waitress approached, her eyes lighting up on catching sight of the delicious man in front of her. Her eyelashes instantly started to flutter as she took his order.

“What side would you like that with, sir?” she asked.

Sides! She hadn’t noticed you had to pick a side. She scanned her menu furiously.

Chips — She’d seem common.

New Potatoes — Far too pretentious.

Sweet Potato Fries — Trying too hard.

She risked a glance upward and saw that her date was now appraising the waitress with rather more interest than she cared for.

The waitress finally turned to her, pen poised against her notepad.

Fuck it! “I’ll have the oysters.”

Jemma Marie Beggs is 22 years old, half English, half Irish, currently living in South Wales and plotting her way into Scotland. A reviewer for Wales Arts Review, Sabotage Reviews and Monologging, her true passion (aside from the writer’s cliché of a love of cats) is writing short stories and poetry.

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