If you are looking for a perfect mate, you can check out Match.com or many other sites that promise to find you Mr. or Ms. Right. Or take a drive with Motodate, Los Angeles, which sells access codes to its web site for drivers to display on their car windows to show availability. Then again, you can ask a date what his or her horoscope sign is and compare it for compatibility.
But there’s a more accurate measurement, according to Dr. Alan Hirsch, a psychiatrist and neurologic director of Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. “Every food preference — the way he likes his eggs or coffee, her favorite snack or cuisine — is a clue to a person’s true personality,” he says.
Hirsch, best known for his work with aromas, has spent 15 years completing 180 sensory studies (80 more are in the works) to understand the correlation between who we are and what we eat. After studying compatibility among 18,631 Chicago-area residents married for more than one year, his findings are compiled in “What’s Your Food Sign? How to Use Food Clues to Find Lasting Love” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $18.95). Because many people choose foods for health reasons, “Ask what they like, not what they eat,” he suggests.
If grapefruit gets him going in the morning, he tends to be sexually expressive, compared to more repressed doughnut eaters. Those who like scrambled eggs are risk takers, compared to cheese omelet lovers, who are risk averse and seek security. “Ambitious independent types go for ‘serious’ cereals, such as Raisin Bran,” says Hirsch. “Less ambitious, take-it-one-day-at-a-time types go for the kid stuff, like Lucky Charms.”
From a social/cultural perspective, lunch is of prime importance. It’s the business venue for impressing clients, discussing strategy and sealing a deal. Most people feel good around food and are more open to new ideas and each other. You can tell a lot by someone’s attitude toward food. If a person is obsessed that certain foods will ruin their health, this individual tends to be taking life too seriously and is fearful.
Sushi lovers are risk takers, pizza on the plate means you are eating with a perfectionist, but a cheeseburger clues a traditionalist. If a side of french fries is added, your companion is probably not very impulsive. Much can be said about how a man likes his wings. For a loyal fellow, choose a man who orders them slathered in spicy buffalo sauce. If you have an appetite for a leader, pick the one who’s sweet for honey barbecue.
Spicy versus bland preference offers clues, too, according to Hirsch. “If we sense we’re missing something inherent in our character, we may seek stimulation from foods and smells,” says Hirsch. “If we tend to feel complete in ourselves, we may choose more bland smells and tastes.”
Individuals who choose fruits over vegetables are most likely strong-minded and ambitious — natural leaders. They are more optimistic, although Hirsch’s research finds men who crave strawberries are often insecure.
Variety is the spice of life, especially on the dinner menu. People who prefer cuisines with curry, chili powder and cayenne are logical and thrifty. Garlic, pepper, sage and saffron lovers lack self-confidence. Parsley, paprika, chives and basil users are easygoing, compared to dill, sesame, oregano and thyme aficionados, who are worrywarts. Caraway seed, fennel, nutmeg and anise seed preferences indicate a charismatic personality.
Hirsch also found that eating together as a family has an enormous influence on the quality of relationships. “Every time a couple or family sits down together, they create a collective emotional climate, which may influence how they feel about the food served,” he says.
Those who prefer sour tastes are intensely loyal and run from confrontation. If you want a commitment that lasts, choose a sour lover to love. Salty dogs are more primal and enjoy safety and security. People who order spicy dishes are on the prowl for a charge. “Spicy foods irritate the trigeminal nerve in the face, which is why our eyes water when we peel an onion,” says Hirsch. “People who choose these ‘irritating’ foods will probably always seek the next adventure.”
Those with a sweet tooth like to feel special, and they treat others that way, too. “You might say they enjoy life’s rewards — desserts — and they aren’t afraid to indulge,” he explains. “These individuals have few regrets and are the pure hedonists among us.”
It’s estimated that the average person eats about 22 lbs. of snacks — plus 3.5 lbs. of chocolate — a year. People who prefer popcorn are achievement-oriented but modest about accomplishments. Potato chip lovers are high achievers, ambitious and successful, but can be very competitive. In fact, most of the CEOs in the study snack on potato chips. If tortilla chips are your bliss, you are probably a perfectionist, good chef, always on time and conservative. Quirky, but fun, energetic and always in search of something new describes pretzel lovers. Logical, shy and introspective are characteristics of snack cracker fans. In an emergency, forget 911; just look for a dependable, levelheaded nut lover.
“I wrote this book to be a new and fun way to make a quick assessment of other people and to determine with whom you may be most compatible,” says Hirsch. “Use it to find your own true self and help in your search for someone special. Share it with friends. Have fun with it at parties. Use it to predict the compatibility of new relationships. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn by just watching what your date orders for lunch!”