Is risotto too mainstream?

Maybe 15 years ago risotto was an all-access pass to free love

Dear Hipster:

I would like to share a very specific observation made as a single woman in the twenty-something to thirty-something dating pool. I’ve gone on more than a few first dates where, instead of inviting me out to dinner or something similarly public, a guy will offer to cook for me. That seems cool and unconventional, maybe even hipster-status, but it never works out that way. What I’ve observed is that all guys make risotto. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s in the Dude Handbook somewhere that rice dishes wow the ladies. Maybe it seems elegant to them. Either way, it’s not quirky and romantic to do the same thing that every other man in your demographic will do given the circumstances. I mean, kick up the game, boys! Since I don’t want to leave the American male stranded without culinary recourse, I ask you, if risotto is too mainstream, what’s the appropriately clever, hipsterific alternative?

— S., Talmadge

First, and I’m not sure how much I should stress this, adjectives beyond simply “hipster” are unnecessary. Sentences like, “OMG, that’s so hipster,” or, “Cocktails in Mason jars because hipster” are perfectly acceptable in the parlance of our times.

I do remember one blog where the author called risotto “really the only dish a single guy needs to know how to make” for the purposes of wooing the opposite sex. He claims to have been inspired by a GQ article equating arborio rice with an all-access pass to free love, which, at least in your case, seems like a bit of a stretch. As the frequent subject of rampant generalizations (“All hipsters have stupid ironic mustaches” etc.), I don’t love overbroad conclusions drawn from narrow samples; yet, your cutting stereotype rings somehow truthful.

Perhaps back in the innocent ’90s or even into the slightly more adventuresome early 2000s the idea of risotto might have implied enough opulence and mystique to charm the most cynical first date. Fashions change, and these days risotto carries the worst possible distinction — that of a go-to dish to keep the vegetarians happy while gastronomically enlightened hipsters munch barbecued pig snouts and braised snake lungs.

Gentlemen, do you want your first date to taste of afterthoughts and concessions?

A true hipster gentle-sir not only grooms his mustache, presses his artisan flannel shirts and responsibly sources his avant-garde cocktail bitters; he spends three weeks fermenting kimchee to go with roasted free-range heirloom breed duck and gluten-free (on the likely assumption that she’s into that) spring pancakes.

Of course, nobody expects every hipster-leaning bro to achieve such culinary feats. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

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