In the Dark
by Dave

Light switch in the off position for a dining in the dark date
Have you heard about this idea out of Europe where blind waiters serve food to patrons in complete darkness? No foolin'. It's called dark dining and customers cannot see a single thing while they eat - not their food, their date, nothing. The point is to remove a person's sense of sight to heighten their senses of taste and smell, giving them a better appreciation of the meal. But it's also an interesting, if somewhat unnerving, way to experience the world of a blind person. People are raving about what an unusual, fun, and enlightening experience it is and with just a little effort you can try it too!

The setup seems easy but getting a room pitch black is actually kinda tough in our modern world; you'll be surprised at how much light sneaks through normal curtains or blinds at night and how difficult it is to block completely. Try thick blankets, cardboard, or black plastic and pin or tape them over the windows. Make sure to do a test run the night before to identify problem areas, remembering that the human eye needs at least 15 minutes to adjust to complete darkness so you'll have to sit there for a bit before spotting all of the light leakage. Appliances, clocks, DVD players, etc will need to be covered too. It's very important to block every bit of light or the effect will be ruined and your date will not be impressed. Blindfolds are an option that saves work, but they tend to get uncomfortable quickly, let light through, and allow for quick little cheats. You really need to have complete darkness with no interruptions for the full effect so go with the darkened room if at all possible. It's worth it.

Before the lights go out things should already be prepared for the rest of the date in total darkness, which means plates, glasses, drinks, dinner, dessert, any after-dinner activities, and the like are in-place or accessible with minimal effort. Things can get a little messy during dinner so wear old clothes (you won't see each other anyway) and have plenty of napkins, wet wipes, or damp towels nearby. And don't worry about the mess, have a good time eating with your hands, licking your fingers, and feeding each other - it's all part of the fun!

The Meal

Dinner can be handled a few different ways: cook it together, have the host prepare a surprise meal for their date, or both of you bring a few dishes and everyone's surprised. The first one is pretty easy, you just cook dinner together and once everything is on the table and ready to go, it's lights out! The next two are a little more interesting because we tend to eat with our eyes nearly as much as with our mouths. Meaning if something is recognizable and looks good then we're more likely to enjoy it. The fun of a surprise is that you won't have any preconceived notions about the food, in fact you won't even know what you're eating until it hits your mouth! With the last option you will both prepare a few dishes for the other, put them under napkins on the table, and let your date discover what they are. It's a lot of fun to hear your date figure out shrimp scampi, a cold noodle dish, or cucumber salad. Meals can be eaten with silverware or you may decide to dispense with the pleasantries and just eat with your hands. I'd go with the hands, you're gonna end up using them anyway.

Prepare foods you like, but note that some types are a little easier to manage in the dark. For example, eating ravioli or ribs might be a fun mess, but trying to cut meat with a steak knife can be a little dangerous. Plus, ribs are so messy and embarrassing to eat normally, why not have a blast while no one can see? Here are some easy ideas for finger foods:

  • Olives or cheese to snack
  • Baguette or French bread
  • Stuffed jalapenos or mozzarella sticks
  • Fried chicken or buffalo wings
  • Ribs
  • Kebabs
  • Shrimp
  • Dumplings or egg rolls
  • Corn on the cob
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • French fries or potato wedges

After the Meal

For some, dark dining is a little too disorienting and more than enough blindness for one night. If you're having fun though, why not spend the rest of the evening in the dark? Keep that altered sense of reality going and learn about each other without the verbal cues. Research has shown that we rely on facial gestures and other nonverbal cues more than the actual information coming out of a person's mouth, so you'll be surprised at how differently you communicate without all of that extra information. Here are some possible activities to try in the dark:

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Take a look around the room and move dangerous furniture out of the way or place padding and cushions against sharp edges.

You'll Need

Thick blankets, cardboard, or 6 mil black plastic sheeting from Home Depot or gardening store
Tape or nails
Black electrical tape for door seams
Damp towels or wet wipes

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