Melbourne-based author Bambi Smyth knows a thing or two about dating. Her new book, Men on the Menu, is a travel memoir following her journey on 75 blind dates around the world, Bambi details the real story of her global quest for love, and matches each man with a dish specific to their culture (Taco Tom, anyone?).
Here, Bambi gives us a humorous sneak peek, into the cultural differences in dating men around the world, from an Italian prince to a Spanish gigolo, a Russian billionaire, and a priest at the Vatican. Are you ready for it?
“I was nervous about meeting Pasquale. He was, after all, an Italian prince and one doesn’t bump into men like him every day. But as we dined together in a pizzeria in Naples, I discovered that he was charming, down to earth, amusing, intelligent, and even a little flirtatious. He smiled warmly, laughed often, and made me feel right at home in a city that is also home to the Camorra – the Neapolitan mafia. I matched Pasquale’s personality with a tartufo. It’s got several tasty layers that take a bit of time to dig through, but when you get to the middle there’s a little core of extra special sweetness.
The handsome Spanish gigolo didn’t turn out to be quite as sweet. I chanced upon him in a bar in Monte Carlo, and within five minutes he was hand feeding me olives and tickling my chin. When I asked him if he knew a ‘cheap and cheerful’ dinner venue, he cleverly maneuvered me into surely the most expensive restaurant on the planet, where it became clear that I was expected to pay. For us both. I managed to out-trick him though, and only paid for my share and the tip. His food match was an octopus dish I’d eaten earlier. He was oily – very oily. And his hands were just like grabby little octopus suckers!
For a change of pace I headed for the Vatican. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find love there, but I needed to check out a man in a ‘V’ country. I soon spotted Gabriel, a twenty-something, handsome, and fresh faced seminarian with teeth the size of marble tombstones. He was leading a tour group, so when he was finished I pulled him aside for a chat. Gabriel assured me that he was totally committed to God, but despite his unfailing cheeriness, I could sense that deep down there was also frustration at what sacrifices such commitment entailed. Like taking on celibacy at such an early age. My Lord! Given that, I matched Gabriel with a dish of angel-hair pasta served with virgin olive oil.
In Moscow I had a date with a multi-millionaire. He part owned one of the biggest banks in Europe. Ok, make that billionaire. However Artashes wasn’t the least bit up himself, and we enjoyed a seven hour date in a restaurant that felt increasingly like a setting in a James Bond film – assassin waiters and all. Artashes had so many great qualities – warm, smart, funny, sophisticated – that I matched him with the local blinis (small pancakes) with a variety of fillings from caviar through to strawberry jam, to make every mouthful a delightful surprise.
And my favourite date? Stefano in Rome. No competition. He was tall, handsome, charming, and radiated an incredible positive energy. He was also a consummate flirt, (which unfortunately I since discovered all Italian men are), and I fell for it hook line and sinker. Our date covered four venues across Rome, and lasted from midday until 4.00 a.m. And although I thought that I’d finally found The One, (the whole reason for my trip) sadly he didn’t feel the same. Still, I matched him with a doppio espresso coffee, because he was strong, intense, refined, full of flavour, and gave me heart palpitations that kept me awake all night!”
Buy the book
Bambi Smyth is the author of the new book, Men on the Menu (The Five Mile Press, $32.95), which follows her on 75 blind dates around the world. The book is now available at all good book stores, for more information click here.
Bambi Smyth was born in Scotland, but has lived in Melbourne all of her adult life. She spent her first sixteen years being dragged around the world by her naval officer father. But when he stopped – she didn’t – and her life has since been full of extraordinary adventures, travelling to over 38 countries, and seeking out-of-the-way destinations where she would invariably get attacked by grumpy camels, or the odd rogue elephant. Fortunately Bambi survived such encounters, and just kept right on travelling, in-between juggling a successful career as an illustrator and children’s book author. Bambi has recently turned her attention to more adult themes of Travel Food, and Men – of which Men on the Menu is her debut memoir. She currently has no husband, or children, but is thinking of adopting a three-legged dog.