the breakup

She Choked on Chicken: 17 Suppers That Spelled the End of a Relationship

Photo: “Ultima Cena - Da Vinci 5” by Leonardo da Vinci

 Just as you’ll always remember a first love, what you last ate together in the final throes of a romantic relationship — and how and where and even why — tends to linger in the mind long after the coupling has ended. (I vividly recall some sad delivery pasta eaten side-by-side on the couch with one boyfriend just hours before we called it quits. He paid.) But from wedding steaks to a Panera bread bowl to a lonely pizza pie, “last suppers” can truly be anything. Seventeen people dish about theirs. 

1. The Terrible GoogaMooga. I had been dating this man for a few months when we decided to attend the Great GoogaMooga Food Festival of 2012. We both loved to eat! It was in pretty Prospect Park! A romantic day-date — what could go wrong? This was the first year — and the first day of that festival, which is now totally defunct — and it was a complete logistical nightmare: unbearable heat, hourlong lines for food, crazy crowds, overpriced alcohol, and no cell service.

We were both hungry — hangry, if you will — and dehydrated, too. The deal was that I’d hold our seats at a picnic table while he went and scavenged for food. He returned over an hour later with a sad-looking chicken sandwich. It was fine. It was edible. But didn’t this man know me at all? It’s not what I would have chosen — let alone waited an hour for — in a sea of lobster rolls and porchetta and ice-cream cones. But I kept quiet and stuffed my face.

Then he ended up getting a stomachache, caused by some sausage he ate (not the best look, either). He demanded that we return home immediately, which was understandable, but on the trip back, he whined and whined about his digestive problems. Lovely.

Looking back, all we really had in common was a love of food and sex. So when we couldn’t enjoy either that day, we realized there was no reason to stay together. We broke up two days later, but every now and then, he still texts me for restaurant recommendations.

2. Pizza for one. In college, my first serious boyfriend (of about a year) broke up with me over the phone. I was devastated. He suggested that we go out for one last dinner “so we could achieve closure,” and of course I thought that I could win him back at said dinner. My roommate took me to the mall to get my makeup done and my hair blown out, and I picked out what I thought was a super-fly outfit (I’m pretty sure it involved a satin tank-top from Express). I was all decked out and ready to woo him back … and then he never showed up to pick me up. An hour after he was supposed to be there, he texted to say that he had to work late and wouldn’t be able to make it, with no offer of a reschedule. I sat alone in my apartment in all my decked-out early-aughts glory and ate an entire Papa John’s pizza, which I paired with Montezuma tequila.

3. She choked on the chicken. In an attempt to spark something in our crumbling relationship, we decided to go on more dates, starting with dinner at a Chinese restaurant, where she choked on General Tso’s chicken (or maybe it was sesame or orange). I attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver with no training, based on what I had seen on movies and TV. So it was basically just slamming her in the gut, you should have seen me trying to pull this broke-ass Heimlich — I got behind her and was just pounding on her stomach. It didn’t work. The chicken got lodged in her throat but she could still breathe, so we had to go to the hospital to get it removed. We stayed together a bit longer, but it was clear that dinner dates were not going to save us. In fact, they almost killed one of us.

4. We’re not that cool. I was dating this writer guy who had segued from drinking buddy into more than a friend. We hung out all the time, mostly getting wasted and talking about writers we thought were overrated because we were dying to be overrated. Then, suddenly, he started seeing someone else and did the whole avoidance thing (i.e., stopped answering my drunk calls at 3 a.m.). A few weeks later, he asked me to meet him for happy hour. We ordered hummus and vodka-sodas because that was pretty much all we could ever afford, and he awkwardly blurted out that he had met some bohemian chick and hoped he and I were still cool. I said sure, yeah, whatever, of course. Then he threw five bucks on the table (the bill was $15) and asked me for a ride because he had meet his girlfriend for dinner. “We’re not that cool,” I told him.

5. I made him change my flat. I broke up with someone at dinner (Outback), then got him to change my flat tire. And yes, he paid. He repo’ed his lawnmower from me later when he found out I was dating someone else.

6. It was the best ice cream of my life. We ate probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had the night between breaking up and breaking up FOR REAL. I still dream of that ice cream, but have never gone back.

7. The seafood platter of doom. I paid for this ginormous seafood platter after my long-distance boyfriend hadn’t touched me all weekend, and barely ate any of it. Flew back to NYC the next day and he broke up with me when I got back, not in person.

8. One last steak and fuck. In college, I took my boyfriend out to eat, then we went back to his place and had sex. Immediately after I came out of the bathroom, he told me he wanted to break up because I was not Christian enough. He must have just wanted one more steak and one more F before going to the “good” side.

9. The breakup restaurant. We got hungry in the middle of our breakup, so we picked a restaurant we both hated so that we wouldn’t have any negative associations with a place we liked.

10. The frosting knew. I knew I wanted to break up with my boyfriend, but his birthday was in a couple of weeks, and birthdays had always been a big deal for us in the five years we’d been together. So I decided to wait until after his birthday. In making his birthday cake, I tried making buttercream frosting THREE TIMES before I got it right on try No. 4. This might not be noteworthy were it not for the fact that (a) making a buttercream isn’t difficult in the least, and (b) between going to culinary school and working as a pastry chef, I had made buttercream literally dozens, if not hundreds, of times. But the three messed-up batches made me believe in some sort of Like Water for Chocolate thing, where all my sadness and pent-up anger were going right into the buttercream, spoiling every damn batch.

11. Burger bygones. I once made the mistake of going out with a guy I met on OKCupid who works at my favorite burger place in Brooklyn. The date was horrible, though he didn’t realize it at the time, so I had to send one of those awkward “sorry, but I don’t want to hang out again” texts, and now I’m afraid to go back to the restaurant. I should have known better than to go on an internet date that could put my favorite comfort food in jeopardy — it was the end of my relationship with my favorite burger.

12. Dumped at Dunkin’. I once broke up with a long term boyfriend in a Seventh Avenue Dunkin Donuts at 7 in the morning — after he bought me iced coffee and chocolate glazed donuts. We had been fizzling for a while and I wanted out, but it was hard to extricate myself, and we’d just spent the night on the couch of my friend’s studio. She’d pleaded with me not to break up with him in her apartment. “It’s way too small,” she said. So, my only other thought was the local Dunkin’ at the ass-crack of dawn.

13. At least he made me a drink. My (now-)husband and I broke up once, and he fixed me a cocktail before dumping me. He came all the way to my apartment in Astoria from Park Slope, made me this special cocktail I love called the Honeybee, broke up with me, and then left. Weirdly, it meant a lot to me that he made the effort. I remember tweeting at the time that I wanted to start a breakup service that brings over alcohol and puppies.

14. Shrimping buddies. I once dated a guy for a few months, and he brought his best friend on our last date. Then, when the waitress came over to take our order, my dude cut me off, patted his buddy on the back, and said, “This gentleman and I will have the tiger shrimp.” I had a báhn mì, and we never saw each other again.

15. A moral opposition to assholes. I went on a first [and last] date with a guy to an Italian restaurant, and when I ordered veal, he said: “I’m morally opposed to people who eat veal.” I savored every bite while he cringed.

16. Bread-bowl breakup. I was dating a guy who, it turned out, had a girlfriend already. Our “relationship,” if you could call it that, was pretty casual, but I was young and naïve enough that I thought we should Talk About It. So I got lunch at the Panera across the street from his work and asked him to come by. I ordered tomato soup in a bread bowl, and I paid for it myself. I sat in a booth in the back, taking spoonfuls as I listened to his convoluted, dramatic story of an on-again, off-again romance. But the bread bowl had absorbed a lot of my soup, as bread bowls are wont to do. And it looked tasty. And I never know what to do with my hands when I’m sitting down. So while he gravely explained the mechanics of his other fraught relationship, I slowly, silently raised the bread bowl to my mouth and took a bite. It was tougher than it looked, necessitating an aggressive head turn. He burst out laughing. In retrospect, it was a really great way to cut some of the tension at the table.

17. Questionable turf, no surf. There was a girl that would call me every time she was fresh out of a relationship. I was her safety school the entire time we were in college. The final time it happened, I agreed to be a last-minute fill-in as a wedding date. She was in the bridal party, and I didn’t know a single other guest. She left during the cocktail hour to take pictures. A lot of guests were wondering who I was. I asked them if they had seen my date. When the waiter came around to take the dinner order, I chose two filet mignons, hoping she would be back soon — all the other bridesmaids had returned. I drank with the groom’s aunts, danced with the bride, and by the time that dinner for two showed up, I was glad to be alone: I ate both of them. My date reappeared after dessert with one of the groomsmen and tried to apologize. I told her, “I guess you’ll call me when you’re done with this one.” That was the last time I talked to her, but I still think fondly about those steaks.

17 Suppers That Spelled the End of Love