A couple of my friends complain when my blog goes negative, like when I’m being robbed in a third world country. Well…it’s kind of hard to slap a happy face sticker on that. Luckily, my last few posts were pretty upbeat. Even being trolled by a child sex offender was kind of cheery—I think I got him pretty good. So good that he deleted his post and went back to hiding under his rock.
But, I’m afraid, I’m back to cranky: Hey you kids, get off of my lawn! This is a post I’ve been thinking about for a long time and haven’t had the nerve to post. I know I’m going to get lots of blow back, but here goes:
I’m not a fan of sharing food in restaurants.
I can’t believe I said it! That felt great. I’ll say it again: I hate to share. In fact I loathe it. My heart sinks when a dinner companion asks what I’m going to order, then makes a frowny face and says “Ohh, I was going to order that.”
People think I’m a “Foodie” because I like to cook. The truth, actually, is that I like to eat. Cooking is a means to an end. I enjoy the ride, I admit. I don’t mind a complicated recipe that takes hours to prep and dirties every pot I own. I’ll make it over and over until I get it right. Then I rarely make it again–the challenge is gone. George often claims a dish needs improvement, just to ensure I’ll serve it one more time.
In a restaurant I think carefully about what I’d like to eat. Sometimes I’ll look at the menu on-line prior to my visit, but I prefer the gestalt of reading the menu at the table. I eliminate menu items like contestants on The Bachelor, paring my choices down to a manageable few. I prefer a dish that is new to me, or is prepared in an unfamiliar way. Of course, whatever I’m “In the mood” for also comes into play, as does my level of hunger. Unless it’s a Sunday. On Sunday I have steak, regardless. I love Sunday.
When I’m in a restaurant I’m always taken back a little when people want to eat my food, and it puts me in a very awkward position. I wouldn’t mind if they said “Can I have a bite?” and then, when my response is “I’d rather not”, that they left it at that. But no. It does not happen that way. Instead they look at me as if my face is the Amber Alert license plate they just saw on the news.
Often the person requesting to eat my dinner gets offended. They’re offended? I’m offended. I don’t ask if I can take your things. May I suggest we share your new car? Do you mind if I rummage through your medicine cabinet: I’ll offer you two Crestor for your Viagra and a Valium. Oh, you don’t want to—well I’m offended! How dare you! I’ll just chew my Crestor with a sullen look for a while.
“Let’s Share!” is exclaimed with glee, as if they just came up with a unique way to have fun, while I try to pretend this isn’t happening to me—again. It feels like a contest, to see who ordered the best food. But if you win the contest, you lose the ability to savor all of it. “Oh, everyone, you have to try Kyle’s Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm Tart, its FAB!” as forks are removed from mouths and start to stab at my supper.
Here is my point: If I wanted the Cauliflower Fritters, I would have ordered them. So you made a stupid choice, why do I have to sacrifice my lovely Pasta Pillows in a Light Cream Sauce to make up for it? You already interrogated the poor waiter by asking a million questions. You sounded like a four-year old who just learned to ask “Why?” It was cringe worthy. You ignored his suggestions and now you’re stuck with what you got. You’re an idiot. I’m not. Keep your fork off my plate.
My reputation as an entrée hoarder is growing. We have one friend who takes great pleasure of informing the rest table that I don’t like to share, prompting lots of embarrassing questions, usually centered on germ phobia. People want to question me endlessly about the psychology surrounding my desire to eat my own food. I’ve even been asked if I’m in therapy for this, as if I need to be cured and freed of my chains.
I fend off these questions by not answering them, changing the subject as quickly as I can–How about those Mets! But some people don’t stop. Last December I was dining with some friends, and a lively discussion of the menu began. I knew I was in trouble as people discussed their preferences in relation to what others were ordering. Early on I made it clear that I would prefer to order and ingest my own dinner. Nervous glances darted around the table, which I disregarded, and the rest of the table continued their groupthink by settling on what they would order. The food starts to arrive, and this one person asks if she could try my appetizer. Didn’t we just have this discussion? Are you trying to embarrass me? I just pretended I didn’t hear.
When the entrée was served, she decided to give it another go. This time she waited to make sure she got my undivided attention, looked me in the eye, and loudly asked if I could give her a taste of my dinner. I was dumbfounded. I just sat through a cross-examination of my dining habits and you’ve decided to ignore that entire conversation? I was dying inside, but I think I held my ground pretty well. I returned her hard gaze and, in clear steady voice, I openly rejected her request. “Oh” she said, “I wasn’t sure where your boundaries were”.
Let’s ponder that: You didn’t know where my boundaries were, so you figured you’d just push them to the limit? Boundaries: She needs to set some. If I ever go to dinner with her again, I’ll bring some yellow caution tape.
One problem with “sharing” is how the food gets distributed. The people who take the first portions have to take a wee bit. They need to be sure that there is enough for everyone. The people at the end of the line get the lion’s share–a phrase that entered our vocabulary because lions don’t share, either. Of course, no one wants to take the very last of the plate, so it sits there idly while everyone pretends not to notice. It’s not until the server pops by to clear dishes that those morsels are snatched and swallowed at lightning speed, like a frog catching a fly.
Vegans have a particularly hard time. Most restaurants have just a couple of dishes specifically for them, but once the food orgy begins they have to continuously fend off foreign forks. If they enter the fray they’ll go home hungry: Vegetarians end up supplying, not demanding. Besides, some of those forks just left a platter of pork. The vegetarians I know don’t really want someone’s residual animal protein to contaminate their virgin tofu. Please leave the vegans alone; they are hungry and deserve a full meal.
There is a new terror on my horizon—the sharing restaurant. I’m not talking about a “family style” restaurant, like Carmines, where large platters are passed around as if you are at your in-laws for The Feast of the Seven Fishes. I actually like Carmines. It’s fun, and they make a boat out of ice cream. I’m talking about those pretentious places where the waiter feels he has to explain that all dishes are shared “and we recommend you order at least three dishes per patron”. When the plates come, there are roughly four tablespoons of goo which you’re expected to divvy up twelve ways. Recently we were at one of these hell-holes and one of the dishes was soup! Soup! How do you share soup? You better give everyone enough spoons so no one double-dips. Ugh! No soup for me!
Thankfully I’m not alone. My cousin recently confided in me that he feels the same way. We had somehow landed in one of these sharing restaurants with a group. When I got home he texted his complaint, and to his surprise I agreed! We chatted about how much we hated it, how we couldn’t voice it for fear of complete social annihilation, and how relived we were that we share the same opinion. It was like coming out, only more secretive and without the lure a fabulous annual parade.
Recently we ate with another couple in the East Village, ironically the friends who teased me for being too negative on my blog. The waiter came, and each of us ordered that exact same meal. It was heaven.
© Kyle Merker 2015