Known Johnson

January 30, 2009

Have it your way

Filed under: Eating picky — Tom @ 4:36 pm

It didn’t use to be this easy, you know. It’s almost – almost become acceptable to be as picky as I am in restaurants. For a long time, however, walking into any restaurant and asking for anything “plain” resulted in awkward exchanges or, at worst, meals sent back time and time again.

One of the things I’ve seen with picky eaters is that they often prefer fast food. It’s not just because it’s convenient and they serve simple food. I think it’s also because they have embraced the “choose your own adventure” philosophy of eating that we prefer. Think of how many fast food places emphasize their easily customizable menus and compare that with any experience in a regular restaurant trying to modify a menu item. It’s just more difficult, even at some place like Chili’s, to get a plain, “dry” hamburger, than it is at Whataburger. In fact, it’s pretty rare that I even get the mistakenly decked-out sandwich from a fast food place than from a restaurant. Even better, I don’t have to deal with the chefs who have made up their own definition of the word “plain.”

You see, while I have always had to struggle with getting food ordered plain, getting it that way is never really all that hard at fast food restaurants. Years ago, before they actually added “plain” as an option on their registers, it would take some explaining, but once explained, the sandwiches generally came out plain. At restaurants, however, even if the waitstaff explicitly defined PLAIN/DRY on the order, some chefs would define that as “with cheese,” or any number of other condiments that I don’t want anywhere near my mouth or burger. And so it goes that when ordering in a restaurant, it isn’t as simple as saying, “I’d like a hamburger, plain.” No, it has to be, “I’d like a hamburger, plain – dry, nothing on it. Just the meat and the bun.” And then the waiter will ask, “Just the meat and the bun, nothing else?” to which I have to repeat, “Just the meat and the bun, that’s it. Plain and dry.” It’s rarely easier than that.

I am fearful of weird things winding up in my foods, so I am very kind and generous to waiters. If something comes out wrong, I resist the urge to get upset, even if it’s the second time that it was wrong, and sometimes if whatever is wrong is minor, I just live with it. I don’t want weird things in my food, and I think you know what I mean. You make someone upset, and you wind up with a little special sauce. Smile, say what is wrong, and repeatedly say, “It’s no big deal,” and live with it. I realize that I am one of the few that places these demands on waiters, so when something comes out not quite right, and I can’t simply eat it that way and have to send it back, I have to make like I’m not upset about it. If I get upset, I will spend the rest of the night worrying that I just ate someone’s snot, feeling around in my mouth for every unusual little thing that I can’t immediately identify. Trust me, there’s enough I already worry about with food as it is.

It sounds worse than it really is. Once in a while it is a hassle, but I know, as I stated before, that the world isn’t built for us. I have to make do within the confines of a world made for people who will happily gulp down anything put in front of them. Were it my choice, everyone would have to declare what they want on every meal they order. Really, wouldn’t that kind of be perfect? How many times do you get exactly what you want? You could have it your way.

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