Friday, September 05, 2008

DOWN and OUT of TOWN IV...

This is a cranky, complaining post. Skip it if you don't like complaints.

I realize that I am by nature a bottom-feeder. I can’t resist a bargain, especially if it looks like a real bargain; I own far too many $2 and $3 and $5 remaindered books not to have been forced to recognize the fact. I tend in the same direction with food, but there are limits.

I ran across a non-chain restaurant today that was offering a lunch special that was over my budget, but looked appealing, even though it included a dessert, which I basically don’t need, or usually eat. [Salt, not sweets, is my vice.] So I walked right in, sat right down, and ordered the lunch special. The opening salad looked wonderful; the greens and cherry tomatoes and onions and chopped almonds were real, and seemed like the promise of fun to come. It all turned out to be drowned in dressing--dressing just that little bit too sour to be pleasant. It felt "sharp" in the mouth. And it was EVERYWHERE.

The fish, too looked great, on a mound of spinach, but it was likewise swimming in too much sauce, a sauce far too sour, and the spinach, though cooked to perfection and the most beautiful green, was so salty I could scarcely swallow it. By the third or fourth bite, I realized that I was doomed. I also realized that time was a-wasting and I had to get back to the Salt Mine. So I asked for my coffee and the check—they brought the dessert anyway, and while it wasn’t very good, I had a few bites saying to myself: you can always wash it down with coffee.

Except the coffee was also dreadful.

All in all, not only was it the worst meal I have had here on the Dark Side of the Moon, but one of the worst meals I have ever had anywhere, at any time, outside of the kind of dive where you expect it. Now, I realize that I have been spoiled recently, having the hot-and-cold-running services of a former restaurant chef, but even back when I spent my life on the road and did not have such services, I rarely ran across anything like this.

It was as if they hadn’t tasted any of the ingredients themselves. Not my lunch in particular, but the finished stuff out of which my lunch was composed.

And that brought to mind another place where the meals are almost always peculiar—my eldest brother’s house, where the food is always put together according to some standard other than taste. There are the mere hot-sauce vehicles, which my brother tends to turn out, along with the “perfect burger” which at least on one count is a complete misnomer, though each patty is made by hand and weighed to make sure that the amount of meat and the thickness and heft in each patty are all the same. And then there is good food made weird by my sister-in-law’s idea of what makes it special: carrots turned into a carrot and cream cheese soufflé that no longer tastes of carrot, and whose bright orange, fluffy appearance is negated by the effect it has once ingested. Then there was the special-event dinner where salmon and sirloin and something else grilled were all served, but none of them quite cooked to edibility…

I could go on, but I won’t… As so often, I suppose the moral of the story is: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Though it is also a case of most definitely not getting what you pay for… Oh, well.

Sorry to be such a whiner. I do realize how lucky I am in reality; it’s just that food is what keeps me sane, or rather, food is what I count on to keep me sane, when I have to live out of a suitcase.

Hang in there, all.

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