Monday, June 11, 2012

Food for thought


You know, just saying that word kind of makes my skin crawl a little bit.  I'm aware I'm a notoriously antisocial kind of person.  I'm not a fan of big gatherings of any sort, especially at places I'm not familiar with, and I'm always suspicious.

Suspicious of what?  Good question.  For a semi-paranoid person like me, there's lots to be suspicious of.  But let me talk a little about restaurants to start with.

First of all, there are a gazillion restaurants in existence everywhere.  I'm aware it's a driving force in the economy because it provides jobs, blah blah freakin' blah.  That doesn't mean it's necessarily for everybody, yours truly included.  But I have my own reasons for my dislike of them.

Let me start off, though, by saying I love fast food joints.  I don't go to them often these days.  But, by and large, you can see what's going on in the kitchens of most of them.  That provides a certain level of security and comfort, not that I think everything's on the up and up because of this.  But I like having a look at what I'm about to put into my mouth being prepared.  At fast food joints, it's... well, fast, for the most part.  Most of the time it's fresh, because of the demonization in past years of heat lamps, so establishments are feeling the pressure to not have to use them quite as much, especially if they're pointing fingers.  I'm aware of the nutritional value of fast food too.  I know Big Macs and Baconators and Double Downs will kill you, if you eat them every friggin' day anyway.  We choose to have something like that maybe once a month, if even that.  But the fact of the matter is, something like that should be a treat, not a staple.

And don't even get me started on drive-thrus.  The damn things shouldn't even exist.  In a day and age where global warming and obesity are such huge deals, the same people making cases against them are at a Micky D's ordering their supersized meals in a lineup of a dozen or more idling cars in a drive-thru.  I think that we in Canada are taxed to death as a country, kind of literally.  But there is room for just one more tax, of which monies should go straight to a fund strictly monitored by the country's auditor general:  a drive-thru tax.  Twenty five cents or more ought to be charged on every order made at a drive-thru window, no matter how small the order, with the proceeds going toward fitness programs for kids, free YMCA memberships and/or lowered fees, and subsidizations for health care programs, seeing as this stuff is a large part of the creation of health problems to begin with.  Why not make the problem itself accountable for its own outcomes?  The people who would be most vehemently averse to a suggestion like this are those who it might actually help the most.

But fast food is, in the end, affordable, quick, and devoid of the obligation of tipping.  Which leads me into the next phase of my critique on restaurants, though this is where it gets personal for me.

I'm pretty edgy when it comes to going to restaurants or even pubs, but at least in a pub the chances are you won't get scalped too bad, and you don't have to know the cutlery arrangements on the tables and all that nonsense.  And why in God's name should I need to get dressed up to eat anyway.  The kind of guy I am when I eat, the food always, always finds its way onto my shirt or pants.  I could be wearing a hazmat suit and it would STILL find its way onto my clothes.  So if it's going to happen, why not just on my jeans and t-shirt.  I don't like the stuffiness of a lot of these places, that you have to be on your best behavior or whatever.  The wait times for the food to get to the table, visits by God knows how many people to get it all together.... one for the greeting, one for the table seating, another for a menu, another for the drinks, another for the food, I mean come on.  At a pub at least most of the time one person does it all, but then again I haven't been to a pub in a dog's age at least.

My last experience at a restaurant was at Montana's here in the city.  My previous visit there was six years ago for my 40th birthday, and it was disastrous service.  It must have been at least a half hour before they even took anyone's order, another hour for anyone to get their food, and the food was sub-par to be generous.  It was one of the biggest spikes in the coffin for me going to restaurants there ever was, and I didn't even pay that day!  But I digress... I thought in six years, something must have changed.

I went with my family there a couple of months ago, as my wife was awarded a gift card from her work for her outstanding performance.  The atmosphere was pleasant enough.  We got to the greeter, then the person to seat us, then the menus, etc.  Ugh, just going through it annoys me.  But we hear from some people how awesome it is at this place.  Long story short... the service was just okay, the food ranged from okay to downright awful, and the prices were distressingly high even with a gift card.  To me, little to nothing changed.  Consider this coffin sealed for good.

Mind you, in contrast, we've been to Jungle Jim's just down the road from Montana's right around that same time frame, and going there always reassures my faith in the restaurant industry.  I've never had a bad experience there.  The waitresses are always down to earth, the food reasonably priced, and by no means do you need to dress a certain way.  However... there are still the nagging issues of tipping, waiting, and figuring out how the hell you're going to pay.  Do we wait for the waitress and pay her with the bill?  Do we bring the bill to the cash?  Do we leave a tip at the table?  If we do, what do we do when the debit machine asks us for that 15% at the counter?  Awk.  Ward.  Ness.

These are all issues that don't bother most people who actually frequent restaurants, but Mr. Paranoid Android here like myself... it all doesn't sit well with me.  Whatever.  It's who I am and I'm fine with it.  If someone else isn't fine with it, that's okay too.  I would appreciate the invitation to that next restaurant gathering, even if I don't go.  But I'll go wherever the post-restaurant thing is.

And thus, I prefer to cook myself at home for my wife and daughter, and guests if we have them.  I'm not terribly comfortable eating at restaurants, because I just don't like people seeing me eat in general.  I remember my dad used to be like that.  He'd wait until everyone ate supper, the table was cleared, and then he'd sit down and have his own.  I must have inherited some of that.  Even when we used to go to the cottage when there were big feeds, I'd elect to go after the eating was done.  Unless there was a chicken wing thing or pizza or whatever that you'd just grab and eat as you walked around or whatever.  I hate to be rude with my friends when they ask us to supper at their places, and sometimes I'll just go because Janice and Lexy aren't like me in that way.  Best if we're invited somewhere where food isn't the reason to go.  I don't mind going somewhere and then somebody says "hey, I'm gonna cook pizza!" or whatever.  Do I sound like a wet blanket?

This is the way I've always been.  I know there are people who know me who read my blogs from time to time, and I thought this is one of the best ways to explain one of my tics.  I went to see a friend of mine last week at his and his wife's house, and it was a sit down, talk and joke and reminisce visit, and that's how I like those.  My ultimate comfort zone, of course, is something like a jam session or whatever, where I'm in my element.  Nothing like beating the crap out of something like my drums and it being perfectly legal, unless of course I'm too loud, which has happened before and we were served notice for it by police.

Maybe if this new band thing of ours takes off, you can come to a pub and have a drink and hear us one day, and a lot of what I just said above will be rendered null and void.

And that wouldn't be so bad.