Saturday, February 04, 2006

Critical Eating: Restaurant Appreciation

So forget a rant about ice buckets. That's not very interesting.

I'd like to kick off an inaugural segment of something I'm going to call "critical eating." Critical eating is the process by which you look at what you eat from something more than just the immediate physical pleasure (or pain) that that food instills in you. It's taking a look at why you're having the reaction that you are--what about the flavors, textures, setting, plating that makes the dish work or not work. It's also about pushing aside prejudices and preferences--so you like pork, big fucking deal--that doesn't mean you need to get pork every time you're out. So you "don't like fish?" I find that highly doubtful. Critical eating is attempting to wrap your brain around your culinary experience--get yourself to understand food, eating, and dining in a new way.

It'll make your life better, I swear.

So the first thing I want to talk about is restaurant appreciation. What is often missed when dining out is that ultimately the enjoyment of the food rests on you, the consumer. If you dislike a menu item, chances are that it's not the restaurant's fault--what you ate just wasn't to your tastes. I work at a restaurant with a fairly narrowly-focused menu. Often I'm asked (though not as much as before)--Oh, you don't serve X? Why don't you have a glass of Y?

It's not a restaurant's job to be all things to all people. A restaurant's job is to do what it thinks it needs to do to succeed. And if that's not to your tastes, then don't go there. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't go to steakhouses. I'm sure there are many steakhouses that serve an excellent product. Steakhouse cuisine is not something I like, but I don't get all pissed off at steakhouses for not having something that appeals to my interests. That would be retarded.

What I'm attempting to say is just this--it's okay not to like a restaurant, but don't blame the restaurant for the fact that you don't like it. Blame the restaurant if your meat is overcooked. Blame the restaurnt if your soup is cold. Blame the restaurant if your wine is oxidized. But don't blame the restaurant if you can't taste the difference between Gorton's fish sticks and pan-fried sand dabs.

If you don't like what a restaurant does--understand that other people do, that it's probably just a matter of taste and move on with your life.


Zack said...

Sometimes voting with your dollar is less efficient and less effective than speaking your mind. Since you are a waiter, I can understand that you don't want to be hassled with things outside your control (like the breadth of the menu). Still, a person is only going to have so many restaurants close to their workplace, so it's frustrating to have, say, one local Indian restaurant that doesn't serve your favorite Indian dish. Maybe if enough people request it, the menu will change! Or maybe the restaurant is run by idealists and/or retards.

Also, in the steakhouse example, I am under the impression that it is common for a steak-loving dude to drag his significant other who doesn't care for steak to a steakhouse. A steakhouse which makes concessions to the dragged-along girlfriend will get more repeat business.

Blaming the restaurant is inappropriate, but wanting it to change (and even asking it to!) is fine.

David J.D. said...

Valid points all.

Nobody wins readers with thoughtful equicvocating, though. So you'l get nothing but polemics and demogoguery here.

Perhaps a "You know what I'd love to see on your menu some time? This...." as opposed to "You don't have Y? Don't you think that's a bad management decision?!"

Good to hear from you again, Zack.