Fine dining versus big eating - where does it end?

I asked a neighbor of mine what he did for Christmas last week. “We went out to eat at a fancy restaurant,” he said. “That Denny’s is a real nice place.” No question about it, “fancy” is a relative term.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Monday, December 29, 2008 8:39pm
  • Opinion

I asked a neighbor of mine what he did for Christmas last week. “We went out to eat at a fancy restaurant,” he said. “That Denny’s is a real nice place.”

No question about it, “fancy” is a relative term.

Truly fancy places don’t serve food, they serve courses. Each course arrives at your table amid a sense of calculated excitement, sometimes contained under a domed cover so the waiter can unveil the offering with a dramatic flourish. Secretly, I am always hoping something unexpected – or even horrifying – will have been accidentally substituted for the actual entree. “My apologies, sir. Those were not supposed to be actual lady fingers.”

Of course, less elegant eateries pile all the courses onto a single plate. I prefer that. It gives me the opportunity to size up the entire meal at a glance, eat the best stuff first and pace myself.

I once knew a guy who never used a napkin, and would boast about it.

“Don’t need one,” he would say. “I never slop food on myself, so a napkin is a waste of time.” Unfortunately, he employed the “same boastful air in his other personal habits. “I never wash my hands after going to the bathroom,” he bragged. “Don’t need to, because I never miss.”

It may be hard for you to believe, but he has never had a girlfriend.

When our kids were young, we never took them to anything resembling a fine restaurant. The object was just to get in, fill ‘em up cheap and get out of there. My son Chris especially loved going out to eat but always ordered far more than he could actually polish off. As my mom used to say, “His eyes are bigger than his stomach.”

Okay, but if that was the literal truth, Chris would now be a carnival attraction.

One time, we took our kids to a restaurant in Anaheim, Calif. The plan was to have a quick breakfast and then spend the rest of the day at Disneyland. As usual, 8-year-old Chris decided to order an enormous breakfast of eggs, pancakes and link sausages suitable for any 320-pound NFL lineman.

“Not so fast, pal,” I warned him. “Don’t order that big meal unless you plan on finishing the entire thing.” He insisted that he was utterly famished and that without the big breakfast he might be too weak to last the entire day.

I looked at him hard. “Okay,” I said. “But if you don’t eat every bite, Disneyland is off.” It was a weak bluff on my part. Why would I have driven the entire family a thousand miles, just to turn around and go back because one kid ordered too much breakfast? But Chris seemed to buy the premise. He nodded and said, “Don’t worry, dad. I can do it. I’ll eat it all.”

Before long, breakfast arrived and we all started to dig in, especially Chris. I had never seen him work his silverware with such precision and purpose. For several minutes, I became distracted talking to my wife. When I finally wheeled back around, I couldn’t believe my eyes: Chris’ plate was empty! He sat grinning at me triumphantly.

“Way to go!” I announced. “You really did it! Disneyland, here we come!” But as my wife led the kids out to our car, I lingered behind, playing a hunch. Sure enough, on the carpeted floor just below where Chris had been sitting laid three link sausages. The carpet seemed not to have been cleaned in years, so the still-warm links were partially covered in old fibers, lint and unknown hairs. I wrapped the hirsute sausages in a napkin, slipped them into my pocket and headed out to the car, formulating my plan.

About a half-hour later, just as we had parked in the lot outside of Disneyland, I turned slightly towards Chris, who was sitting in the backseat. “So you ate all of that breakfast, huh?” I said. I could see him beaming in the rear-view mirror. “I sure did!” he replied.

Then I delivered the shocking sentence: “Right. All except for – THIS!” I held the three damning sausages aloft. Chris’s face twisted in horror, as if suddenly thrust into the shower scene from “Psycho.” For a moment, it looked like he was considering snatching the hairy links from my hand and forcing them down, fuzz and all, thus fulfilling his part of our bargain. But instead, he broke into tears. “I’m just too full, dad, he wailed. “I’m just too full!”

Chris might have been a bit sneaky that day, but he was no liar. He really was too full – as we discovered out about an hour later on the Space Mountain ride.


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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact thebrunells@msn.com.
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