PHOTO: HALEY JOHNSON/FLICKR
This is how my brain works:
The restaurant I was at had a sandwich that looked pretty good – a seasonal, winterry offering full of hearty fillers – fuji apples, cinnamoned-up sweet potato slices, roasted beets, gruyere cheese, and probably a few other tasty things, too, and along side, a spinach salad with dates and walnuts. The only problem – it came on ciabatta, my bread nemesis. Sandwich number two was the daily special, a black bean burger with roasted red peppers and goat cheese on a sesame brioche roll and a side of waffle fries.
It should be a complete no-brainer, right? I dislike veggie burgers, I’m slightly allergic to peppers, and ever since finding out why goat cheese tastes so, umm, spunky, I just can’t eat it. So common wisdom should have prevailed and you’d think I would have ordered the Winterwich. You’d think that, wouldn’t you. But you’d be wrong.
Ciabatta is such a turn-off that I will reject good filling because of it. And hello? Waffle fries?!
So I got the veggie burger, sans goat spunk, err, cheese. I scraped the peppers off and handed them over to my dining partner, because I am the Awesomest Food-Sharing Girlfriend Ever when I’m not busy being bitchy. I added some ketchup and my favorite, yellow squeezy mustard and dove in…
…to the most flavorless, uninteresting patty ever. The cheese and the peppers, they added the flavor – the burger was just there for filler. So I added more squeezy mustard because if it wasn’t going to be delicious, it sure as hell could at least be yellow.
The waiter came by and asked how it was. I was honest, “the burger is ok,” I said, “but the bun is excellent!” he then asked if I would recommend the burger to him, and I honestly wasn’t sure – with the addition of something flavorful, it may very well have been delicious. I'd probably like it if it came with manchego and arugula. Or if topped with fried oniopns and a corn salsa.
So I hemmed and hawed a bit and thought about saying that what I’d really recommend instead was the very thing I really wanted to order in the first place – get the veggie delicious sandwich of uberflavor, but on bread that would not make my jaw angry. And to swap the salad for a different side.
My dislike for menu-tweaking won over, though, and I kept kinda quiet, because I was too shy about my preferences to ask the waiter if I could get the better-looking other sandwich on different bread. Thing is, I would really like to be able to tweak stuff like that, to be the kind of person who has no (visible) qualms about including a list of changes and alterations, but I’m afraid to be.
I know I’m a picky eater, partly by choice and partly by necessity, and I’m pretty self-conscious of that. I don’t like bringing it to the attention of my server and dining companions because I really don’t want to be that person. Even though I can go on ad infinitum on the Internet about my various foody crankies, when I’m sitting down at a table I want that to be the farthest thing from my mind. So sometimes I get shitty meals. It’s a trade off.
Overall, I want things to be easy, though, I want the dining out experience to be about enjoying good, well-thought-out meals with friends and not having to deal with menu anxiety or asking “is the broth vegetarian” or wondering if I’m going to have to stop at a drive-through on the way home.* I want instead to wrap my mind around the events of the day and the foibles of the workplace and the idiosyncrasies of our friends. I want to laugh and talk and enjoy, not wonder aloud if the Spanish rice is really brothless (it’s not, it never is) or secretly wish for the total eradication of overly-crusted sandwich breads.
And I really want waffle fries.
*True story: For a number of years my ex-husband’s family would not accommodate my vegatarianity at holiday meals; in fact, it’s safe to say they were actually pretty hostile towards it. When I’d bring a meatless dish to share, they’d mock it for being “worldly.” It became a once-funny-then-grudging tradition to stop at Wendy’s drive-through for a broccoli and cheese baked potato. Merry X-mess, y’all!