I watch and enjoy Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern but at some point in the program I will have to turn the channel.
I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but every show seems to have a scene designed to make my vegetarian or vegan friends scream and run out of the room, or faint. I don't want to be too graphic, but let me just say, Andrew Zimmern was likely a butcher in another life, and leave it at that.
I like to eat meat I buy in a store that looks nothing whatsoever like the animal. Don't judge. My mother likes to eat meat every day, so becoming a vegetarian would be difficult for me right now. Maybe one day.
I will never go to a restaurant with Andrew Zimmern. I'd love to meet him, but not in a restaurant. He would likely choose the weirdest thing on the menu.
Restaurants are fascinating places.
Over my lifetime, I have learned some lessons in them.
When I was the kid I was such a picky eater, every time the family went to a restaurant it was an ordeal. My food couldn't touch. It couldn't have onions in it. I avoided ketchup and mustard like they were radioactive. My parents were pretty strict about most things but they indulged me a bit when it came to being a picky eater. I learned young that in restaurants I usually enjoyed a plain cheeseburger, french fries, and a coke. That became my standard order, everywhere, for years. Then my standard order became fried chicken. One day my father let me try fried flounder at a seafood place. I loved it. That became my standard seafood order.
After I grew up, my tastes expanded a great deal. I lived on my own. I traveled. I experienced other cultures. I got less picky, fast.
Skip ahead to Kazakhstan, 2007. I was eating alone in a restaurant and I ordered chicken soup, which I thought was a pretty safe order, having been raised on Campbell's soups. WRONG. I was served a bowl containing what looked like a small chicken carcass that had been hacked to death. Lots of bones, gristle, and unidentifiable objects. [Andrew Zimmern probably would've just said "oooh, CRUNCHY intestines, yummy!"] I just shrugged and picked out what seemed edible.
I realize I have probably blogged about this before, but in the spirit of helping my readers avoid upset stomachs, I am going to talk again about some basic rules for eating out. I've learned these rules the hard way, people.
Michael has friends who are now off in college, experiencing life on their own, and they should probably read this. [Parents, please forward a link.]
DEE"S RESTAURANT RULES
Health department ratings matter. If your favorite place to eat scores less than 90%, leave, unless you enjoy spending the night in the bathroom. I recently learned a Steak & Shake not far from my house scored a 59. Needless to say, I will not be eating there anytime soon. Restaurants are required to post their ratings where customers can easily see them, so look for them.
TV's or no TV's. If you are eating in a place where there are lots of TVs, the food will likely not be too pricey. It may or may not be good. Probably won't get sushi there. Don't go to such a place on a 3rd date if you want to actually talk to your date. Yeah, BTDT.
Never order gravy. I don't care where you are or what you want to eat. Gravy can contain all sorts of chemicals and/or gruesome stuff like LARD [a/k/a pig fat]. Just avoid the gravy, or stop at CVS on the way home and buy some Pepcid. Your choice.
Don't order fried chicken in a restaurant that doesn't specialize in it. Nine times out of ten you will get tough and/or greasy fried chicken.
If the menu is written in cursive and looks like a wedding invitation, make sure you have plenty of money. It won't be cheap. It might even be in a foreign language. Unless you are fluent in that language, ask for a translation if there isn't one. TRUE STORY: I studied French for two years in high school. Many years later, I am in France, thinking I can order from the menu very competently. I ordered. The waitress repeated my order. I smiled. The waitress - who appeared to struggle with English at first - looked annoyed and finally said quite plainly, "You REALLY want to eat a cow's stomach?" The look of horror on my face caused my brother and his wife to die laughing. I ordered something else, needless to say...
In a seafood restaurant, shrimp are often served with the tail still on. Then you have to pull off the tail, especially if the shrimp are fried. I actually told a waiter once if he'd take the dadgum tails off my shrimp I'd tip him better. He did and I tipped him more generously than usual. If you come to my house to eat shrimp, you won't see tails on the shrimp.
If you go to a place that sells lobster, expect a bib. I was about 10 when I ate my first lobster in a restaurant and I was horrified by the bib the waiter brought. "I'M NOT A BABY I DON'T NEED A BIB!" I said forcefully. Now I would not care. In fact, if I could ever afford to order lobster in a restaurant I'd be tickled. I wouldn't care if the bib was made from a trash bag...
If your server has dirty hands or poor hygiene, tell the manager. When I was a kid, we were in a restaurant somewhere while traveling, likely a Howard Johnson's -- in the days before fast food places were common -- and the waitress had bad BO. It was a hot day. The smell was terrible. I think Mom and Dad debated about whether or not to tell the manager. The waitress looked rough, like she had a bad hangover and would attack us in the parking lot. Don't remember the outcome of that, but people who serve food need to not stink.
It's not so bad now, but there was a period of time when servers [who used to be called waiters or waitresses] would tell you their life story. "Hi, my name is Chad and I'll be your server!" The last time I had to listen to someone like that I just smiled back and said "My name is Dee and I'll be your customer!" The look of confusion on the guy's face was priceless. I was tempted to point to the empty chair beside me and say ["This is my imaginary friend Mr. Winkles and he's hungry!" Didn't want to get hauled off to a rubber room, though...]
If you take photos of your food and post same on Facebook, be prepared for me to give you a hard time. I am not into "food porn." I hate that term. Unless you are a professional food stylist, there's a 99% chance the artful mound of precious local ingredients that cost you $29.95 will be the subject of my mocking derision because it will look ridiculous. It's what I call "foo foo" food.
I guess I've gotten old and cranky. About 75% of the time when I go to a restaurant, the food I get is not as good as I could make it at home. So I don't eat out a lot. I tend to just order something exotic and interesting, like fried pickles or spinach salad with gorgonzola crumbles.
[Just FYI, I never thought I'd like gorgonzola because the word sounds like a skin disease, but I do, actually...]
I've never worked in a restaurant, but I told Michael after he got his new job the other day, it's great experience to work in a restaurant. You can ALWAYS find a job. Learn as much as you can. Work hard. If you go off to college for your final 2 years, you can find a job in Athens, or wherever. It's a portable skill. Restaurants are everywhere.
[He has already learned a valuable life lesson. They asked him today to write the specials on the chalkboard and he misspelled "tilapia." Spelling matters, Dude...]
below, at a restaurant a few years ago with Alesia's then-boyfriend