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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Restaurants Really Suck - So I Quit!

That's it! I quit! I am disgusted with the quality of food (rather lack of quality) served at so called "fine dining establishments." Today, my husband and I celebrated our eleven year wedding anniversary by snorkeling at a lovely beach, watching a fun movie with the kids, and ending the night at restaurant in town.

We knew we weren't in for a four star meal, no Jose Andres for us, but at least we wanted a hot meal that tasted kind of good. Wrong! Without naming names, this jewel-encrusted day of the week (Diamond Wednesday's...not quite) managed to piss me off and rob me blind in one sitting. We had burgers and fries, soda and salad bar. That's it. Nothing extra. Nothing fancy. My burger was sopping wet, and my fries were cold. My husband's meal came out a good ten minutes after our food was served, and my poor son's mini-burgers had to be sent back not once, but twice, to correct his incorrect order. The total for this half-ass meal? $90 including a less than fifteen percent tip. McBurger, my arch nemesis, was sounding rather desirable after paying that tab.

Previously, I had endeavered to go one year without patronizing any eatery, opting rather to prepare fresh meals at home. I had become disenchanted with the high price of bad food in my state, and felt like I could find some sort of meaning in the food I ate if I just made it myself for a year. All of it. Now, I enjoy cooking quite a bit, and have an adventurous spirit when it comes to new foods. However, like any working/student mother-military spouse will tell you, sometimes grabbing a bite to eat takes a load off the shoulders. My plan lasted two weeks. Two sorry weeks before I caved. It wasn't what you think. I wasn't hungry. I wasn't doubting my resolve. No, I was on vacation with some girlfriends in the island of Kauai and stuck in a position where cooking my food wasn't a possibility.

So, I cheated. I didn't think it would count, but the following week after my return home, my in-laws paid a visit. Don't get me wrong, I cooked my little Paula Deen heart out. My mother in law was afraid I was cooking "too much," but I aimed to impress with my culinary skills. Even so, in the week they were here, we did manage to eat outside the home twice. Once to show them the amazing flavors and textures of Vietnamese cuisine, and another when my father-in-law felt so bad for me that he demanded he buy pizza for the family to give me a kitchen-break. The vow had been broken, and once again, I was going through the drive-thru ordering this and that, squeezing my guilt into the backseat for another day.

Then, today happened. Today I kissed almost $100 away for $25 worth of food. Today I watched my husband's browl furl in contempt when his credit card was swiped and a smiley face was scribbled on top of the merchant's copy. And today I remembered why I took that oath in the first place. Because, I dare say, restaurants really, truly suck.

So, my husband, kids and I talked. We talked about how shitty it feels to throw hard earned money away. We talked about how easy it would have been to cook a meal ten times better. Then we talked about how we could commit to the one year challenge once more, and make it stick. Then my son said the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

"Mom, you know. I've always wanted to go to New York."

New York! A vacation to the culinary capital of the world. Well, at least our world. With the money we'd been spending each month on dining out, we could instead save for a trip to the Big Apple. Everyone seemed pretty excited about the idea. But, with all good ideas, there needs to be a little punishment attached to really make your point. Our rules were simple, according to the state of California, three strikes and you're out. Oh, and the Boy Scouts too. Even though we're in Hawaii, we felt that we could borrow freely from other good ideas to help ours along. So, three strikes is all we each have. If one of us cheats more than three times in one year, that person doesn't get to go to New York. And I mean it. If it's the kiddos, they will be staying with some old, miserable babysitter who knits and believes boys should do hard labor to develop a good work ethic. If it's one of us so called adults, the same rule applies, sans the old babysitter. Also, one other hitch -- each cheat results in a deduction from the vacation fund.

And then we did an all hands cheer, in front of people, at the mall, and felt sort of dumb afterwords. But we did it, and starting tomorrow, August 9, 2009, the Salazar family begins our odyssey into the strange and very un-American territory called "home-cookin'." We hope to make it out alive, and will be documenting our journey right here, for all of you to laugh (or yell) at.

This is no "Julie/Julia" -- I have no clear goal for the kind of food I'll be making, and doubt I'll be having lavish fancy parties with lots of booze and butter, but I think it'll be fun. And maybe, as author Michael Pollan has suggested, I will leave the crowd of bystanders and return to an ancient sport, one long forgotten in America, called "cooking."


Laurie said...

sounds good to me--as i wonder what my daughter has been eating this week--she did enjoy the somen salad, but found the radishes a trifle spicy...

Christy said...

C-o-o-k-i-n-g? What is this strange, foreign word you are using, Bryanne???

Well, if a frozen Tombstone (how apropo) pizza counts as this "cooking" you mention, then I did it tonight! Hey, it ain't all that hard after all!!

Boysmom said...

This is the way I grew up, we rarely ate out. And with 4 kids who are starting to eat a lot, we're eating out less and less. It's not very healthy either. So good for you!

Anonymous said...

Great- there goes my lunch partner :P
If you do cheat, go to Zippys! We've never had bad food or service there. Go figure.

Vandana Malhotra said...

and what do i do living in the city where an outing means eating out......... i for one do not like the weight i put on eating out those greasy foods..... and i am not a great cook also..... do not even have time to cook..... i will have to think of other options...... but i am glad for you that your family is with you in this resolve...... mine would resist, fight until i give in.... :)

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