So the day of all days is getting close…..I graduate with my Master of Science in Organizational Psychology Saturday morning and officiate a wedding Saturday night. Wedding rehearsal is tomorrow night, so I’ve got a lot of crap to get done between now and then. Last night I started thinking about how I looked at big events prior to surgery…..they were always an excuse to pig out due to the pre-event stress, as well as an excuse to enjoy post-event celebratory pigging out. The whole dynamic of my graduation is different simply due to the fact that my family would normally take me to some great restaurant afterwards, and it’s really not that big of a deal for me now. We’ll still go to dinner and all that, since I don’t have to be at the wedding until about 4:30, but for once I don’t really care where we go and haven’t done my usual mental gymnastics figuring out where to eat.
I know that many people, not just WLS folks, can relate to the rationalization that goes along with eating way too much food. For the past week or so I’ve been trying to remember exactly how much food I used to be able to eat at one sitting. A year ago I would have been mortified if I was forced to admit how much I could pack away…it’s like a giant skeleton in the closet. Even though you obviously have to take in an incredible amount of calories every day to sustain such a high weight, I think most people would agree that there is the amount of food you eat in front of people and the amount you eat in private. It’s totally like being an alcoholic or a junkie; it’s no secret that you have a problem but you keep the worst of the abuse behind closed doors. Most people in the U.S. probably don’t even know what a real portion of food looks like, and so they tend to take in way more calories than they need on any given day…..I mean hell, even some of the Starbucks drinks have as many as seven or eight hundred calories, and everyone has seen the lists of “worst foods” that mention things like the Outback Steakhouse cheese fries at something like 4,000 calories per order. Unless you closely monitor what you eat, and realize that a frozen Healthy Choice meal really is about the correct “portion” for you, it’s easy to go overboard. But that’s not really what I’m talking about here…..what I’m talking about is being able to eat A LOT of food.
So what constitutes “a lot”? It varies from person to person, but as I think back on what it meant to me prior to surgery, I remember some impressive quantities of crap food. When you are going to consume gargantuan portions, unless you are just beyond the embarassment of camping out at a buffet all of the time (or you are rich), you end up eating a lot of cheap/greasy fast food or comfort foods. I generally wouldn’t be patient enough to cook a ton of food, just because I knew it would be gone so quickly. Instead I would hit places like McDonald’s, Sonic, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, or get some shitty takeout Chinese. Even then, when you can drop fifteen or eighteen bucks at McDonald’s, the food budget is out of control. Don’t misunderstand…I wouldn’t eat like this every day (I’d admit it if I did), but at least several times per week I’d get into pig-out mode and go crazy. At McDonald’s I’d get something like two Big Mac’s, a double Quarter Pounder with cheese, three large fries and four pies…..sometimes I’d switch it up and get three Filet o’ Fish instead of the Big Mac’s, but the order was generally about that size. At Sonic it would be similar…two of their double cheeseburgers, a few corn dogs and a couple of large orders of onion rings. I don’t remember Taco Bell as specifically, but I’d easily go through six or seven of their double decker taco supremes and several burritos. Pizza Hut would always be running some kind of deal, so usually on Friday or Saturday night I’d hole up with some kind of large pizza (or 2 mediums), breadsticks, a large order of wings, some of their tater tots, and get through all of that in the course of the evening. Another weekend evening classic could consist of two full Chinese entrees, a quart of hot and sour soup, and at least two orders of appetizers like crab rangoon, wontons, egg rolls, etc. We have In-A-Tub tacos here in KC, and they are of the deep fried/neon orange cheese powder variety, and it would be nothing to mow through twelve or fifteen of those. I’m sure there are people out there who could eat more, but I think by anyone’s standards that is shitload of food to put away and only count as 1, maybe 2, meals for any given day. Then of course there’s the whole “I didn’t really eat any breakfast or very much for lunch” rationale that gives you license to go wild on some bad food.
I guess there are still brief moments when I mourn the fact that I just can’t go crazy once in a while. It doesn’t happen very often, but of ALL of the foods I used to eat sometimes I just wish I could mow through a massive cheeseburger as quickly as possible. I’m still an obsessed foodie to some degree, I’ve just channeled that energy into other ventures, such as the following…
I’ve been lucky to have some truly great meals in my life. The amount of money I’d drop at restaurants during a trip to New York or the Bay area IS too embarassing to admit here. Babbo, Gramercy Tavern, Town, WD-50, Chez Panisse, Danko, Manresa……..I’ve had some good meals. It used to be that whenever I’d travel to a major city, I’d do a couple of months worth of research to not only figure out where to eat, but exactly what I should order when I’m there. I don’t really do that anymore. I’ll find ONE restaurant that I think I can still enjoy, and plan on spending huge amounts on tiny portions of food. That’s exactly what I did in DC a couple of months ago when I went to Cafe Atlantico.
Well, Cafe Atlantico has a restaurant WITHIN the restaurant called minibar, and the focus is molecular gastronomy, similar to places like WD-50, Alinea and El Bulli. You pay big money for a few bites of very adventurous food. It’s a tough reservation to get, definitely one of the toughest in the United States. Other than Rao’s in NYC, where you literally cannot get a seat unless you “own” one of the few tables, there is no “impossible” reservation, no matter what stories you hear about places like The French Laundry. You just have to be patient, which is the case with minibar. They only have six seats, two seatings per night, so that does make it a bit tougher. Well, I’m going to DC at the end of this month and last week i managed to score two seats at minibar on a Friday night (you call one month in advance at 10am and pray). I won’t go into the actual menu, but I will say that this meal will probably be at the very top of my “best ever” list. If you want to check out someone’s recent visit with pictures, this person has a pretty fantastic writeup…. http://www.eatfoo.com/archives/2008/04/minibar_washington_dc.php.
Admittedly, I spend way more time and money on nice meals than most people, but I like to think I have a pretty good attitude about the whole thing. I’m just about as happy people watching in a Mexican dive restaurant in Riverside as I am eating foie gras at one of our top-tier establishments. Good food is good food, and great atmosphere makes up for mediocre food most of the time. What really cracks me up is how SERIOUSLY so many people either take themselves, or dissecting the minutia of every fucking meal they ever eat. At most of the nicer joints I’ve visited, there are two noticeable (but not all-encompassing) contingents……the crazed foodies/food tourists like me, and the society types who eat there because they are “supposed to”. The latter of the two groups provides some wonderful entertainment. If you picture the oaf husband in the movie “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover”…..that’s kind of what I’m talking about. People with the means to be absolute pricks in a restaurant; the regulars who the chef dreads and the waitstaff mocks behind their backs, but they spend a lot of money….and deep down they are total hillbillies who are one chromosome above eating soup from their cupped hands.
I was mowing the lawn the other night, thinking about those very hillbillies and how much fun it would be to dine with them at minibar. I was wondering how they picture these fine dining establishments in their minds, because although minibar is super casual for such a popular place, even the fanciest, snootiest restaurants in the U.S. aren’t THAT fancy OR snooty. So anyway, I had this crazy scenario in my mind where we’d walk into minibar and they’d announce us like one of those old school debutante balls or something. Before we were seated next to the hillbillies, the captain would say “An now presenting Mr. Frampton Felcher, and Ms. Camilla Pussytoes”…because those are the names we’d have on the reservations. So “Frampton and Camilla” would sit down and we’d properly introduce ourselves to the other four diners, all the while I’d be giving off one of those very superior, snotty looks down my nose to everyone…kind of like the look you get from a retarded kid when you sneak up from behind and scare the shit out of them. THAT would let them all know I was the alpha male, aka “Mr. Society”.
Of course, I’d get through half of the first of many bottles of wine and begin going on incessantly about how I was taking advantage of my early retirement to write screenplays, but it wasn’t going so well….”And I was ninety nine percent done with my most recent screenplay, which I was calling ‘The Darjeeling UNLimited’, and wouldn’t you know it? That fucking HACK Wes Anderson up and puts out that piece of SHIT movie of HIS!”
And of course I couldn’t let them go without hearing about the premise of the film…..”I’ve been too pissed off to even WATCH Anderson’s movie, but I know it’s about brothers on a train. That’s what makes this all so unbearable….I KNOW that fuck must have heard what I was doing, because MY movie was about brothers too. It was a lot like ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’, but instead of Asian sisters it was three gay American brothers who drank tea together all the time. Then one of them joins the army and ships off to Iraq…….money in the box office BANK with all of that patriotism shit in there, and the guy couldn’t get good tea over in Iraq so his brothers would send it to him and they’d promise to all drink it at the same time every day even though they weren’t together! It’s totally AMERICAN, unlike that other piece of SHIT! I’m telling you, I think that’s why that bastard stole my idea…….Hollywood commie bullshit! You can’t even say anyting good about this country to ANYBODY anymore! Don’t go and try to make something patriotic THESE DAYS! They’ll FUCK YOU!”.
And before long I’d loudly admit to my love that the failure of my film really was causing financial strain….”Oh Camilla! I’m just so worried that if I don’t put something together soon we’ll lose our summer trailer down at the Lake of the Ozarks!”.
So there you have it…..how Mr. Society alienates DC’s power elite with tales of the Darjeeling UNLimited. As god is my witness, if I end up dining with some stiffs, I’m going to make this a reality.
Damn, I really do have to go and get some stuff done. The next time you hear from my I’ll be a genuine gradge-ee-ate, and hopefully will not have alienated my good friends by fucking up their wedding too horribly.