The BF called me from Home Depot.
“I can’t get it into my car. Can you….?
“On my way right now.”
I threw all my Saturday stuff aside and leapt into my car. Fifteen minutes later I pulled into the busy parking lot. BF was sitting quietly awaiting my arrival. I have a Honda CRX. He has a very very very nice Infinity, with limited trunk space. Not the first time this has happened.
We popped the hatch, tamped the seats down. He and the rare-as-dodo birds Home Depot guy lifted the brand new, already-assembled grill into the back.
Pieces crashed like cymbals in the 1812 Overture. Sounds like the Fourth of July on the Washington Memorial.
As I drove home with my guy-prize, other pieces slid, crashed and banged as I drove.
Guy shit, I thought.
Done with Corporate Food
I’ve never had a grill. Never been much interested in having one. The only grilling I’ve ever done was camping. However I get the appeal. BF loves chicken fillets, and so do I. But that’s not what precipitated this purchase.
Bland corporate food did.
The night before, we’d been at Best Buy inspecting why my laptop was making distressing noises. When we finished we were both hungry. We drove slowly through the large shopping area close to my house which features one corporate chain restaurant after another. BF likes Asian food so we picked Pei Wei. It was just at 5:30, before the evening crowds.
There was an elderly couple ahead of us on line. Faced with a plethora of choices, they were taking a terrific amount of time figuring out what they wanted. Finally my BF, in a rare display of impatience, asked if they were going to order. That acted like a verbal laxative, as though they hadn’t realized there were people behind them, and the line finally moved.
This was worse than confession on Easter Sunday at your local Catholic Church. People apparently have a lot to be sorry about. Thank god for iPhones.
When we finally got to the cashier, I ordered Vietnamese egg rolls. BF ordered shrimp fried rice. I asked for a side of sweet and sour sauce. That caused the young woman terrible consternation, and she informed us that would cost an extra .69 cents. Honestly? Oh fer crying out loud. FINE. She futzed and putzed and struggled and finally, said we were all done.
The bill was about $27.00, which struck me as rather high since the egg rolls were pretty cheap.
We took our number and moved on. At the drink station I found a container full of orange slices and loaded up. We sat down to wait. We were both tired and hungry.
Soon the food came out. Two huge platters of lettuce wraps and chicken something which smelled very spicy. I can’t do spicy. That’s why I ordered egg rolls. We looked at the server in consternation.
“Not what we ordered.”
“Nope. We ordered Vietnamese egg rolls.”
She looked at our receipt, validated, looked over at the cashier.
“I’ll fix it right away.” She took the loaded plates back. We sucked on our orange pieces. Soon she came back with BF’s shrimp fried rice and my egg rolls. Then she took the receipt back to correct the cost.
The egg rolls were bland. Basically shredded cabbage and little else to recommend them. BF took one bite of his shrimp fried rice, chewed, and put his fork down. End of story.
I made it through the egg rolls. Then went back and filled a takeout box full of orange slices.
“You want some of this?” BF asked. “It’s really bad.”
I took a forkful. It was like eating rice-shaped cardboard.
“I won’t eat it either.” We pushed the plates aside. Sigh.
The server brought us out nine dollars in change.
We threw out the shrimp fried rice and headed home.
BF, who is a serious athlete, was still hungry, and now he was pissed.
“This is why I don’t go out any more,” he said. “The food is terrible, people are poorly trained and it’s not worth it. It’s just another stress added to the day. I’m going to get a grill this weekend.”
We figured that the CEO of the Pei Wei chain held a focus group outside the CEO’s home city and decided what the American people wanted in their Asian food. Then watered it down to reduce overhead and maximize profits, gave it fancy names to sound appetizing, and created an assembly line to produce bland food with the personality of a garden toad.
BF and I know Asian food. I’ve traveled all over SE Asia, and been treated to what real Asian cuisine tastes like. Pei Wei ain’t it. It’s corporatized, assembly-line American crap. And it’s simply awful. Add to that incompetent help, and the experience of eating out is a disappointing pain rather than a lovely pleasure.
The good news is that we patronize three places, all family-owned, which produce delectable, superb food from egg-drop soup to mind-blowing shrimp and scallop dishes. They also involve a bit of a drive. It’s worth it, if you have the time. Convenient places like this shopping center full of corporate assembly line sh*t don’t have those hole-in-the-wall wonders. That involves a treasure hunt. These are the gifts, among many, that immigrants give us. REAL food with REAL personality made by people who take pride and pleasure in the food of their countries of origin.
One reviewer for The Washington Post reviewed America’s Top Ten restaurant chains, and had a lot to say about what he found (http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/ct-americas-top-10-chain-restaurants-ranked-20171213-story.html). I tend to agree, although I stopped eating at most of these years ago, and admit to never being inside a Cracker Barrel.
The other sad downside of bad food is what happens to your tummy. If you eat intelligently and your body is well-adapted to thoughtful food and a careful diet, eating out at some of these places can prevent you from going out for a morning run big time. Been there. Not worth it.
The Big Summer Setup
The BF picked up the grill at the base and I guided him down the steps of the garden, around the corner and under the deck. BF is a software engineer. This isn’t a man you give a wrench - he couldn’t assemble a pen if his life depended on it. So he bought an already-assembled grill for twice what he’d planned to invest just to avoid the trouble. So would I.
I left him to his own devices. Minutes later I checked. Said grill was already producing impressive heat. He was delighted. So was I.
An hour later I came back home with three bags full of barbeque grill accessories, cleaning implements, tongs. Even a special light for those nights that I know he’s going to be outside, long after the summer nights have departed, and when snow is melting on the grilltop as he cooks.
BF can cook. Might as well arm the man with proper implements.
Never in a million years did I ever expect to see a man standing at a grill wielding tongs at my house. At 65, I never expected to have a man move into my house. Yet there he is. There’s the damned grill. Right next to where I am installing a hammock this week. That’s blissful.
Now I have a manly man doing manly things with a grill in my back yard just in time for July 4th.
It’s downright damned domestic.
My donation to a life of domestic bliss was a hundred bucks’ worth of barbeque tools. A minor investment, considering. And no more corporate food.
American restaurant chains might want to take note. Bland is insulting. Overpaying for bland food that you didn’t order is even worse. We’re staying home this July 4th…and probably largely from now on.