By Mana Williams
Everyone has to eat. Some people don’t eat enough and others eat a little too much. Some people eat the right food, whilst others couldn’t care less. Some people love utensils, Tupperware, fine china and all of the snobbery. While others wouldn’t mind a Benedict Bagel burger at 4 am on a Sunday morning after a hard night out sitting down in the MacDonalds drive through. A clear message resonates, people have acquired tastes and preferences, but is there any sweet spot or common message that everyone can agree makes a good meal?
For a second, imagine this process of visiting a restaurant. Stood outside in a mediocre mood on a Thursday evening after work. It’s overcast and you could do with something good to eat. Walking along a busy street, you notice a small diner that has an open sign out front. Heading across to it you notice the inside isn’t hugely busy. You stop to check the outside menu for a glance into the price point of the establishment. As you walk in, you notice that the floor is a strong Rimu finish. The lamp shades blot out the direct light and the place smells of your favorite kind of food. The staff treat you well and greet you on arrival, but you notice as you are being escorted to your table that rain has started outside. The waiter extends his greeting by asking you if you would be staying for dinner, you reply yes based on observation of the change in weather. Since being sat you recognize the various groups of other families and people at other stages in their night. Some are on first dates with a glass of red, others bubbling in banter bathing in the crackles from a stone grilled Porterhouse. But none of them have taken much notice that you came in alone.
As you are presented with the menu, you notice that the meals are cheaper than you were anticipating. The waiter pours you a glass of water and asks how your day has been. Mid-conversation the waiter talks about your favorite sport and you light up because you know who won that game, that Federer is in top form, that Trump’s an idiot. You laugh and enjoy yourself, all the meanwhile the rain is thickening to blanketing hail…
Your order has been taken and you are waiting for your entree. As you head for the social cover of your phone, a person sitting along the same wall as you yells out your name. You light up as they are an old school friend you haven’t seen in many years. Asking how their parents are, they are delighted to chat with you. The banter train boards and you’re absolutely loving the time you’re having. Before you know it your first meal arrives, your friend and their partner are now sitting at the same table as you. Their meals just arrived too. You continue to chat and talk about people you mutually disliked in school. As you take the first bite of your food, you notice it’s really tasty.
Some time has passed and your main meal arrives. The storm is making a racket outside but is quelled by the laughter and socializing coming from inside this diner. A lady walks down the street drenched in her coat, visibly disgruntled with a blue scarf but you took no notice. Once again you take the first bite of a different meal and the conversation has turned to your old friend’s engagement to their partner. You talk about the duties of a serious relationship and the banter takes a twist because the waiter has joined in. While asking about the quality of the food your smile speaks words. The waiter, pointing at your friend, nervously says their name. To which your friend replies the waiter’s name. You begin to recognize the waiter as another mutual friend you both share. Memories fly as the taste buds are swayed by the main meal you’ve ordered. The waiter starts to reconnect and it’s been five minutes, his boss has noticed. He ducks down to hide from view and shows you a nicer way of eating your meal by adding some of the sauce on your table. Before you ate it you were skeptical, but afterward, you realize how good it is. After grabbing your number, the waiter continues his job.
As you pay for your meal and shake hands with the other parties, you notice it’s dark out and the storm has passed. After you’ve left, walked home along the waterfront and are just about to reach your bed, you receive a text message from your friend saying it was really cool to catch up. Immediately you remember the food you ate and the bizarreness of your evening… In a good way…
Looking into it, do you remember the lady with the blue scarf? She wore a trench coat and was being battered by the rain. While you were captured in that moment, right there when it all went down. You remember everything, from the Rimu floor, the weather outside, how much the meal cost but more importantly you remembered the food. Remembered it being good. Not often do you let other people touch your food, but you didn’t put up a fuss because you were, in that moment, enjoying life.
Food is a memory and we possess unlimited storage.
Too often people forget that food is perishable and only goes in one direction. We live in a modern world where we seldom appreciate the different flavors of food. An expectation often exists where we focus more on how much was on the plate, what it tasted like, how long the food took and how much meal was.
We neglect the conversation, by eluding to our devices or focusing on the weather.
This is applicable outside of the restaurant too. Think of a meal you prepared at home, your own cooking, took longer than you expected. Surrounded by family at the dinner table and it only takes one person to comment that something wasn’t cooked perfectly. Your response is sudden and you forget about what happened in your dad’s day or your aunt’s dog’s name and would likely feel more comfortable scrolling on Facebook.
More importantly, what makes food good are the genuine interactions you have with other people who care about you and want you to feel just as good as they are. Something I need to learn myself, thus my Friday afternoon thought for you guys!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT! Thank you for reading!.