All Dinners — Great and Small
By Jeff Salter
Our topic is dinners and that leaves things wide open for me, because I like to eat.
But unlike many people I know, I eat because I’m hungry … not because I consider dining an experience. In fact, the more of an “experience” it’s supposed to be, the less likely I am to enjoy that particular dinner.
Realizing this demonstrates just how far afield I am — compared to nearly everyone I know — these are examples of the kinds of “dining” which do NOT interest me:
*** Dinner theatre. I like going to plays (at least I used to), but I figure I can wolf down my supper before I get there. Don’t think it’s right to be clinking my dishes and slurping beverages while the people on stage are performing.
*** When people say “let’s do lunch.” Nope. I’ll eat what I want when I want it and then we can meet and chat (or whatever you have in mind). I don’t like to combine eating with meeting. If we have something important enough to meet about, I want to focus on that (or the company) — not on the food and the server and the bill and the traffic.
*** I had a good friend (in another city) who liked to combine lunch and golf. Nope. I went along with it because he was my friend, but the last thing I wanted to lug around 18 holes is a big meal I just ate! [This one is off the table — ha — now because I can’t even play golf anymore.]
*** Any meal I have to drive two hours for. Yep, I know lots of folks who will gladly jump in a vehicle and drive a hundred miles to eat at XYZ Restaurant … “because they have such good chicken” (or whatever their specialty is). Nope. No way. I don’t care if their chicken is good enough to eat itself, I’m not spending two hours in the car to get there. That doesn’t even count the fact that I don’t feel like driving those two hours BACK, on a full stomach.
I may think of other examples later, but I think you get the idea: I’m kinda particular about keeping my food consumption separate from all the other activities which the rest of youse guys seem to enjoy in combination.
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By now, you’ve likely determined that I’m a real grinch about dining out. Can’t deny it. But let me add that I HAVE consumed fancy meals in hoity-toity circumstances. So it’s not like I’ve never done it before. I’m saying, I’ve done some fancy dining and just don’t care for it.
Here’s some of the fancy dining I’ve done:
*** I ate (with a small group) at a banquet in the Pentagon as the guest of a Major General and I ended up sitting right across the table from him. We did the usual small-talk as we dined. [Did not enjoy it, but I coped.]
*** I’ve attended numerous ‘formal’ dinners at various conferences of the American Library Association of the Louisiana Library Association — sometimes with people I already knew and occasionally with total strangers in my profession. Usually the food was pretty ordinary (despite being attractive) and often a bit too cool for my taste. Often we were also there to hear a famous speaker — usually an author — and I enjoyed those experiences … but wished I hadn’t had to “dine” first for the privilege.
*** I dined in the ‘dress-up’ banquet setting of a cruise ship for 4 or 5 successive evenings … and endured large plates with teeny-tiny portions … and lots of frou-frou decorative touches. [I would have preferred the pizza buffet]
*** While overseas (in the Arctic Circle), I dined several times — semi-formal, I guess you could say — with various groups of American military [and occasionally Danish civilians] at the NCO club. These were typically lengthy “events” with multiple courses, and you got new silverware for every course. I sampled stuff like “Danish Open Face” — which, though I never understood the name — referred to raw fish with seasoning. [I would’ve preferred a cooked burger.]
I may think of more examples, but I think you’ll get the idea. I’ve been around the dinner block a few times and I simply prefer my meals to be straightforward EATING, in comfortable surroundings, preferably (reasonably) quiet, and without a lot of interaction.
Want to talk? Let’s talk. Want to see an exhibit? Let’s see it. Want to play a card game? Let’s play. But don’t try to drag me off somewhere where I have to fight crowds or listen to loud music … to stuff food down my throat … on the way to something else. Y’all go on all the eating EVENTS you want and I’ll sit home with some chicken salad. Maybe I’ll join you at the whatever… later. After I’m through eating.