These words can inspire both joy and horror in me! All you can eat can be a slippery slope, because if I am not paying attention, I can and will eat way too much. I recall a joke my father used to tell about two bubbies at a resort in the Catskills; As they sit on the wide porch of the hotel, in their rocking chairs, fanning themselves in the warm night air, one turns to the other and says “You know Ida, the food is here just terrible” to which her friend Mabel replies “Yes, and the portions are so small.” We’ve all been there; maybe at a wedding, or on a cruise, maybe around the corner at Ruby Buffet, anywhere there is access to unlimited (albeit lousy) food can be a danger zone! So why do we eat bad food? Well, we paid for it, it’s what’s offered, we’re hungry, we’re embarrassed to send it back, or waste it, we don’t want to hurt our host’s feelings, or worst of all, we’re not even paying attention.
I am often guilty of mindless eating. I feel anxious, or lonely, or bored, and out come the pretzels (healthy right?) or whatever. I have the dubious ability to make something from what seems like an empty pantry, but at least if I start cooking, there is a chance I will regain consciousness. As part of my quest to eat more mindfully, I am refusing to eat lousy food! Though I refuse to count them, I also refuse to waste calories on food that doesn’t taste good.
My daughter and I are enjoying a stay-cation this week. Yesterday was a complete wash-out; it poured all day, and we never left the house. Around 6:00 we decided to order Chinese delivery, and as we were reviewing our choices I saw we had a menu from a new place, and they had Szechuan Dumplings listed as an appetizer. Now I must digress here.
I am from New York, grew up on ‘the Island’, and lived on and off for many years in Manhattan. Every year when my parents asked what I wanted to do for my birthday my answer was the same- Chinatown! One of the things I miss dearly about life in NYC is the easy availability of excellent Chinese food. Szechuan dumplings is one my favorite dishes, and so whenever I see it listed on a menu I order it in hopes of tasting it again. So far I have not found anything that even comes close to what I seek. The SDs I loved are small delicate dumplings made with the thinnest wrappers, and bathed in a slightly spicy peanut sauce. I believe the filling is the usual pork/scallion filling, but the sauce and the tender skins, not the filling are what make this dish so delectable.
Maybe this time, I thought, maybe these SDs will be what I crave! I try not to get my hopes up, but a dreamer can dream… Anyway, the food comes, and before I even pry the lid off I can see this is not what I was hoping for. Inside the container are those thick skinned, generic, wonton soup wontons, in some goopy barbeque/hoisin ‘sauce. NO! I am not eating this junk, and into the disposal it goes. Yes, I understand this is wasteful, and that there are many hungry people who would be happy to eat those travesties, and perhaps if I were a better citizen I would go out and find one of them and give them my dumplings. I am who I am, and frankly I am not the wasteful one, that restaurant (which I will not name, nor will I patronize again) was the wasteful one; they made that crap, and it belongs in the trash!
I hope to reach a point where I can navigate an all you can eat situation with sanity and restraint. To be mindful and purposeful about the choices I make, and to have the presence of mind to refuse, discard or just walk away from abused food. I love food, but not any food. I love food that has been treated with care and respect, that someone has taken the time to think about and prepare well. I love great food!