Friday night was always drinks with friends and Saturday was usually a stop on a culinary tour of my town. Sure, there were weekends when we had something else going on, but if there was nothing special to do on a Saturday, you could expect to find me discussing which restaurant to eat at that night. I was obnoxious about it, too. “Oh we just ate there,” I’d say. And, “the goat cheese on my salad wasn’t warm last time.” Seriously, I said that. I even remember the restaurant that had the nerve to serve me cold “warm goat cheese salad.” Obnoxious. Honestly, I want to slap myself. I mean not my current self. That would be simple … and bizarre. I’m talking about my pre-child, bored with eating out self.
Or maybe I’m just jealous.
A girlfriend of mine just opened a restaurant. A seafood restaurant. A really, really good seafood restaurant with a locally famous chef and prix fixe menu that forces you to choose a dessert. Yes forces! At least that’s how I see it. So, I’ve been dragged (ha!) to dinner at this place twice recently.
On the night the restaurant opened, my girlfriend and I left our kids (she has two of them like me) with our husbands, got dressed up, and sat down for a fine meal alone at her new place. The waiter approached and we looked at him the way we used to look at cute boys in night clubs. You know, kind of like the way Sylvester looks at Tweety. He was probably afraid. Immediately, we rattled off our orders from appetizers through dessert. The frightened waiter explained he only wanted to know whether we wanted sparkling or still water. Oh. When he did come back for our dinner orders we quickly asked for our desserts again. He explained that he would come back after the main course for that order. Right. We knew that. Look, we don’t let ourselves eat dessert often. We were excited, ok?
So the food arrived. He sat hers down first. Good move, she owns the place. I pulled out my camera to take a picture of my friend’s mahi mahi. Like I had never seen fish on top of a starch before. Super cool of me. And it had two sauces with different flavors and colors! You would have thought the fish was performing RENT I went on so much. And not because my friend was there. I don’t need to blow smoke with this girl. We’re that kind of friends. This was honest amazement. It seemed like slow motion as the waiter rounded the table to bring me my snapper. He sat it down in front of me and angels sang. I looked across the table to gush even more about my beautiful food when I noticed that my friend’s previously magazine-pretty mahi was now a bowl of mush. Each of the 4 perfectly grilled spears of asparagus was cut into miniature bites and was mixed among fish flakes and potato mash. There was no sign of the two sauces. What’s worse is that about half was gone already and my friend was mumbling something to me, but I couldn’t understand her because her mouth was so full of the mush. There she sat with her blown out hair, mascara, and impossibly tight mint green dress with mashed potatoes and fish mush hanging out of her mouth. While talking to me. And continuing to cut her food into even smaller bites. I calmly looked at her and said, “What are you doing?” She dropped the shovel, I mean fork, gulped the mush, and then we descending into a laughing fit.
She didn’t have to share her food with anyone. Odds are no one was going to choke if the asparagus bites were too big. We weren’t going to have to leave because someone had an accident, spilled their drink, had a tantrum, was tired, forgot their favorite book/ball/car/doll at the last place we’d been. She wasn’t going to have to escort me to the bathroom and risk her fish getting cold. Nothing. We could just eat.
So, I thought to myself that maybe kids were ruining dining for us. Because we rush, cut up an entire plate of food at once, hurry our waiters, and probably talk to loud. But now I think when we did slow down and appreciate that we were at dinner, two old friends in real clothes (did I mention she had on a dress?), with wine, and good food, I would put that dinner up against any dinner of my pre-baby days. Not necessarily because the food was better (though it may have been), but because that pre-baby, jaded foodie never appreciated a piece of fish the way I appreciated that snapper and I never tried to listen to my friend so intently as I did that night, even when she didn’t have a mouth of fish flakes and microscopic asparagus.