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Blind dates with arugula – an anti-pretentious restaurant manifesto

Why exactly do restaurants try so hard to impress me? And why do they always do it with arugula?

I have a vendetta against restaurants. It’s a thing.

First of all, the word “restaurant” is just really irritating to spell. That u always evades me. Where does it go? Why does it look wrong no matter where I put it? I also have a phobia of restaurants that stems from a childhood bout of food poisoning in one, which doesn’t help matters. But most of all, I really hate “quality” restaurant menus. Whenever I go to a restaurant, I feel like I’ve been set up on an awkward blind date with the menu. It’s a perfectly nice menu, but it’s like the kind of menu that’s never gotten laid and is trying way too hard to impress me by appearing more worldly and cultured. I am never attracted to that person/menu. I usually end up sleeping with the Kid’s Menu, their much sexier younger sibling, and the waiters all judge me for it. “The kid’s menu?” They ask, like I’m one of those middle-aged men who refuse to date anyone over the age of thirty. “I mean, I guess you could order from that if you want…”

Yes, yes I do want.

Here’s the thing, pretentious grown-up menu; I’m not going to sleep with you. I’m never going to sleep with you. This means you need to stop doing a few things. For one, stop trying to make what you’re offering sound sexier than it is. A hamburger is a hamburger is a hamburger. So let’s make a deal; you don’t describe it as a like “a juicy quarter-pound succulent patty” and I, in turn, won’t be an awful person and say something like “yes, I’d like that slab of dubiously cooked ground-up dead cow meat.”

I came across this problem recently on a family trip when we were eating out – which is something I normally never do or enjoy doing. The first night out, I ordered grilled chicken breast stuffed with brie, caramelized onions, and basil. (I apologize. I know I’m railing against pretentious food, but I’m pretty sure stuffed chicken isn’t actually that pretentious.) With it they advertized “a light potato and horseradish fondu”. I had no idea what the fuck that meant. Would my chicken come in cubes and I’d have to dip it? Did fondue become classier when you dropped the e? What on earth was going on? It turns on that what they meant by that mess of gourmet jibber-jabber was finely mashed potatoes with horseradish.

It drives me crazy that restaurants always take a perfectly good regular dish and try to add something crazy to it to make it “classier”. You don’t need to add sage to mac and cheese. If I order a salad, I don’t want half an orchard and maybe goat cheese in there as well. (My parents and sister love this trend. I don’t get it. I also don’t get why putting vinegar on it suddenly makes it delicious, or whatever.) And for the love of God, can we all just get together and stop trying to make arugula happen? It’s never going to happen. (This also came with my chicken. I ignored it as garnish.)

Let’s be honest – arugula tastes like dirt and poo. It’s not like spinach or kale or a nice dark leafy green that if sauteed properly with garlic, becomes delectable. It always tastes like dirt and poo, no matter what you do to it. Also, for some reason, you can never cook arugula, it always must be “lightly wilted”, which brings me back to my first point. I understand there are people who like arugula, but to me they are roughly as crazy as people who voluntarily tune in for Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

I fundamentally do not believe anyone likes arugula the same way I fundamentally do not believe that people enjoy going to movies where everyone dies at the end because it’s “great art that tells you about the human condition”. I believe that these are the sorts of things people pretend to like because it makes them seem cultured, when in reality we’re all just giant kids who want happy endings and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And until you realize that, I’m sorry, but I’m going to order of the kid’s menu, and yes, I am 22, and no, I don’t care how patronizing your face is. Because I will never like portobello mushrooms or capers. I’m just not that kind of girl. And maybe, if you can’t realize that, we’d just be better seeing other people.

Photo Credit: ghirson / Flickr

Categories: Clack, General

3 Responses to “Blind dates with arugula – an anti-pretentious restaurant manifesto”

August 27, 2011 at 4:44 PM

Well, I like arugula. It’s not as good as baby spinach, but it adds something nice to a salad. “Dirt and poo?” What sort of arugula have you been eating? Also, I am not one, but I can tell you that Jake definitely is one of those people who enjoy movies where everyone dies in the end, so I guess you should talk to him.

Also, while you’re right that stuffed chicken isn’t that pretentious, when it’s stuffed with “brie, caramelized onions, and basil,” it sure sounds it. It also sounds amazing. What restaurant was this?

I just realized so far I’ve only said snarky things in this comment, so I’ll end by saying that I like this article! As always, your writing makes me laugh a lot while shaking my head and going, “Oh Jules, you philistine.”

P.S. Things I learned while writing this comment: it’s spelled “arugula,” not “arugala.” Who knew?

August 27, 2011 at 10:24 PM

First of all, arugula is completely delicious. Peppery. Not bitter. A fantastic green. And, yes, you don’t cook it. It’s a salad green. Would you cook a piece of iceberg? A leaf of romaine (save for the occasional grilling)?

Secondly, yes you need to add sage to mac and cheese. Because mac and cheese is possibly the most bland and boring dish ever created. It is comforting? Yes. Does it have a pleasant gooey texture and make awesome squooshy sounds when you stir it? Yes. Bursting with flavor? Only if you use the bestest of cheese, but then it tastes like.. cheese. It’s boring.

Can’t say anything about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich though. That shit is fucking delicious.

As for menus — all the best restaurants I have been to don’t have one, and the top ones that do don’t have crazy descriptions. It’s the sign of a middling restaurant trying to stretch.

Tell your parents to take you somewhere nice. Blue Ginger would be a good start.

September 5, 2011 at 12:56 PM

What Bob said. ;-)

And one of my favorite salad sin the whole world is arugula, roasted beets, capers, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. I think those are pretty much all the things you offered up as pretentious and/or vastly unappealing, so we are cut from different foodie cloths.

Blue Ginger is one of the nicest places to eat and it’s so unpretentious; I love it there.

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