Saturday, December 13, 2014
Raw Culinary Disaster
Without a doubt, I am sure at some point during my marriage one of my in-laws has told my wife that you simply cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear concerning some of my less than refined habits. I freely admit I was raised in a lower middle class family with absolutely no aspirations to crack the societal caste ceiling and dwell among those who know the proper function of utensils at a formal dinner party. In other words, I haven't a clue which spoon on a place setting is used to stir my tea, eat my soup, or taste the dessert. In fact, at one dinner party involving several of my wife's fellow attorneys, a couple of judges, and one certified ass who happened to be a state senator, the looks I got when I buttered a dinner roll with what was probably the wrong knife forever swore me away from such functions. I probably could have farted and come away better, the state senator sure as hell did when he about cleared out the room with his.
Still though, my lovely wife hasn't given up on taking me to restaurants that lean more to a cultured culinary experience than just allowing the unwashed masses to engorge themselves on cheap imported food while ignoring the fake Americana bric-a-brac hanging on the walls. Most of the time I actually feel sad about it because, once again, where I was raised a family dinner out was going to the one fast-food restaurant my small hometown had back when I was a kid.
The best example of my wife's hopeless campaign to open me up to refined dining happened a few years back while on vacation at Disney World. We all were staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, a beautiful resort decorated in an African theme that happens to sport several upper class restaurants.
Usually, I will check out the menu of the fancy eateries my wife wants to experience before we go. That way I'll know what will be the safest choice for me, while she can fully absorb all the culinary delights. For whatever reason, that time I didn't do the required research and was totally blind when the attractive hostess seated us next the large window that showed off the decorative water garden outside. For a couple of minutes my wife just enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant and chatted while watching the assorted brightly colored coy swim around the window.
After being handed the menu it didn't take ten seconds for me to realize I was in rather deep trouble. I saw nothing listed that even looked remotely appealing. This restaurant, named Jiko, was definitely high-end with the food priced to match. It was all new cuisine type stuff that, from my observations of the tables around me, looked more like art or biology experiments performed by cultured serial killers. For the most part the pricey nature of the items on the menu that didn't matter, we were on vacation but more importantly my wife was in the mood to enjoy herself. The absolute last thing I wanted to do was spoil the evening for her.
“Is there a problem?” the waitress asked when she came to take the order for our entrees.
“Ah yes,” I responded trying to think of a polite way of saying everything that I had read on the menu or seen at other tables came close to making me puke. “Are there other items available that aren't listed on the menu?” I asked trying to seem casual and not like some redneck who had mistakenly stumbled into the wrong place. A difficult task since Jiko had a dress code and while I technically met it, my wrinkly cargo pants, colorful Hawaiian shirt, and hippy sandals probably sent the manager scurrying to the Mickey Mouse guest etiquette book to make sure.
“Why yes,” the waitress happily said, “we have a delicious tuna salad available that one of the chefs made but failed to get listed on the daily specials.”
Hooray! I joyously thought to myself. A normal tuna salad with lettuce, some boiled egg, and other leafy things would be just the ticket while my wife ate her snails or other elaborate entree. What came a few minutes later totally shocked me since in truth, I should have realized nothing so plebeian as a normal tuna salad could be possible.
The plate was large, huge actually, with the center area occupied by two significant slices of raw tuna meat and a scattering of lettuce along with a few pieces of red and green peppers. The outside section of the dinner plate was decorated with a Jackson Pollack-like design using some sort of sauce that I'm sure was made with something equally unacceptable to my lower middle class, Southern upbringing.
“That looks absolutely delicious,” my wife said to me as she tore into her entree.
I was frozen in place looking at the contents of my plate wondering just how in the hell I was going to play this off. Yes, I have ate and love California Rolls but this was a level of rawness that I was quite uncomfortable with and had no intention of eating.
“You don't like it.” My wife said what could have been a couple of seconds or several minutes later, I have no idea since I was lost in thought.
“Yeah...no, I don't like it,” I mumbled, “I thought tuna salad meant Charlie Tuna from a can, not straight off the boat.”
My wife thought this was all funny. “Go ahead and try a bite,” she said almost giggling, “it won't kill you.”
Normally, I would have said no, but the factors present at the time all conspired against me. Namely that my lovely spouse was in an awesome mood with me thankful our place at the resort had the kids sleeping in their own bedroom. There was also the fact that the price of my raw tuna entree could have paid for five or six people to stuff themselves at the average Olive Garden.
So I manned up and sliced off a respectable chunk of the now deceased but uncooked Charlie Tuna and ate him. Instantly, there was a wonderful explosion of unhindered and untainted taste in my mouth. The flavor was everything I had come to know about tuna but exponentially greater, somehow I heard the 80's rock band “Foreigner” singing “It feels like the first time.”
For about five seconds everything was utterly wonderful and I actually thought for a moment that I would enjoy the meal. Then the aftertaste hit me like an exploding volcano, all of a sudden I felt as though I had tried to snack on a decaying zombie that had been wandering around in the hot sun for a couple of months.
“Are you okay?” my wife asked, “you look a little green.”
No, Charlie Tuna, didn't return to make a mess of me and the fancy restaurant but another bite was totally out of the question. “I'll be fine,” I said, “but for me this restaurant is a wash. I simply cannot eat another piece of this tuna.”
Surprisingly my wife didn't roll her eyes in embarrassment, nor did she get that look recalling one of the times my mom-in-law and dad-in-law probably told her she could have done much better in choosing a husband. After the waitress removed our plates, we spent the rest of the our time at Jiko's talking and eating one of their wonderful desserts.
During this relaxing time the hostess seated another couple at the table beside ours. Being my usual nosy self I couldn't help but overhear the gentleman say that he saw nothing on the menu that interested him.
“Well,” his wife or girlfriend said absently, “just order off the children's menu like you did the last time and tell them to make it adult sized.”
As my wife and I left after paying the bill the waiter for that table placed one of the most beautiful cheese burgers I had ever seen in front of that guy along with a normal looking side salad. I was simply stunned into silence not believing what I was seeing.
“Let's go,” my wife said finally rolling her eyes, “you had your chance.”