Friday, November 23, 2007

Creatures of Habit

We are all creatures of habit. Some are worse than others, of course. Anthony Bourdain has been known to slam on people who visit far away places and refuse to eat outside of the hotel restaurant. Their habit (one of them, at least) is eating safe, familiar food. Bourdain's of course (one of them) is talking about how disappointed he is by that.

I just realized that I'm about as bad as they are, at least in some respects. Unbelievably, we actually have good barbecue in Utah. I'm sure that the proprietors are from out of town, but I'm glad they decided to make Utah their home, and make fabulous food their livelihood. A couple of friends of ours stopped by this evening, and decided that they needed to experience Lon's Cookin' Shack. I opted to stay home and babysit while they went out and got our food and brought it back.

When they asked what I wanted, I told them to ask if they had any smoked turkey, and then they inevitably said that they were out of it (which they always are), then to order me a pulled pork sandwich. A few minutes after they left, they called to tell me that Lon's was closed for the day, and that they were going to go somewhere else. They were considering either Costa Vida or Cafe Rio, which have nearly identical menus (and food), with only very slight variations.

I told them that my wife already knew what I wanted (the pork salad). As I was telling them this, they seemed to decide upon Costa Vida, and I began to give them specific instructions. I told them to ask for the mango dressing, and when the people behind the counter interpreted that as "mango salsa", to point at the mango dressing specifically and say that's what they wanted. Of course, they would not get mango dressing, because the people behind the counter are largely idiots who will give you their crappy creamy ranch dressing regardless of what you order. Of all of the dozens of times that I've ordered mango dressing, I've gotten it twice.

As I was explaning this to them, I was informed that they had just decided upon Bombay House, what what would Ilike from there? Without hesitation I informed them that I would like a chicken tikka masala. They agreed that it was a fabulous choice indeed and hung up.

It occurs to me that I have a few habits here. One is to find a favorite dish and stick with it. I can only assume that the other dishes at Costa Vida are fabulous, but the first one I ever ordered was the pork salad, and they've done such a good job with it that I often think that if it was the only dish I ever ate in my life, I might be content. With as little as I treat myself to their food, why would I ever order anything else?

I also know my restaurants. I know what I want to order, and how the employees are going to act, regarless of who is actually behind the counter. It's like ordering from the soup nazi. "Wait, I haven't even told you how to order!"

Most annoyingly is my lack of deviation. How can I expect to be a good chef if I don't try new things? It disturbs me on several levels. The most disconcerting to me is not my unwillingness to try new menu items when I've already decided upon "the usual". The thing that worries me most is that my obsessive-compulsive tendencies put up a pretty convincing fight. If only I could find a way to use my powers for good.


  1. At first I was thinking to myself, "yeah yeah, we all do that." But in discussing it with my wife I realized that when I eat out, I really don't do that. I generally try something new or crazy. My theory is that since I don't get out to eat much, I can't waste it by always having the same thing. But in the back of my head, there is something nagging at me to go with the usual. Stick with the standard.

    The result? Most often I end up eating only half of my plate because it really wasn't that good. Like the chile relleno that was only 10% chile and 90% sauce. But sometimes it turns out good. Not often enough that I can remember anything specific.

    So there's the tradeoff. If you go with something new, you might get burned. Honestly it seems to unlike me to go out on a limb like that, but I think it's the foodie inside me (which you helped develop, I might add) which overcomes my natural inhibitions.

  2. Well I have favorites and I won't apologize for it. I go to specific places for specific dishes.

  3. Wow - This blog post could have been written by me. I always get Pork Salad from Cafe Rio and Chicken Tikka Masala from Bombay house.

    I guess that confirms just how good those two items are!

  4. Although you are mostly adventurous when it comes to eating in weird looking hole in the wall places or the most difficult to pronounce words when are most definitely are the most comfortable ordering the same ol' same ol'. Sometimes that is going to hit the spot better then anything else you could imagine.*Western Bacon Cheesebuger*


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