Screw the Truffled Arugula

No doubt it’s just another of those getting-older things. The pastimes of youth fall by the wayside as we trek along; what once seemed chic now seems blah, what once was a must-do is now a yeah-maybe. The sage who quipped that age brings with it the acute pleasure of not going knew of what he spoke. Not going is just about the best thing there is.

Item: having to attend every new movie, no matter what. I never really signed on to that one anyway, but with time my formerly lukewarm movie-going has cooled down to absolute zero. I just don’t go. I don’t like movie theaters. I don’t like all those people and their noise. I don’t like being trapped (sort of) in that big box. I don’t like feeling like just another monkey sitting on the branch, staring agape at the screeching and twitching going on in the lit box before me, hooting and scratching if something pleases me, throwing my feces at the screen if it doesn’t. I don’t like being entertained en masse and by utter strangers. Leave me alone, you patronizing bastards: I don’t need your bread, your circus, your stupid dog-and-pony show. I’m just fine staying home with a book, or puttering in the back yard, or cleaning the stairs, or preparing lectures, or studying music, or any number of far more worthwhile pursuits. Just fine? No: let me correct that. I’m delighted to stay home with a book, to putter, etc., thrilled and honored and comforted to stay home.

Item: attending store openings, building dedications, all that public ceremonial crap. I can’t say I was ever much into that, but while I mostly lacked the gotta-see-the-dogfight mentality, most of my younger-day associates were dogfight afficionados to the core. I recall being dragged to a guided tour of the reborn SF Opera House after the Loma Prieta Earthquake had knocked it about enough to warrant its extended closure and re-do. Three hours of my life gone forever as some dweeb burbled on incessantly about the honest-Injun carpeting made by the same manufacturers as the 1930s and the PH balanced laundry. Nowadays a SWAT team couldn’t get me in there. I have grown and acquired a much better ability to say NO, with or without the thank you. Come to think of it, a discouraging snarl can settle a lot of hash.

Item: being a first-nighter who always catches the opening night of the Opera, the Symphony, whatever. Oh, please. I’ll go second night if I must, and avoid the crowds and the silliness of fashion parading. If I live to be 500 or 5000 or just soldier on until the end of it all, I’ll never understand the appeal of clothing fashion. And this coming from a guy with a professionally-trained musician’s ear and a pretty good eye for color, mind you. But putting value on the animal skins or woven plant fibers draped across one’s body seems silly to me. Always has. Personally I think the men have it the best here: we can’t get much fancier than a tuxedo, and tuxedoes are pretty much the same from Bangor to Bangladesh.

Item: and the reason for this posting’s snarky title: no more pish-posh restaurants with their oh-so-fancy food and their oh-so-astronomic prices. Let me put my cards down on the table, finally, for once, and for all: the only reason I enjoy going to restaurants is for the company, for the evening or afternoon chitchatting with my companions. I could give a rat’s ass about the relative merits or demerits of the eatery, provided they cook decent stuff decently. Not all of them pass that test, of course, but when you get right down to it, most of them do. I love good food, and by “good food” I mean wholesome and attractive and not much more. I am the least snobby, the least demanding, the least sanctimonious, diner around. Give me a halfway proper hamburger with edible fries and I’m just fine and dandy. Give me a steak cooked the way I like it—that’s medium-well with just the barest bit of pink showing, thank you very much—and I don’t care whether it came from a privileged cow that was raised by hand and met its end as a piping chorus cooed inspirational verse, or whether they just picked it up at Safeway.

Screw the truffled arugula, in other words. Screw the amuse-bouche (I am not amused) and screw the in-house charcuterie. Screw the itty-bitty portions and screw the artful patterns of sauce that were swirled on with a plastic squirt ketchup bottle that they probably swiped from a somebody’s hot dog stand. Screw the dissonant combinations of flavors and screw the egoistic refusal to leave well enough alone. Screw the trendiness and screw the month-ahead reservations and screw the noise and screw the prison-car crowding. Screw the $20 glasses of a wine that goes for $7.99 a bottle at BevMo. Screw having to ask for water. Screw paying $10 for a cup of ordinary coffee. Screw not being able to see your hand in front of your face. Screw waiting in line to pee. Just screw it all.

No. If I must go out for dinner—to socialize, to get a break from regular cooking although in fact I quite fancy cooking for myself and for company—then I’ll be just fine with a local chain restaurant that doesn’t pull any punches, that gives me enough to eat for a reasonable price, that doesn’t hurt my eardrums, and that isn’t puffed with pretention. Give me BJ’s Roadhouse instead of Gary Danko; Outback instead of Frances. There’s a long-established family-run taqueria near me here in Brentwood that serves a substantial enchilada dinner for $8.00. They’re clean, they’re quick, they’re friendly, and they do take-out.

Better yet, give me a well-managed and well-stocked Safeway and let me pick up what I want for dinner, and let me go home and prepare what I want in my own comfortable clean kitchen, using cookware that I know to be properly maintained since I’ve maintained it, served on dishes I like because I bought them, prepared precisely the way I want because I’m the one who has prepared it. I make good chili, tasty spaghetti sauce, dandy pot roast, delightful Cajun chicken with andouille sausage, yummy biscuits. Rissoto, casseroles, stir-fries, all that. Tonight I served myself a quite fetching chicken parmesan. It wasn’t much trouble to make and I’ve got three more servings chilling away in the freezer now, meal-insurance against one of those evenings. Total cost about the same as one pickled-in-house Argentine quail egg in aspic—two bites maximum if you have an itty-bitty mouth—at a posh restaurant.

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