Gallopin’ Grandma: Dining out: the survival guide

By on April 29, 2014

JACKSON, WYO – Once upon a time near the dawn of ages, someone in a leopard skin waiter’s uniform served a chunk of filet du mammoth to a guest. Several grunts later, the waiter was slammed over the head with the entree. This might have been the first restaurant critic.

Critics are everywhere, and they start early. Just shove some strained peas into a baby’s mouth, and comes out faster than it went in. A child languishing over lunch eventually will hear someone say, “There are plenty of children in China who would like that.”

“Well, let’s box it up and get a shipping label on it,” is what that kid is thinking.

The Food Channel has made many watchers into food mavens. It would be so much fun to hang around with Paula or Bobby or Emeril and give them our opinion. As if they wanted it. How fun to be a restaurant critic and go to fabulous restaurants and have fabulous food with chefs frantic for our review. The fact that many critics wind up going into hiding or running for their lives doesn’t seem to register with the celebrity critic wannabes.

Back in my hometown of Corn Cob, Iowa, we didn’t have a lot of restaurants but we had our very own self-appointed restaurant critic. Her name was Drusilla Dingle, and she was a legend, or so she said. Her column ran in the Corn Cob Gazette and the County Advertiser (that free thing they throw away at gas stations), but that was enough to secure her reputation.

Drusilla would swoop into a restaurant, surrounded by a crowd of toadies and minions carrying notebooks and cameras. She would demand the best table, the best entrees and an interview with the chef, or more likely the fry cook. Sometimes this actually happened, but if it didn’t all darkness would descend on the establishment, and they would get a scathing review.

The reviewer spared no one. She said the food at the Senior Center was without nuance. (“I’ll show her nuance,” said the cook, reaching for the cleaver.) The hospital food was listless. She tore into Marla’s Tearoom, writing that her sandwiches were like two pieces of cardboard glued together. Marla cried and wanted to put out a contract on her, but there was already a line and the Divine Anguish nuns were ahead of her.

It is possible that she made a mistake when she showed up uninvited at the year’s biggest wedding and reported that the cake was like wallboard and the food fell off the back of a Sysco truck. The bride was furious, her father who had spent a fortune was furious, and Sysco didn’t care for her either.

What happened next was only conjecture. Dru disappeared and couldn’t be found. After a while, she was apparently gone for good. There was a rumor someone found a large, strangely shaped item in the Country Club freezer and later there were rumors it was many little packages of hamburger in the freezer. There also was a rumor someone found a button in the meat loaf at a Rotary dinner.

When it comes to criticizing the food industry, one must remember that everyone is armed and dangerous. Chefs have lots of big knives and the wait staff is in a position to put noxious objects in your food. Don’t tip and your tires may be missing in the parking lot. Just eat, don’t complain, tip generously and get the hell out of there. Bon appetit!

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