Swearing off Restaurants.

April 14, 2010

Alex and I are thrifty people.  Very thrifty.  Partly because we are anti-consumerist ecofreaks and partly because we are–well–cheap.  I decided recently that since we work such long hours during the season, we need to have a little fun time.  So I suggested having a date night, and it will ideally happen twice a month.

I picked a Saturday for this month’s first date night, and we combed the internet reviews looking for a restaurant to eat at.  We are new to Grayslake, as many of you know, so we wanted to try some place close by.  However, our track record with restaurants has not been good.  The town we were at before had horrible, fast food-tasting restaurants, and most of them we had tried.  But we always searched for that restaurant we could come back to, some place we could take friends.  Plus, I always like the idea of restaurants…I like the idea of taking a night off from cooking, I like experiencing new atmospheres…it always seems like a good idea to try them out!

Listening to some rave internet reviews AND listening to a few people in Grayslake swear it to be good, we picked an Asian restaurant that will go unnamed.  We had high hopes.  Alex ordered his dish, I ordered mine.  And when it came to us….well, let’s just say I was having some de ja vu.

This has all happened before, I thought.  Sure, the food smells good, and looks kind of good, but the flavor just tastes cheap.  I ate half of the veggie and sickly-sweet spicy noodle dish and immediately starting feeling like crap.  Eating restaurant food without much thought has been something I have done before, but just then it felt impossible to do so.  My mind was reeling:  how was this cooked?  What oils did they use?  What country did these bell peppers or ginger come from?  Is it one of the countries where it’s still legal to spray DDT, and if so, how much of that am I ingesting right now?

Oh, the agony!  What happened to the days where I could eat at any given Thai or Mexican restaurant and not give a freak?  I could ingest all of the oily vegetables and rice I wanted and not even think about it, the plate’s grease a distant memory forgotton with a swig of beer.  I was so carefree then.  Now I am constantly tortured by my consistent upkeep of food politics.

Of course, my nonenjoyment of date night was driving  Alex crazy.  He was hungrily wolfing down his basil noodle stir-fry.  He seemed to be enjoying it ok, so I tried not to let my dissatisfaction ruin it.  I yearned for the days where I could enjoy food like this, greasy Asian noodles that were alittle too sweet and possibly laced with MSG.  But alas, I could not.  I kept thinking, I could have cooked something better than this at home!

At least then I could have used a good, organic oil to cook it in, I’d know what ingredients I was using, and it would have been a heck of a lot cheaper of a date night.  We could have even eaten outside at our small patio table, an option not available to us at this restaurant.

We walked out, Alex feeling too full, me feeling sick and annoyed we had spent so much money on my feeling sick.  It was then that I told Alex I was swearing off restaurants.

Now, maybe not all restaurants.  You can go to Chicago and see restaurant owners and chefs that really do care about ingredients, cooking methods, etc.  Chefs periodically email us looking for organic vegetables and ask if we can sell some to them.  These restaurants are worth seeking out and perhaps worthy of our date night.  Maybe we can save up for these restaurants and eat a meal at them once in a blue moon.  Until then, date night might just be limited to eating in our little kitchen or on our patio outside followed by an evening walk.  I guess I’m just a cheap date.

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