Friday, April 29, 2011

Dinner With My Mother

Dinner With my Mother

When it came to going to dinner, my mother, after my dad died, was always about quantity and price over quality.  Since I was the one who was paying, I didn’t understand her viewpoint.

She and her friends would choose a cheap “soup to nuts” mediocre at best, dinner over one that actually tasted good.  They would eat everything in sight, more often than not taking home the “Equal”, and tip according to a strict 15% or less scale they got off a chart they carried in their purses.  They were typical of the retirees that frequented those restaurants that catered to that clientele.

The restaurants knew what they were getting into, and took to hiding the “equal” packets. The help would dole them out one at a time so as to minimize the loss.  The help had to put up with a lot of grief for the “tips” they received.   Some of the people even stuck to a “one dollar rule”, which I’m sure further added to the splendid service offered to them. 

Cheap price and quantity was the rule the restaurants lived or died by.

Every time I would offer to take my mother to dinner or lunch, she would try to steer me towards one of those establishments.  She would rave about the portions, the value and the great reviews given by the “restaurant critics” at the pool.

Inevitably, we would try it and find it wanting.  Another establishment crossed off the list of restaurants we would agree to go to.

Now there were some restaurants we liked.  A Deli and a particular Chinese Restaurant would often be agreed upon by all of us, but more often than not, we would take her out of the area so she wouldn’t know about the restaurant we were taking her to.  This would cut down on the complaining until we actually got there.

Once there, there would be complaints about the price, the fact it usually wasn’t a complete meal with soup, salad, main, dessert and coffee, and why everything was a la carte. 

It didn’t matter that the food was good, or better than good.  It didn’t fit the price/quantity criteria.

Things reached a head one day when I offered to take her to dinner.  It was just her and me during the week and she said she wanted to try a new Chinese Restaurant near her condo.   The Mavens (experts for those of you unfamiliar with the term) at the pool had passed judgment on it and declared it a wonderful place.

I should have ruled it out based on that review alone, but foolishly didn’t argue with her.

We arrived at the restaurant which was crowded for a Wednesday night.  The menu looked good and of course the pricing was economical.  I was happy it wasn’t an all you can eat buffet (not a pretty story about that one).

The waiter, who didn’t speak English very well, took our order.  The food arrived.

To say it was inedible would be giving it high praise.

It was awful, I couldn’t eat it.  I had ordered a chicken dish, what I got was rubber.  My mother of course was digging in.  I watched her in amazement.

“It’s terrible”, I said. “How can you eat this?”

“I’ve tasted worse” she responded. “But look at the portions; they give you a lot for your money”.

“If it’s inedible, it doesn’t matter how much they give you,” I answered.

“You’re just exaggerating,” she said.

She continued eating; happy in the knowledge the meal only cost $7.95.  When she had finished and we both had dessert (tasteless ice cream), I asked if she wanted to take the uneaten portion home.

“Nah,” she said, “it wasn’t very good.  But look at how much money we saved.”

Every once in a while she would try to get me to go back to that restaurant.  The reviews from the pool mavens continued to shine.  I refused each time.

I am waiting for one of them to die of food poisoning from their critically acclaimed restaurants.

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