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November 4th, 2010

Fancy Feast

On Friday night, the Boss Men invited me and a coworker to join their group for dinner. Without hesitation I accepted. Because, food.

So there I sat, in one of the swankiest steak restaurants I’d ever been in. This place has private wine lockers for important clientele and fancy hand towels in the restroom. At this restaurant the waiters bring out a tray of the various steaks and lobsters and vegetables they have and explain what each of them is and why each one is the ultimate in meaty luxury. I’d made countless reservations at this place, but they were always for other people. Never before had I been invited into the dimly lit beef sanctuary. It was an event I should have been thrilled about.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful. I am flattered to have been invited. But, given my relationship to my dining companions, I was on high alert. Dining with a new group of people, especially the people who sign your paycheck, is daunting. You need to behave as though you’re entirely comfortable eating a twenty-eight dollar side salad and choosing your own wine, all the while worrying that you have parsley in your teeth and you might laugh so hard at the waiter’s Meat Tray Presentation that a little snot will fly out of your nose.

It’s like being on a first date with four people.

The first hurdle was booze. Do I order a vodka with lemon like the rest of the gentlemen? Or do I tackle the wine list? Not wanting to create a situation for myself wherein I tried to slam down a hard liquor and wind up gagging and wheezing for the rest of the meal, I opted for the wine. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I know nothing about wine. I glanced at the list casually, but must have accidentally furrowed my brow, because my boss leaned over and said, “You know about this shit, or you want me to pick somethin’ for you?” “Oh, no thanks, I’ve got it,” I smiled.

When the waiter came by, I pointed at something called a “Malbec,” which, until that moment, I had assumed was just an Argentinean place on Green street that tricked unsuspecting diners into ordering blood sausage. (It had a fancy name and came with other meats. How the hell was I supposed to know it was going to be a submucosal sac filled with some animal’s platelets?) Turns out, it’s a delightful beverage that comes from grapes.

I gained some points there, after my supervisors all took a whiff of my glass and each ordered their own.

When the waiter came back, I confidently announced that I would have the single cut filet mignon. Bang. I was on it. I may not know wine, but I sure as hell know meat. “And did you choose a side dish?”

Dammit. At this restaurant, the side dishes are designed for the table to share. I can’t think of anything I’d like less than choosing what kind of food my bosses will be eating.

“Uhhh… creamed spinach?” Correct answer, thank god. But Smugly von Waiterson had another one for me: “And what will you be starting with this evening?”

Let me get this straight: A fifty dollar steak, several side dishes, fancy adult grape juice AND a starter? Until this last-minute dinner invite, my Friday night plans were to slog home, put my yoga pants on, and eat a handful of smoked almonds while watching Detroit 1-8-7. I did not have a salad order ready. So the waiter had to get everyone’s order and then come back to me. Brilliant.

The good news is, I managed to eat that Caesar salad without flipping any lettuce into someone’s cocktail, or choking on a crouton.

And then our steaks came. They were delicious, don’t get me wrong, but, let me tell you a little something about me. During routine dining experiences, my eating style is anything but dainty. The only thing I can accurately be compared to is a nuclear powered vacuum with rage issues. I ATTACK my food. “Nibbling” is something that river fish do. So here I had to calculate each movement. “Take a little bit off the side here, dip it ever so slightly in Bearnaise, laugh at a joke, ingest.” It was going quite well until I took a bite that was almost entirely fat. It was too large to swallow whole, and I couldn’t actually chew it. I stuck it under my tongue and tried to act nonchalant.

“Whaddya need?” my boss asked me, when he caught me staring into the distance, contemplating the best way to get rid of the fat chunk. “Oh, nothing. I’m great!” I shoveled a bit of creamed spinach into my mouth as proof, and spent the next three minutes trying to blindly sort plant matter from cow lipids with my tongue.

I wanted to run to the bathroom and spit it into the trash can, but the third grade conformist mentality I had adopted for the evening prevented me from going to the restroom until at least one of my other companions went first, which was not going to happen. “Curse your giant camel bladders!” I thought, as it dawned on me I would have to hide the thing in my napkin. But when? And how? This group was polite, made eye contact, asked your opinions on things. Any move I made would be noticed by someone.

By this point, I’d had a mouthful of bovine insulation for well over five minutes. My judgment was becoming clouded. I thought the best way to do it, short of creating a distraction by hurling one of the model lobsters from the presentation tray at the bus boy was to pretend, all of a sudden, that I found everything said at the table so funny, I had to cover my mouth with my napkin so as to avoid embarrassing myself.

When it was time to make my move, I positioned the napkin so that a bit of it draped over my lap. Then I covered my mouth, guffawed, and let the thing drop. It worked perfectly! I didn’t even get a grease stain on my jeans. Operation: Falling Meat was a success!

The down side was that I had to spend the rest of the meal with a piece of warm meat sitting on my lap. Even so, I think I managed to maintain a level of dignity I very rarely achieve.

Thanks for dinner, Bosses!

4 comments to Fancy Feast

  • Will

    You write quite well — is that what you do for a living?

    Great story. I’m glad to see other people can get so nerved by this type of situation. I don’t know many things worse than taking a bite of pure fat from a steak while on a date or some other uncomfortable dinner.

    Oh, and… twent-eight dollar side salad. WHAT?!

  • gene taylor

    Malbec goes dandy with McRib.

    Just sayin’…

  • Rat Princess

    Do you still have that fat? Can I have It?

  • Chris Bulock

    When I eat with my boss and coworkers, the food usually comes out of a crock pot, and at least one person is wearing a festive sweater. It hasn’t come up, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t hesitate to hock up a wad of fat in that setting.

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