I’m going to say something that is going to make me sound ridiculously uncultured and possibly a little pathetic.
On Friday night I went to a fabulous dinner with friends. The trendy restaurant was exactly what you’d expect in a slightly hipster city like Philadelphia. White subway tiles lined the walls, dim lighting, lots of industrial looking stainless steel. The bar was serving up meticulously made cocktails, the kind where things are muddled and your something-with-lemon has a beautiful curl of actual lemon in it. It had a cool vibe. Part of me already didn’t feel cool enough, the second we walked in the door.
One overpriced glass of wine later and we were seated with menu’s in front of us. I glanced down, eyes scanning for vegetarian or seafood options, but soon realized that I could not pronounce half the menu and had no idea what so much of it even was. Saffron Trenette? Romesco? Confit? Saba Vinaigrette?
When N and I wind up at restaurants like this on our own, we shamelessly Google all the stuff we don’t know. It makes me secretly happy when we are both on the same, un-fancy page. In a group of friends, I quietly asked a couple of questions and went with a safe option – scallop risotto.
It’s just that sometimes in places like that, I feel uncomfortable. Not classy enough. Sure, I can use my forks in the right order. I’ve always got a napkin in my lap. But I have no desire to have a swig of wine poured for me to smell and then taste before saying yes to it. I ordered it. The answer is yes. I don’t like wondering whether my food has meat in it, simply because I don’t know what half the ingredients are. Food doesn’t have to be fancy and unpronounceable to be good.
If I was abroad and I didn’t know what the foods were on a menu, that would make sense. But sitting in a restaurant several blocks from my house and not knowing? It makes me feel uncultured and out-of-place. Or I wonder if it’s really that the restaurant is pretentious and everyone else is just as confused as I am.
As I sat there eating my slightly crunchy risotto (Is risotto supposed to be crunchy? See, these are the kinds of things I don’t know), I couldn’t help but mentally list all of the foods that I think are just as good (and not $26). I would have been just as happy with cheap Thai takeout, a cheese plate, pizza (obviously), or even a refill of the (free) bread basket.
But you know what? Even though I felt a little awkward and a little pretentious, I couldn’t really believe that this was my life. There I was, surrounded by friends and my love, laughing and chatting at a hip downtown restaurant. It was then that I realized that all the things I wanted to happen when I moved to the city had happened exactly as I wanted them to. In fact, my life recently has worked out exactly as I wanted it to. It’s weird and wonderful and a little terrifying.
So N, thank you for dinner. And thanks for being my partner on this fabulous adventure. Thai takeout tonight?