Feeding Frenzy

It was happening again. I felt my heart rate accelerating, the muscles in the back of my neck tightening and my voice getting short and breathless. I took a few deep calming breathes and reminded myself to relax. "There's plenty for everyone," I repeated again and again, a calming mantra.

I am beginning to think that the latest wave of food stores and restaurants are designed not to make you calm and happy, but rather like the commercials that convince us that we are missing some product from our lives, are trying to make us want more. I think they do it by over-stimulating our senses, numbing our rational thoughts and crowding us so that we feel we are in mortal competition for the next bite.

You know the kind of restaurant or should I say "concept" I'm talking about. You take a number when you arrive, a loudspeaker calls your name an hour or two later. They need the loudspeaker because it is so noisy in the restaurant. It is part of the design so that you think everyone is there and you are lucky to get a seat.

You are handed a mega-menu with 40 kinds of hamburgers, 200 boutique beers and 101 cheesecake specialties. Of course by then you eagerly take the waiter's recommendation before you fall into a low blood sugar faint or pass out from the drinking you did while you waited. I suspect that those restaurants don't actually offer all those items - that the much smaller selection recited by your waiter is all they really have. The rest is for show. Then you are brought your meal, or rather your monthly supply of calories that comes with a sidecar included in the price. You'll need that to carry home the leftovers.

Similarly, without mentioning any names, I recently found myself fighting my way through the crowded aisle of a new takeout food store. Opera blared from the speakers (I like opera) the portions were gargantuan, the selections too numerous. Everywhere the sights and smells drew my attention and eventually dulled my already feeble brain in a stew of sensory overload. I started grabbing items to fill my carry around basket, stopping to taste all the neatly laid samples at every station. Sales staff called to me if I wavered in front of them, eager to help. As someone who plans menus using a lot of quiet sensory processing, I kept being pulled from my focus.

My basket got too heavy to carry and I stashed it under some vases in the flower section hoping I would remember where to find it. How about a sandwich for lunch? I'd have to choose everything- which bread, toppings and meats. The lines were starting to build and I couldn't even figure out which one to get in.

I pick up a new basket and circled the store again. I could barely get close to the main takeout counter now. Everyone was jostling for space and salivating over the huge displays of poached salmon, stuffed potatoes, pasta salad, and fajitas just a glass window away. I knew now why they handed out so many samples. It was like trying to keep the sharks calm by feeding them. But we just kept circling closer.

Should I stay here or head for the antipasto section? Those breads were calling my name and I breezed by for a sample on my way to the vegetables. Maybe I should get something already packaged. The rotisserie counter looked intriguing, but suddenly the chefs started bashing pans and reciting some inane verse about a rack of ribs ready to eat. The place was getting a little scary. Maybe I should just pick up some meat and grill it. Of course the shop would do it for me while I waited.

No, it was time to get out of there. I looked to see what I had already selected. The random sampling could only have been selected by a shopper with a severe attention deficit. There was nothing that constituted a real meal. Did I really need the nachos spiked with St. John's Wort? After an hour in that place I think so. Not only that, I wasn't even hungry any more. I'm still wondering where I left that other basket.


  1.  Vagn Nielsen's avatar
    Vagn Nielsen
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    WOW......that oysterstew also brought back a lot of great memories to that littel store on the corner of 10 and Piedmont and that old beat up four burner stove where it happened from.
    What great reading on a Saturday morning just before getting readdy to cook for one of our former Presidents......Jimmy Carter....
    Yes those old timers like Julia Child and You are rare theese days,but the foundation you all have built can never be broken.
    Thanks for the oppertunity and your friendship.

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