Fine dining redefined

Fine dining redefined

Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:02 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt

I’m cheap. My husband’s cheap. We’re all about frugality at our house. But, sometimes it’s appropriate to throw caution to the wind. On a recent family mini-vacation, we decided to drop some cash at a fine dining restaurant in the tourist section of a touristy town.
We entered the restaurant with both our boys in tow. Upon entering, it became evident that all other patrons had taken a special bath within the last few hours, in honor of the evening dining experience. But not us. We had been vacationing all day. While a hearty hand washing seemed perfectly reasonable, a full bath and clean clothes would be overkill in our feeble estimation. After all, this wasn’t the Academy Awards. It was just dinner. The place was so crowded that they had developed a very meticulous cattle-herding philosophy and corralled my family and me somewhere in with all the people who had bathed. I have now developed a lot of compassion for cattle coming down the chute. Rear end to rear end. No choices involving neighbors. And incidentally, the bathing thing really hadn’t been that great an idea after all. All the clean and fancy women’s perfumes began to mix together with the steak smell. Nauseating. At least my family contributed to a more “natural” aroma amidst the crowded conditions. I’m sure people were thankful for our presence.
I’m not saying for sure that the hostess was in cahoots with the waiter. And perhaps my lack of oxygen while pinned up against the wall made me a little more prone to delusion. But I feel certain a little prejudice was going on against a family who hadn’t bathed and who had two boys with cowlicks. The waiters took one look at us … and pegged us as the water-ordering chicken sandwich-eating crowd that we were. We waited and waited and waited. They thought they could weed us out. They thought we’d crumble and give up. But they had no idea who they were dealing with. You see, we had already determined to blow a lot of money in this cattle-herding place … and no amount of personal discomfort or inconvenience was going to thwart our grand accomplishment.  
After 45 minutes in the cattle chute, our calves were starting to bawl, I mean complain, pretty heavily. And we began to question the “fine” part of the “fine dining” experience. By the time the hostess seated us, we were a little pale and more than ready to ask for saltines and a jar of peanut butter. But, of course, we didn’t. Are you kidding? We used our uptown manners. We asked for four glasses of ice water and a bowl of lemons. Eleven lemon wedges and 27 packets of sweet n low later … we had four glasses of fine lemonade. An industrious lot we are.
The experience was a learning opportunity for the boys. The waitress was actually friendly and kind and the grilled chicken … well, it wasn’t half bad. But the greatest lesson was provided to me concerning our culture, our American “way of life.” Sometimes we probably don’t recognize real prosperity when we see it.
The expensive restaurant was OK. But it wasn’t near the fine dining experience we’re blessed to have every night around our own dining room table. Pinto beans in the crock pot, cornbread in the oven, quiet conversation or raucous laughing. Good food. No waiting. I hope these are the fine dining experiences my boys remember forever.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website

Published in The Messenger 3.23.11


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