rants

Trimming the Fat: In Defense of Dumping Food-Averse Friends

Do not get stuck eating with these people.

Do not get stuck eating with these people.Photo: iStockphoto

To paraphrase something food artist Jennifer Rubell once said, we all have a finite number of meals left on this Earth, so we'd better make them count. Why, then, do people happily pay oodles of money to eat at middling (and sometimes downright vile) restaurants? It's their prerogative, of course, but the problem is these misguided souls will occasionally foist their bad taste on people who actually enjoy food, and put us in situations that require we waste one of those precious finite meals. This is unacceptable, and for the most part, it is okay to completely disassociate with these people forever.

Of course, there are no-win situations where you'll have to swallow your pride and some bad food. They almost always involve the workplace: Some hapless colleague orders greasy sheets of pizza into the office for a working lunch, with a side of gloppy, overdressed Caesar salad. Or your boss (or a potential boss, in the case of a job interview) will invite you out to a one-on-one lunch at some sad steakhouse, a tavern-y chain, or a sushi joint that's empty for a reason. In all situations like this, you'll be forced to weigh just how important your job is with how much the meal is going to suck. If your boss suggests lunch at a Ponderosa Steakhouse, you are fully within your rights to quit on the spot — future employers will understand.

While you might not have much control over your corporate diet, your social life is a different story. Don’t you hate it when some happy idiot in your group suggests dinner at a hideous, expensive restaurant? And everyone else chimes in to excitedly agree? What do you do? Stay home and play Words With Friends, or suck it up and endure a foul, and possibly overpriced, dinner? My friends should be paying me to eat here, you think as you dejectedly throw your debit card into the pile.

There’s no excuse for this kind of behavior among friends.

You'd be better off eating alone, then meeting up with your friends for drinks after they scarf down their chicken quesadillas topped with scoops of industrial sour cream and a scattering of unripe tomato chunks.

Of course, if ditching these people will result in a lifetime of hermetic obesity, suggest dim sum, tapas, or buffets. There’s something for everyone (and they’re a good value, too). Sure, your pals might be scared and order something silly, like pork dumplings, and then just push them around on their plates — all while quietly yearning for frozen pizza. That’s not your problem. You, the enterprising diner, will be free to inhale every tendon and garlic-drenched appendage in sight.

And if the dumpling-pusher in the above scenario is a significant other, proceed cautiously. Bad taste in food foretells bad taste in other areas. The thrill of romance will take you just so far; know that you cannot pretend to like slimy pad Thai forever. Grub Street suggests getting out while you can — there's no point in harboring the misguided belief that you'll be able to remake your beloved into someone who appreciates good food. You might savor a few small successes, but deep down, he or she will never relish food as you do. You will live a lie.

Ultimately, life is too short to endure horrible food. Unless your livelihood depends on it, stand your ground. Eat that second lunch. Keep the palate-challenged friends at bay. And remember that a satisfying dim-sum feast is always more worthwhile than a food-impaired friendship: It's cheaper, spicier, and a lot more fun.

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