On a typical day, I am cool as a cucumber. I swear.
I am the quintessential social diplomat. I avoid confrontation. I’m calm and level-headed. Most things tend to tickle my funny bone long before they ruffle my feathers. That’s just how I am. Most of the time it’s good to have a long fuse, and sometimes maybe not. But that’s my personality. I let things roll off my back and I simply don’t get pissed off very often.
What could go wrong in Gatlinburg?
But, on rare occasion, my inner wolf claws and writhes, struggling with a sudden and surprising rage to break free and howl at the proverbial blue moon. I never know what is going to coax that damn beast to come forth from its cage, but when she gets a whiff of her prey, it’s already too late. She cannot be tamed. She cannot be reasoned with. And last Friday, to my utter bewilderment, while at dinner with family on vacation in lovely Gatlinburg, TN, my wolf broke loose without warning. What was the prey this savage beast got a whiff of, you may wonder?
Chicken parmesan with a side of spaghetti. And no, I don’t yet totally understand it either.
The day started off innocently enough. After a few hours of running around town doing vacationy things, the 6 of us were gathered in our mountain-top cabin discussing dinner plans. A couple people suggested an Italian restaurant in downtown Gatlinburg that supposedly had some of the best cuisine of its kind. They said things like:
You won’t believe the rolls! Their sauce is amazing! People rave about their pizzas, too! Oh, and they serve beer!
Pump the brakes. They are in possession of cold beer?!? (This is when I should admit that by the time they finished that last sentence, I was already in the car waiting. And possibly honking the horn. And possibly missing any other details about the restaurant they may have been sharing.) So what? I like beer. I’m sure I’ll cover this issue in more detail in later posts, but suffice it to say right now, at that particular point of our vacation I had not yet been afforded the opportunity to imbibe, and I was ready. I mean, it’s VACATION, y’all. ‘Nuff said.
So, we round up the caravan and began making our way down the mountain, en route to the
beer Italian restaurant. We got lucky with a close parking spot (score!) and our relatively large group was sat right away. No waiting! In almost record time, we had our dinners ordered, garlic rolls on the table and I had a beer in front of me. The salads were served promptly and our jovial group was talking and laughing and discussing tomorrow’s plans as we noshed with content. By dining standards, this was shaping up to be a most magical evening. But for one diner (me), the evening would take a sudden turn. My jovial self was about to turn into a juggernaut of confusing, senseless anger – set in motion by this simple phrase:
Who ordered the chicken parmesan?
At the moment I hoisted my hand to identify myself, everything was still peachy-keen. But then it happened. The totally-innocent-of-any-wrong-doing waitress set my order in front of me. And I looked at it. That’s when it all went bad, folks. The wolf had tore itself from my body and was now tromping recklessly across the table. What ignited her fury? What was so damn terrible to provoke such madness? The answer is simple albeit baffling. The source of my instantaneous resentment – portion size.
You heard me right. This entirely too dramatic episode that sent a pacifist into a tailspin was centered around my fervent belief that the restaurant brought me WAY TOO MUCH FOOD! The audacity!!!
I regret not taking a picture of it to offer as evidence here, but my mental state at that instant wouldn’t allow for anything to interrupt the moment I was having. But in my defense, let me attempt to explain.
The dish was approximately 12×9 inches. (Isn’t that the size a fucking serving platter should be???) My meal, which was the standard chicken served over a bed of spaghetti covered in sauce, was heaped to such an obscene extent that it was literally spilling over the edges of the
platter plate. This made cutting into my chicken a nearly impossible task, as it would ultimately just lead to even more of my meal gushing onto the table. I tried alleviating some of the pressure my inadequate dish was feeling by swirling up some spaghetti noodles to eat, but with each twist of my fork, the irritation churned louder within my body. This was freaking ridiculous.
Naively, I thought I was masking my disgust with a commendable level of success. After all, the whole group was served their meal at the same time I was, and they were surely distracted by their own eating rituals. But not two minutes in, the question finally came:
Hey Whit, is something wrong with your food?
I think someone else chimed in with the comment, “Yeah, you don’t look too happy.” It was then I noticed my lips had been tightly pressed into a grimace and I could feel the tension of my furrowed brows. I took a deep breath, relaxed my faced and in a surrendering tone uttered,
This is just way too damn much!
And that’s when I hobbled grumpily onto my soapbox and started muttering phrases like:
- What were they thinking?!?
- Who could possibly ever eat this much?
- Think about how much food they must throw out!
- Every time I take a bite, two more regenerate in its place! It’s multiplying, I swear!
- This is what’s wrong with American Society today!
- Someone call Michelle Obama – SHE’LL UNDERSTAND ME!!
I felt a mix of both passionate and pathetic. I felt threatened. I was being crushed under the weight of too much food as the images of every single bloated belly starving child flashed in my vision. I felt like no one understood why this was such a deplorable situation, least of all me. I was looking for answers and possibly an apology from the universe. My family must have seen the crazed look in my eyes, because they quickly took to comforting me, using arguments such as:
- It’s okay. Just eat what you want and leave the rest.
- Think of all the tasty leftovers you’ll have!
- I’d much rather get too much for my money than too little.
- At least you won’t leave hungry!
- Would you like a refill on your beer?
And just like that, the storm had passed. The waitress plopped down a second frosty mug of golden goodness as I gently coerced my wolf back into her cage. I was still frustrated. I remained steadfast in my beliefs. And that plate of pasta was still sitting in front of me, mocking and intimidating. But the worst was over. I could feel it. My family had rescued me from the pits of despair just in the nick of time; just before I could shake my fists at restaurant staff or stand on a chair to rally the other patrons to my side with an epic speech. Crisis kinda averted. I mean, that’s what family is for, right? They look out for you, and they know better than most how to comfort you during times of distress. Don’t get me wrong; I hated their comments. Their rebuttals had zero substance. But they offered me beer, and that’s proof enough they really get me. It’s proof of love.
In hindsight, I still don’t quite grasp the real reason for the meltdown. But I was there, and it was real. Some silly spaghetti noodles tried wholeheartedly to take me down. Where were you the Friday of May 16th, 2014, the day of the “Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti Noodle Crisis”? Hopefully, you were somewhere safe. Somewhere the protein on your plate was the size of your fist, as it should be. Hopefully not at the table next to us. Hopefully.
Keep calm and eat on.