Fast Food

It occurred to me over an ice cream sandwich that I eat very fast.

OK, the ice cream sandwich is an extreme example since it was roughly the size and width of a dish sponge. Though the restaurant in Karlin was somewhat full, I had no idea what the people were doing at the tables. It’s an ice cream sandwich restaurant and ice cream sandwiches are the only items on the menu. It took me one minute to eat it, which for pragmatic reasons couldn’t have been dragged out any longer (ice cream melts). Are they lounging at the tables waiting to indulge in a second sandwich? For me, entry, ordering, sitting, eating, paying, and leaving was all completed in about 4 minutes.

Still, this isn’t far from the norm for me. I grew up with three siblings, so eating was always a hybrid of speed race and contact sport. More than once we walked away from the table with split lips and indigestion. I don’t know if that’s why my dining experiences are over in moments, but they often are.

When I cook at home, which is 90% of my meals, I often find myself victim to the common complaint that I cook for an hour and then I’m not hungry. I pick at salad, veggies and hummus, or crackers and cheese while I cook, so perhaps that’s the reason. But even when I do sit down to eat it’s usually over in just a couple of minutes. I thoroughly enjoy food, but I suppose I fall into the category of those who eat to live rather than vice versa.

If I eat at work, I scarf down a bowl of meat and veggies while hovering over my keyboard. The Czechs in my office enjoy a long drawn out lunch, since it’s their largest and most important meal of the day. They sit at tables in their office rather than at their desks, and work their way through a three or four course meal – soup, meat and potatoes, salad, dessert.

When I eat at a restaurant I order, eat, and leave. No doubt national custom has something to do with it. In Italy and Spain people dine for several hours, leisurely strolling through a series of courses, taking company with friends and family. Nobody is in a rush. In the United States, however, this is not so. The waiters are taught to turn over tables as quickly as possible, more customers equaling more money. We (obviously) have an entire cuisine named after eating quickly and with as little human contact as is humanly possible. In the Czech Republic the waiters are taught to drive you away so that they no longer have to deal with your pain in the ass face. Additionally, the Czechs don’t put as much stock in dinner as they do lunch, so there isn’t the custom of ordering appetizers and desserts like in an American restaurant.

No doubt this falls in with my inability to relax and be in the moment. If my parents are any indication of my future, it’s going to get worse. My dad likes to be at a restaurant by 4 p.m. to “Avoid the crowds.” When it’s suggested that we could partake in this tradition of making a reservation he acts as though we are throwing tomatoes in his hair. “It takes too long to get the food.” I always rolled my eyes, now I sort of get it.

What I still don’t get are the people at that ice cream sandwich restaurant. How many ice cream sandwiches can you eat?

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