Columnist Natalie Ladd at the Portland Daily Sun muses on the impact our own prior expectations have on our enjoyment when eating out.
This is certainly not the case in business as we expect things to meet or exceed our standards based upon experiences tucked away in our “frame of reference” file. In a restaurant for example, we may be disappointed in a perfectly delicious, beautifully prepared, half-pound, medium-rare burger served with a mountain of hand-cut fries for $17, as this price point may seem offensive and unwarranted. Even if the food meets or exceed the standards of quality tastiness, the overall end result becomes null and void by the number of zeros on the meal ticket. I witnessed this very incident while sitting at a bar of a well known, carnivorously-oriented hot spot just last week.
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This is interesting because just today I started the novella ‘Roast Beef Medium’ by Edna Ferber, and was wondering how I was going to share introduction with you and then here is the perfect post. So here it is:
Seated at Life’s Dining Table, with the Menu of Morals before you, your eye wanders a bit over the entrees, the hors d’oeuvres, and the things a la,though you know that Roast Beef, Medium, is safe, and sane, and sure. It agrees with you. As you hesitate there sounds in your ear a soft and insinuating Voice.
“You’ll find the tongue in aspic very nice today,” purrs the Voice. “May I recommend the chicken pie, country style? Perhaps you’d relish something light and tempting. Eggs Benedictine. Very fine. Or some flaked crab meat, perhaps. With a special Russian sauce.”
Roast Beef, Medium! How unimaginative it sounds. How prosaic, and dry! You cast the thought of it aside with the contempt that it deserves, and you assume a fine air of the epicure as you order. There are set before you things encased in pastry; things in frilly paper trousers; things that prick the tongue; sauces that pique the palate. There are strange vegetable garnishings, cunningly cut. This is not only Food. These are Viands.
“Everything satisfactory?” inquires the insinuating Voice.
“Yes,” you say, and take a hasty sip of water. That paprika has burned your tongue. “Yes. Check, please.”
You eye the score, appalled. “Look here! Aren’t you over-charging!”
“Our regular price,” and you catch a sneer beneath the smugness of the Voice. “It is what every one pays, sir.”
You reach deep, deep into your pocket, and you pay. And you rise and go, full but not fed. And later as you take your fifth Moral Pepsin Tablet you say Fool! and Fool! and Fool!
When next we dine we are not tempted by the Voice. We are wary of weird sauces. We shun the cunning aspics. We look about at our neighbor’s table. He is eating of things French, and Russian and Hungarian. Of food garnished, and garish and greasy. And with a little sigh of Content and resignation we settle down to our Roast Beef, Medium.
You can find the full text on Project Gutenberg: