a burr on one’s mind

I’ve had some important conversations over the last couple of weeks, but this particular question has been on my mind a lot.

It all started when I went for a run one evening, and then went out to eat a burrito. As I finished my dinner, it occurred to me that my house is approximately equidistant between this Mexican place at which I was eating (Guzman y Gomez) and a burger place (McDonald’s), but I always choose burritos over burgers. Whether I’ve had a late finish at work, I need to refuel after a run, I’m too lazy to cook, or just feel like eating out – regardless of the occasion, I have always chosen burritos.  Continue reading

possibly the best garlic bread I will ever eat

Have you ever gotten that feeling when you eat something so frickin’ delicious that you sort of melt inside, and you feel like your life is complete and you can die happy? Is that too big a call?

Let me put this in some context: When it comes to eating out, I like to try different places, and actually won’t return to the same restaurant very frequently even if I loved the food and the service was great. I suppose it’s similar to my approach to books: I have so many books that I want to read, so it’s hard to go back and re-read my favourites, knowing that I’ve got a huge backlog of other books to read. But I fully intend on re-reading those books at some point (maybe in several years’ time).

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top pick

I have a super power.

Well, ok, it’s not really a super power. Maybe a skill/talent. Maybe just plain good luck. Maybe I’m just smart.

Let me explain:

Whenever I eat out – be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even the in-between meals, brunch and afternoon tea – I have an incredibly high success rate when it comes to picking delicious menu items.

Even going to pretty average sort of places, I will, quite consistently, pick out the good dish. Other people, who order different things, may have certain issues with their meal, but, more often than not, I am very pleased with my choice.

Of course, this could also be (partly) because I’m not overly critical or harsh when it comes to judging the work of others, but if something is bland or out of balance or poor value or whatever, I’ll know it’s not a great dish. It just doesn’t happen that often.

I’ll admit, though, there are some tricks to what I do. Some things you can’t go wrong with (at least, I’ve never gone wrong with). For example, if we were to go to a restaurant and there’s a dish with scallops or lamb or pork (particularly if it’s slow-cooked), chances are I’m going to order that dish. Also, if there’s something on the menu that’s a bit unusual, like offal or bone marrow or just some unusual combination of flavours, I’m more inclined to order that item.

Sure, I eat a wide variety of food (and I love food in general) so I’m more likely to enjoy a dish than someone who’s more picky, but I feel like there’s got to be some logic behind these fail-safes.

Well, it’s no surprise why scallops and lamb work: my favourite seafood and favourite protein. (Pork comes in a close second to lamb.) As for the second group (I’m only thinking of this now, so I could be wrong), I reckon if the chef is game enough to put something a bit unusual on the menu, they’ve got to be very confident in the quality of it because it’ll probably only be the dedicated/adventurous foodies who give it a go. And they’ll post all over social media if the dish is phenomenally good or phenomenally bad.

(The assumption here is that dedicated foodies will pick a strange dish over a more traditional flavour combination. More people, in general, may choose the standard dishes, but a lot of these people won’t care enough to spread the word about it. Or, if they do, it’s not as important/critical because they’re not proper reviews…?)

I also like picking dishes that sound like they have a decent amount of vegetables, particularly if it’s for dinner. Now, I don’t need it to obey healthy eating guidelines about plate portions or whatever, but I will tend to avoid choosing dishes dominated by meat and carbs. Nothing wrong with meat and carbs (of the right variety) but I like to be a bit health-conscious.

Strangely enough, I find that I make the worst menu choices when I choose a dish because it sounds like it would be the healthiest option (or the least unhealthy). Ok, yeah, the nutritional value of a dish should be an important consideration, but if I’m eating out, it’s not going to be the main determining factor for this very reason.

To be fair, there are a lot of healthy foods that are delicious. However, I’m mostly talking about typical restaurant menus here – places that don’t have a strong health focus, just a taste/trend focus. Also, I don’t eat out very often. After all, it tends to be the weeks when I’ve been eating out too much that I start leaning more and more toward the “healthy” options.

moving forward

I feel like today has been rather unproductive. That’s probably not such a bad thing, but it doesn’t feel great either.

Today was a public holiday – our annual show holiday – so I had the day off work (thankfully). I had a good sleep-in, went to a friend’s place for lunch, came home to type up some notes about IVF drugs… Ok, maybe it wasn’t completely unproductive. Maybe? I kept getting distracted while typing up my notes. It’s been one of those days when my mind wanders constantly.

I’ve still been reading “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” (by Richard Flanagan). After work yesterday, I felt like eating out, so I went to a little restaurant in the City. It’s near my train station, so I’ve walked past it a few times; it’s intrigued me but I’ve never been inside. From the outside, it looks small and cosy. Once inside, I realised it’s actually quite spacious and well set out. There’s a lovely bar/lounge area that’s probably as big as the restaurant itself. The place is called Nest – simple and elegant.

I no longer feel awkward about eating out alone. I don’t know if other people get that or used to get that too. Sometimes I actually prefer to dine alone. Some nights I can’t imagine anything better than having a meal at a nice restaurant and sipping wine/cocktails while reading a good book. I just need to find places that have suitable lighting.

I’m really enjoying TNRDN but as I’m reading it, there’s a part of my mind that’s still stuck at an earlier point in the novel. It’s like a loose thread that gets caught on a barb or thorn, and everything unravels as you walk on so that even though you’ve moved forward, you’re not all there anymore. I’ve always found that it’s easier for my mind to let go of something – or at least loosen its grip on something – if I write it down somewhere. That somewhere usually ends up being this blog. (That’s part of the reason why I need this.)

The barb that has caught my mind is right near the start of the book, less than 30 pages in. It was the point at which I knew I liked the protagonist – “liked” in the sense that I could understand him, sympathise with him, and commit to reading the rest of his story. Perhaps this part isn’t even that important – I’ve wondered if maybe Flanagan put it in because that’s how he, himself, feels – but it’s a part that’s resonated with me.

“A good book, he had concluded, leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul.”

And that’s not even the best part…

“He believed books had an aura that protected him, that without one beside him he would die. He happily slept without women. He never slept without a book.”

I pretty much share these sentiments. I’m not 100% sure about the part about books having an aura, but I’m sure that, without books, I would probably die. Of course, not in the literal, corporeal sense, but in the sense that some part of my soul would die.

You know, something that I find funny is that, in all this time that I’ve been reading TNRDN, I haven’t noticed any significant smell or scent from the book (I love the smell of books – there’s such a nostalgic quality in it) but just then, as I had the book open while I typed out those two quotes, there it was. Even though my sinuses are still half-blocked from this cold I’m recovering from, I could distinctly smell the pages of the book. It’s such a minor yet momentous thing for me.