For the last several years, there’s been a trend against tossing salad ingredients in a bowl. Instead of a correctly-prepared salad, I am presented with a gated community — a lawn of lettuce topped with segregated communities of tomatoes here, cucumbers there, turkey on one side, ham on the other, bacon next door, cheese around the corner, croutons on the patio, etc. When I ask the server to ask the chef to toss the whole thing so it’s well-integrated, they always look at me like the next thing I’ll do is upset the whole social structure by letting Miss Jane Pittman glance at the dessert menu.
Recently, I ordered a salad in a place that I know doesn’t mix the ingredients, so I purposely told the waitress to have the chef toss the whole thing in their honey-mustard dressing. When it arrived, it looked like the picture above — with the dressing on the side. I reminded her that I had asked for it to be tossed, and she replied, “The chef told me she tossed the lettuce, but this is how we serve it.” Tossed the lettuce — but not everything else? Sorry, that’s not a thing. I repeated my request, explaining that I wanted a combination of the flavors of the various elements of the salad, not a bite of tomato followed by another bite of egg, followed by another bite of cucumber. She looked at me as if I was insane, then took the bowl back to the kitchen. When she returned with it five minutes later, finally, everything was mixed together — and delicious.
Am I the only one confused by this trend? How about the upscale restaurant where I ordered a caesar salad, only to have a full, uncut stalk of romaine lettuce brought to me with some parmesan crumbles and dressing poured over it. Isn’t it the job of the salad guy in the kitchen to cut up the lettuce, throw it into a bowl, and combine the other components?
I’m also not enamored of restaurants that want me to prepare — or finish preparing — the meal. I don’t mind putting my fajitas together from the various parts brought to me on a sizzling skillet and a side plate. But I won’t go back to a fondue place where I’m brought a burner, a pot of water, and various cubed meats on skewers, which I then have to cook until it’s done properly. If I’m doing that (and keeping track of which skewer is mine while having a conversation with my table-mates), what am I paying for?
By the way, fondue is not cooking — it’s boiling, which is a horrible way to prepare meat.
The same goes for Mongolian grills, where I’m forced to choose the ingredients for my meal from a meat-vegetable-sauce smorgasbord. Truth be told, I have no idea what spices and sauces are used to prepare my favorite Chinese dishes or what makes them so delicious, which is why I go to places where there’s a chef who was trained in exactly those skills. The one time my wife and I and another couple attempted to prepare a Chinese meal in our home on New Year’s Eve — from wonton soup to two or three entrees — it took over four hours and we didn’t eat until 1am.
When I order a Pepsi, you don’t bring me a cup of syrup and a cup of carbonated water and tell me to mix them to my liking. When I order a meal, I expect more than just a group of ingredients. If it’s a hot meal, I want you to cook it. If it’s a salad or sandwich, I want you to put it together. That’s why we have restaurants — because we’re too lazy or inept to do it ourselves.
Maybe my response should be that when they bring me the check, I’ll give them random digits of my credit card number, and make them figure out the correct order so they can get paid.