It's probably an understatement to say that I consider eating food to be one of the most important aspects of my life, almost so that my go to punchline regarding food is that if someone guaranteed me that I would be given any meal at any time, I'd be willing to drop all that I have and take that offer (Jesus first though, of course). I'm not going to go into the science behind our cravings for food or how our survival instincts kick in the moment we see anything consumable as I know nothing about what I just said. This post is more of an overview of the various thoughts I have regarding eating, covering pet peeves, food I generally like, eating behavior and why I think eating is so essential to human beings (outside of a survival perspective). Much of this revolves around the idea of sharing a meal with someone, but is definitely not limited to a social atmosphere - I'm actually a big proponent of eating alone as well, which I consider to be one of my biggest stress relievers. As I've noted on this blog before, my dream job would be to be paid to eat three different meals with three different people every single day for the rest of my life. Keep that in mind as you move forward with this post.
By now you can tell I take eating very seriously, and much like when you come across others who take things seriously you can care less about (for me these are things like college football games), this next section of the post could come across as rather pretentious. I'll be open to criticism from all angles, especially when it comes to the pet peeves I'm about to note, but please know this is probably one of maybe two areas of my life where I'm very particular.
For starters (word play intended), I despise the idea of wasting a meal. I'm not indecisive when it comes to picking where to eat as I have a pretty wide array of "go-to" restaurants that I'm open to at any given point, but simply eating just to satisfy hunger might be the greatest act of crime in my book. Probably part immaturity and part a result of my upbringing, the moment I recognize that the meal I'm about to have is a result of a need rather than a want, I feel as though I'm about to quite literally waste the stomach capacity that I have for that certain meal. When it comes to dining out, it really has nothing to do with the price, the vibe nor the company I'm with, but rather the meal itself as it pertains to "wasting my life" with this terrible choice. I'm not saying that every meal has to be perfect, but I'd rather not have my limited appetite capacity be fulfilled by cereal or meat loaf.
Koreans will probably understand this next part but I'm also a huge advocate of finishing everything on the table with all the side dishes and mains clearing at almost the same time. It's almost a mental math exercise of constantly re-proportioning the amount of the food right in front of you along with the numerous side dishes on the table (I guess the most widely relatable example would be Korean BBQ, which I don't really consider Korean food but more on that on a later post) so that your last bite finishes off the entire table in one scoop. I think this is more of a family culture for me as my paternal grandparents always emphasized the importance of clearing your plate, partly in acknowledgement of how blessed we are to have food on the table, to not let anything go to waste and show appreciation to the person who prepared the food. I do think the "negative" side effects of this is often overeating without even thinking about it, but I've gotten through this recently by simply ordering less to begin with.
This next part is also partly a family value and more of a self-derived value but I think it's important to buy your friends (especially if they're not currently working or if they're significantly younger) food once in awhile as a sign of gratitude for their friendship (the weirdly professional way of saying it) and just to show off once in awhile (just kidding but not really). I'll talk more on this later in the post where I discuss why I think splitting bread is such an important activity, but I don't think anything feels better than a surprise "free" meal. It definitely should not become a regular thing nor should you expect the person you're paying for to reciprocate, but if you're meeting someone for the first time in awhile or this is a group you know you'll be with for the rest of your life, I promise that one meal won't change your ability to pay for that down payment on your next house and rather strengthen the friendships that will fill that house at your weekend get togethers. Note that I'm not encouraging paying for companionship, rather highlighting that this is a nice gesture that can go a long way.
Table manners is not something I considered until recently, but I don't think one can say they enjoy food without embracing the manners that must come with sharing a meal. It doesn't have to be extensive and no need to pull out every chair that you see before someone sits down or have your pinkies up as you drink tea, but filling others' waters as they become empty without them explicitly asking, trying to avoid spilling too much and restraining from double dipping all subconsciously contribute to a great meal. This should apply externally too, as Reddit reminds me often that one of the biggest turnoffs for both genders is when the other is rude to the waiter - I have slightly mixed feelings depending on what your definition of "rude" is as they are being paid to do the job and being a part of the service industry with tip on the line does somewhat give the customer to exercise their rights to receiving good service as well, but definitely does not condone inexcusable behavior. I don't think there's much of a gray line here and you know if someone is being unnecessarily rude or if the service at a particular restaurant clearly sucks. I would love for someone to explain to me the recent "mandatory service charges" that are being added to every receipt that has nothing to do with the pandemic, especially someone who manages a food place that doesn't disclose such charges prior to the meal being started. The "if you don't want to pay up you shouldn't eat here" argument doesn't hold if this isn't disclosed until the entire course is finished.
I tend to enjoy food that everyone can share together, whether it'd be a three course meal with the breads and salads of the world being shared in the middle, as this allows for opportunities to try multiple dishes without paying for all of it. I used to be a big order one big thing and eat all of it type of guy, but as I age I'm siding more with the school of thought that every first bite of a dish can't be beaten. You could argue that a buffet would best serve this purpose, but most buffets (even the Vegas ones) are always focused on quantity over quality and I don't believe the average human being can get a good return on investment. Buffets wouldn't be a thing if the numbers people behind the venture figured that you could always get the best bang for your buck there with "unlimited food." I feel the same way about waitered buffets like Korean BBQ and shabu shabu where people bring you the "unlimited food" as the meat (or sushi or whatever) quality is always on the lower end and the pace at which you eat is at someone else's discretion.
I'm rather indifferent about cuisines and can genuinely say I'm open to anything and have enjoyed all types of foods (seriously - not in the manner that your girlfriend says she's down for anything for dinner). If I had to play favorites, with much of this fluctuating depending on the time of day and who I'm sharing the meal with, I'd place Korean, Taiwanese and Italian at the top of my list. Considering my genetics and other lifestyle habits, the only reason I've ever had the chance to become fat is because of my obsession with carbs, as I have a tendency to vacuum up rice, pasta and bread. Meat is definitely on my close friends list and seafood is probably that one friend I like hanging out with but have no problem living without, with grass (sorry that's what I call vegetables) at the bottom of the list. I'm allergic to most fruits, don't drink soda outside of rare occasions, probably had candy at most 5 times in my life and have only recently gotten into desserts. Alcohol is more of a social tool for me rather than a means of consumption, although my age has allowed society to infiltrate me and brainwash me into thinking that a beer with food is refreshing. I don't really believe in the "this place is really known for this" mentality as I've lived in urban, suburban and rural areas and while there are obviously the 3-star places that serve food that melts in your mouth and Chinese diners that also happen to serve Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai food with both the chow mein and drunken noodles looking the same, I think there are hidden gems everywhere as well as expensive restaurants solely expensive because the hotel it belongs to told it to charge $30 for a cheeseburger. I don't think I've ever had a pleasant experience waiting in line for something that couldn't have been easily fulfilled by driving through an In-N-Out and saving three hours of my life. I will say waiting three hours for Din Tai Fung or Menya Ultra is always worth it, but those are anomalies and there are second tier replacements that basically do the same job for me.
Food is awesome and sharing food with people you like is incrementally more awesome. Someone please pay me to eat in front of the camera. Let me know if you have any recommendations in the Orange County / Los Angeles area.