Ada — I was in a restaurant the other day, and it hit me that except for the artisan hamburger — served with locally grown sweet potato fries on a homemade pretzel bun dressed with the chef’s own brand of mustard — there was very little on the menu I would have recognized as food when I was our server’s age.
Most of the words on the menu — potstickers, edamame, California rolls, ciabatta, wraps, bloomin’ onions, pad Thai, naan, chipotle, tilapia, Mongolian beef, latte, mocha, gluten-free, bruschetta, sushi and sashimi — would have been a mystery to me. Even the section titles would have tripped me up.
“Pasta? What is that?” I would have asked, never having heard the word before. My mother made spaghetti. Everything else was noodles. Pasta? We’d eaten a ton of it without ever realizing it. Of course, back in the Dark Ages of Dining, we never would have heard, “My name’s Nevada and I’ll be your server tonight,” either. And she wouldn’t have had a tattoo of barbed wire around her neck, a ring in her eyebrow or been wearing a T-shirt with the logo of her favorite band on it: “The Little Buckets of Spit.”
Thirty years ago, if you saw chicken wings on the menu, you would have gotten up and started looking for another restaurant. What kind of person would order a chicken wing on purpose? Now they’re so common, you wonder if there are enough chickens in the world to supply all those wings. Some mad scientist is probably trying to develop a chicken with eight wings as you read this. Another is working on making them boneless. You have to wonder what they did with all the chicken wings before they became so popular. Or maybe you shouldn’t.