It wasn’t always like this. I used to think that large chocolate bars were for a certain group, those with overhanging stomachs and fat cheeks that sported scraggly beards. I thought it was for those whose future lay in a reality TV show which involved very large clothes and the title, “My 300 Lb life.”
I had just had a successful business meeting. Even the terms I was reluctant to request were offered to me on a platter.
I left their head office with a spring in my step and felt my tummy rumble- all I’d had for breakfast was lemon water. I felt sufficiently hungry- and deserving- of a decent lunch, like Wagamama’s or Nando’s. I craved sautéed vegetables and well-seasoned chicken. Or breaded prawns dipped in mayonnaise. Or fried rice with mixed meats (and the meats not cut too finely). Armed with my phone map, I pulled up directions to the nearest Wagamama and began to make my way, all the while having a debate with myself on what reaction I’d have should I walk past Nando’s. I can never have enough of their fino creamy mash. Plus I like chicken too- although I’ve switched to turkey and lamb as our meats of choice at home. Perhaps I’ve missed having chicken, maybe that’s why I was already feeling powerless against any upcoming Nando’s sign.
Wagamama had a large board advertising Ramen. The play on words said come ramen in. (Come right in). That was a problem. My mind skated back to a YouTube video I watched last year where an endoscopy was done on a person who had just eaten ramen. It apparently takes twice the time to digest as normal food does. As I type this I still don’t know if ramen is the same as noodles, I only know that hubby’s colleague is supposedly ‘nuts over ramen’ and university students ‘live on it’.
I try to peer through the cracks of the tourist family of 5 who have spread themselves in front of the menu board outside.
I scan the area for another menu board and my eyes are drawn to a large poster advertising succulent steak. Right beneath it are the words; “Lunch Special, £7.95.” My fate is sealed with that glance. Like a sheep to slaughter, I make my way into “Steak & Co.” I wait in anticipation for my meal. I’ve ordered The lunch special- Chicken on a Bed of Fries. It arrives.
Now I have a problem with sauces that match the main meal. Chicken, fries and now this white mushroom sauce are all shades of the same colour. It does nothing for my appetite. I pray fervently that it tastes good. I start by dousing my meal with black pepper and salt. I can tell by just looking at it. My fork locates a piece of chicken hiding under a thick blob of sauce. My mind immediately conjures up a picture of Chef Gordon Ramsey as he goes to those failing restaurants to revive them.
“What’s this?” He barks.
“It’s our lunch special,” the trembling waitress replies.
Chef Ramsey is known for his temper and foul mouth.
He digs into it, tastes the chicken and shouts for the manager.
“When did you buy this chicken?!” He is now tapping his fingers on the table.
“Err 2 months ago.”
“Chef, it’s frozen and hasn’t expired..yet..”
“Are you telling me that you, a fine-dining restaurant serves frozen chicken? It’s a wonder you’re still in business.
“This is absolutely, absolutely disgusting.” And he slams the table with his white napkin before announcing; “Right, we closing this place down”
The above scene is played out by me, except I am Chef Ramsey and I don’t actually call for the manager.
“How’s your meal madam?”
I offer a fake smile, “Not good.”
I surprise myself. Ever since hitting 40 I say what I think. It is so liberating,
“Really? Why?” The 5ft 3in waitress feigns pain.
“It’s bland, not very nice at all.” I use my fork to show her the drenched fries, the sickly sauce and the obvious puke-factor of the meal.
“The only reason I’m eating it is because I paid for it. Can I have the bill please?”
“Sure, I’m so sorry, I’ll tell…them.”
Toks, why are you eating it just because you paid? Isn’t that double jeopardy? Bad enough you’ve lost £10 now you want to create a horrible memory too? Who did you offend?
I push the food away and wistfully long for the age when I’ll be brave enough to ask for my money back.
The waitress returns with the card machine.
“So!” She starts cheerfully, “where are you off to next?”
I want to tell her I would have gone to Nando’s but it wouldn’t be fair for their waitress to mop up my mess since I’ll be projectile vomiting the Steak & Co ‘Lunch Special’ at the next place I step into.
I don’t. Instead, I say, “Home.”
“How nice!” She chirps. “Very lucky, so work is done for the day then?”
Can this heifer not see that I am pissed at their crappy food? Did she not hear when I said it wasn’t nice? And did she not say, “Sorry I’ll tell them?”
I leave the building after fighting off the urge to advise the American couple on my way out to run before their food arrives. But then again who knows? They may love it so much this might be the reason they saved thousands of dollars for a trip to London. This might be their star attraction.
And that’s why I bought and ate a 120g of Cadbury’s Whole Nut at Victoria station. To erase the taste and the memory of the steak co, and to pacify myself after the loss of £10 and 35 mins.