Friday, July 28, 2006

Act Like You've Been to Town Before

I am not a cultured person. As much as my dear father tried, I'm not sophisticated at all. After years of nice dinners, theater tickets, concerts and ballets, I'm still the goofy easy going girl I've always been. My father tried so hard to teach us grace and etiquette. Now I'm not Jethro, but I'm not Sophia Loren either. I don't always know what fork to use at dinner, and I am not familiar the intricacies of a seven course meal. My idea of a nice meal is one that includes a waiter and a scrumptious dessert. After one occasion in Washington D.C. when my father took us to the Palms, I made a mess getting bread and crumbs all over the table. My father sighed, looking distressed as he shook his head at my Mom and sister who were giggling over my slip up. "Come on folks," he'd say warily. "Act like you've been to town before."

Well, all those memories came rushing back tonight. We went to P.F. Changs with our friend Dave, who is very appreciative of the food/wine atmosphere. He enjoys fine food and wine and the atmosphere of restaurants where the presentation of food is important. He likes leisurely dinners with stimulating conversation. Don't ask me why he chose to go to dinner with me and my husband.

My husband does well in nice dinners, but the whole time he's always restless. You can tell he doesn't like having to dress up and just wants his belt off so he can burp and fart. Normally, he shovels food in his mouth like it's a race and loves to bolt as soon as he gets the check. I can't say anything against this, because I hold the record for eating a hamburger smothered in mayonnaise, bbq sauce and shredded cheddar cheese in a minute and thirty seconds. That's right, don't mess with my food. I generally tear into my food like a shark and surface with a mouth ringed with sauce and crumbs. I have never understood the phrase "small bites" and tend to inhale large chunks of food. If asked a question, I simply shove all of it to one side of my mouth and try not to spew spit in the person's face. My hands are simply extra tools, and the evening is a success if I don't get a stain on my lap or shirt. For Ben, it is a success if he doesn't get three or four stains on his shirt or pants. We are not the type of people you want to take to a nice restaurant.

But poor Dave has undertaken the momentous task of trying to make us appreciate culture. For a woman who was investigating taking a job because it had a pet farm and she could pet goats all day, he might as well teach a baboon to play the violin. During dinner, he ordered a lettuce wrap appetizer and tried to introduce us to the joys of fine Asian food. He was interrupted by the ravenous inhaling of the wraps as we both shoved as much tufu mix as possible into them. I had manage to decorate the table with several chunks, which the bugs found delightful.

Still, he shouldered on. He was explaining the atmosphere concept when Ben decided the table was wiggly and should be fixed. Then Ben focused on the fact there were bugs everywhere (we were dining outside) and spent his time trying to catch a fly with his bare hands. It was at this point Dave started to give up.

He really gave up when Ben began to obsessively yell at the bugs, screeching "GO AWAY! DAMN BUGS!" He would then point out where the bugs had been, and slap the table sporadically to scare them off. After a bug crawled down his shirt and into his noodles, that was it. He was done.

After 21 years of my poor father trying to teach me culture, poor Dave tried to teach us in a night. I have the feeling I will be eternally Jethro- there's just no point in teaching this Texas girl about wining and dining. I got married at a bbq restaurant for crying out loud. I think this battle was lost a long time ago.