Nearly every single vegetable despised as a child is now a fucking "small plate" served at the bar down the street.
"Elevated" "Pub Fare". "Gastro". "Food-Centric". "Craft-Made". "Mom Inspired". "Farm-to-Table", "Saw-Dust" "Seasoned-Cardboard", "Genuinely-Bullshit", "Lunatic-Leaning", "Rather-Crappy", 'Way-Too-Salty', 'Freaky-Fried', High-Margin, ..Just-Plain-Shitty!
My first premeditated civil disobedience epiphany materialized when I was 4 years old, at the dinner table. My defiant guerilla mission was to conceal my undesirable sodden vegetables carefully upon the filthy pull-out ledge just below our retracted dining table. I'm not sure how my siblings did it, but I simply could not eat the Brussel Sprouts we were served. My perfect crime of concealment came to me (like all bad ideas) as an infallible plan. Out of sight, out of mind -- Up from my fork to to rest just below the table -- and I'd immediately be back to playing with toys.
I was soon found out, however, because I didn't calculate vegetable concealment a few feet leftward where my Brothers would be implicated. As it went, The Maître d' re-seated me as penance for my hunger strike, sitting for hours to smell and contemplate my crime at the table alone until well after the ten-o-clock news had ended . I did not win. What IS worse than a warm vegetable which you do not prefer -- Is the same vegetable four to five hours later covered with lint, wood-dust, and teak oil.
"Don't do the crime if you cant spare the time" Don't do it.
Today any astute adult-ish human may notice that all the crap-tastic vegetables which were reviled in ones youth are Couture Gastro-Pub fare today.
If you visit your local bar today, you have many food options of course, but the pretense that the double fried Brussel Sprouts, or the singular "Vegetarian Option" of Beet Carpaccio, are actually the very same Vegetables you would have gladly sat out your parent's detention to avoid. The humble fried Potato now taking a back seat to an entire head of Fried Cauliflower, served with a ranch dip. As for the fool, and their money -- Parting company comes when a person briefly seeks a so called healthy post work-out alternative to nachos, only to find that the "Vegetarian" option is now 4X removed from the vegetable it had grown into. Vegetables are now brined and double deep fried in beef fat. The New Apps are a suitable alternative to the passe' offence of a Burger and Fries, but these are not the "Healthier Option".
The reason for the move by Food service un-towards the ghost of their vegetable past, was (is) simple -- Your rejected childhood culinary health-plan, boiled and blanched Margarine slathered Marginalized garden glory turned to gore, was on the outs circa the bicentennial. All of those peripheral vegetables, would be siloed for the new kids on the block, who would soon be eating Hot Dogs, Hot Pockets, and Canned Soup casseroles . When America fell in love with TV Dinners, the writing was on the wall that what once resembled food would take a hiatus, or even go deep-six undercover on a Nepalese sabbatical for the foreseeable few decades. In 1978, "Food Service Distribution" was not yet a global empire thing. I'm rather sure The butcher and the Milk-man were still banging the "Maid". When I was a kid, the Food Paradigm began the seismic shift, at a time when Pub fare was still a Mixed-Nut machine with a 4o watt bulb, a bowling alley pizza drawer, and the occasional Friday night fish fry at the VFW. A generation would pass recipe cards for clever casseroles blended with Canned soups, shredded cheddar, and Boxed Mixes such as Hamburger Helper. Frozen Entrees would replace baked Chicken, and potatoes. Cordon Bleu would soon come home in cardboard.
Bright colored Jello Molds would decorate the defeated table of gray and gold has-been healthy options. For this you can blame college, and your Mom's returning to work, to pay for it. But it is also fair that the Food Pyramid posted upon every bulletin board was explicitly intended to upsell test-strips and insulin a short decade later.
Of course nobody had updated that pictogram showing your diet becoming that of a baby cow. Grain and Corn. Nobody talked about the Good Fats, nor the Sodium, let alone the sugar, and the Sweeteners. Everybody simply succumbed to the marketing jargon, and the convenience of the freezer aisle, as the serving size grew.
It's also true that when I was small, the rarity of witnessing a Hot-Pocket, an obese person, or a drug ad in the hood, was simply unheard of. We had yet to become full blown dietary fuck-ups. So today, when I get the server's spiel about "Small Plates", "Share Plates" or Some other Mom-inspired Farm-to-Table bull-shit at the local bar... I'm silently rolling my eyes, and clenching my teeth, whilst you explain to me yet again how "this place" does it. Perhaps a reaction to the big Joke which we all sympathetically give a courtesy wave and laugh to.
We know the server will get 25% of whatever horror they put us through, and we also know that the Owner's Mom never cooked a great meal for them. But we go along with the charade.
No... The Comfort-food which the food-service companies delivered to your bar in sous-vide bags, and fryer ready portion packs is actually the same TV dinner you scorched your mouth on in your youth. It's also the same "Food" as Taco Bell heaps upon a cold pastie. But it's "Gastro" Taco Bell, or in essence Chipotle with a full sleeve and a pierced tongue.
The difference was; that the smart marketers of the fledgling frozen food Aisle c. 1978 knew the only vegetable which would be scooped from foil tray into the mouth was: gravy laden Mashed-Potatoes, or Sweet-Corn. Any attempt to dollop something green in the top left compartment would have been met with disdain. The same disdain your Server with the clever gender ambivalence is so quick to explain. Think of our menu as a test to spring you from this internment camp cum gastro-pub. Is it any wonder that now the Gastro-Pub seeks to explain just how and when Small-Plates will rape your dinner party tonight:
1. You will be charged 10-12% for the Server's Quality of life tax.
2. You will be shown a tablet at the table where the tip starts at 25% on top of the tax.
3. Your food will be delivered how and when the "Kitchen" sees fit, and you will deal with it.
4. You will be charged more for your drinks than your plates, unless you've ordered something with an "*MP", which will cost as much as you'd paid in rent during college.
5. Yes, You will be charged for bread -- But it is Artisanal.
6. You will love the Shared table experience, because it's new and edgy.
7. Just Shut up and order the fucking fried Brussel Sprouts, Beets, and Cauliflower openers to share, because we make most of our money on that shit, and the main plates basically suck.
8. Smile and "Like Us" on the socials, because we all dress cool and edgy, and DoNotGiveAFuck.
Why bother with the whole song and dance about fair wage, plus ten percent added for Health-care? Why not just raise the fucking price on the menu, and let's just live with the delusion that dining out once was fun. In the New Normal quazi-1099 short-staffed revolution -- Remember to beg your server for more water without ice, and gently explain to them how to make a dry Martini, so as to not cause them a bad emotion... because all you will get if you are complicit is a giant clever Ice cube which could sink a ship, spritzed with L'Eau de toilette bitters and an 'Old Fashion' disdainful glare.
...Maybe Just stay in tonight?
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.