Gute Vorsätze - bis zum nächsten Regen (engl. Originalversion der Kolumne in der htr vom 20.03.2014)
In an ideal world, we would only ever hang out with wonderful people and eat at wonderful restaurants. Unfortunately human nature prevents us from reaching this utopia. Because, in spite of all negative experiences, we’re hardwired to the concept of convenience.
‘Convenience’ is a word that should never be applied to food. Convenience is responsible for culinary horrors like Pop Tarts (if you’ve never seen one flying out of an American toaster, consider yourself lucky). Convenience is responsible for plastic cutlery, UHT milk, boil-in-a-bag curries, and those pre-peeled miniature carrots that look like tiny amputated fingers and can be microwaved in their horrible perforated transparent wrappers.
There’s always an excuse to revisit a mediocre restaurant. The day after, you loathe yourself. But when it’s pouring with rain, and there’s nothing in the fridge, and you have an early start the next day, and you don’t want to travel by train across town or choose a ‘Designated Driver’ who will spend all evening staring disapprovingly over his water at everyone else getting drunk and then start yawning and jingling his car keys before dessert has arrived – well, on those evenings it seems like perfect sense to step out the door and walk one block for yet another mediocre Spaghetti Carbonara in your mediocre local Italian. Hell, it even saves time! You know the menu so well you don’t even have to read it.
There are a number of substandard eateries in my Berlin neighbourhood, which – due to laziness, or ‘convenience’ – I visit more often than I should. So familiar am I with their faults, I’ve nicknamed them accordingly, as you do with irritating colleagues. There’s The Slow French (thirty minutes for a drink, a good sixty for food), The Grumpy Italian, The Never-Sufficiently-Spicy Thai, The Randomly Closed Tapas Bar, and The Rubbery Pizzeria.
Last week my friend and I had great plans to try a new Asian restaurant far in the west of Berlin. Just as we set out it started to rain. My friend had an early start the next day. And the previous day, I’d twisted not one ankle but two. ‘Shouldn’t we just –?’ suggested my friend.
We ended up at The Slow French, of course. It was only appropriate, considering I was moving at the pace of a snail. I tried to stem my guilt by reasoning that even one block is a long way when you’re limping on both feet.
After fifteen entirely expected minutes of inattention, my friend went in search of menus. And in the space she left behind, I saw a flicker of movement. Something was scurrying between the bar and the tables, and it was moving much faster than your average waiter.
Before you could say ‘rodent’, I was twenty metres along the street. Who cares about a torn ligament or two when faced with whiskers and a tail? But it remains to be seen whether this is enough to reform me. Will I boycott gastro-mediocrity at last? Or will I simply forgive and forget, rename the place ‘Le Petit Rat’, and visit the next time it rains…?