Captain’s Log 4,411
I had the strange and challenging experience of dining at a Benihana restaurant last night. Roomie had some gift cards and it was someone’s birthday, so I was invited along to share a very expensive and adventure-filled meal. First of all, I am not impressed with culinary wizardry that involves flames anywhere near my body. Give me a good veggie burger or some rolled tacos and I am happier than most. But the Benihana experience is not that simple. You have to sit around a hot grill and watch comedian chefs cook your food while they twirl sharp knives and make volcanoes out of raw onions. Not my deal. I would not have been upset to just stay home and read a book, but Roomie insisted this would be fun AND give me fodder for this journal. She was right on the last thing.
When we sat down, it became immediately apparent that even the “vegetarian” items on the menu would be prepared on the same meat grill with the same instruments – oozing about in the same meaty juices and small bits of animal friends. I poured over the menu to find something that would not be cooked in front of my face. I chose miso soup (safe bet) and vegetable tempura. Diet Pepsi. Other people were ordering spicy hibachi chicken, some sort of filet mignon thing, etc. I knew this was going to be a really long and drawn-out meal, and I looked desperately for some Zen to get through it.
Zen was on vacation. I could not find it anywhere. It’s hard to find your veggie Zen when the grill in front of you is filled with chicken breasts and huge hunks of raw beef. When the twenty or so shrimp were placed directly in front of me and the chef started butchering the tails, I felt the bile rise in my throat. I honestly thought I was going to have to get up and go outside to retch. But getting out and away from the table would have displaced two other diners, so I sat there and chewed on the lime of my Diet Pepsi – anything to take my mind off what was happening right in front of my eyes. Lime is an excellent distraction. I had four Diet Pepsi’s with fresh lime. Bless the wait staff for keeping those coming like clockwork.
The smell of cooking meat was pervasive. The entire restaurant reeked of it. Fish, chicken, beef – all mixed together with the stench of sauteed onions. I do NOT like onions, and they were frying everywhere! Oh GOD!
The chef must have felt sorry for me because he kept offering me cooked animal bits right off his spatula. No thank you. How many times did I say that? Oh GOD! I caught him right before he was to plop some shrimp bits next to my miso soup bowl. NOOOOOO!
When I thought we could finally get up and leave, they brought out a pot of green tea. I don’t like that either, but I hung in there and drank a bit of it to be polite. After almost two and half hours, we were ready to leave.
I am always a polite person. Even though I expressed no interest in going, I went along to be polite. I rode in someone’s car, so I couldn’t just leave half-way through the meal (before horking because of the fish smell). I didn’t want the birthday girl to feel upset in any way, so I endured. I smiled whenever I could, but since I was on the end, it was easier for me to disengage from the conversation and concentrate on keeping myself as calm as possible.
When I got home, I made myself a nice bowl of cereal and enjoyed it without the clattering of knives or the stench of cooking meat. I spoke with Roomie about it later and she understood how difficult that whole experience was for me. If I was a health vegetarian, I could have had an easier time. But I am not a vegetarian for that reason. It’s a moral issue that has driven my spirituality for 37 years. The Benihana experience was an enormous challenge for me. I will never go back regardless of the circumstances. I just can’t do that.
Roomie felt badly, but I assured her it was fine. I learned. We all learned. Just as I am not cut out for hunting, owning guns, or voting Republican, neither am I capable of sitting at a table at Benihana for even a moment. Good thing to know.
I found some Zen later with my new fairy lights. Serenity in the garden. Simple and uncomplicated.