I only have 2 absolute requirements when I pay somebody for a meal — but those requirements are ABSOLUTE, immutable and eternal.
1. No fake food. No fake butter. No olive oil “blends.” No fake honey that’s a dab of honey mixed with much cheaper corn syrup. No powdered dairy “whitener” (that’s actually made of hyper-processed corn products.) No fake sugar. No fake salt. No fake bacon. No fake cheese — it should be illegal to call pasteurized, processed Americanized ‘cheese product’ by the noble name of CHEESE. No fake juice that’s all sugar water. No fake cocoa or vanilla that’s clearly “chocolate flavoring” or vanilla flavored instead. No fat-free where there should be fat-luscious. No fake food, period. And if IF IF IF IF the eatery can’t help themselves, and are compelled to offer one of these substitution foods — they should offer it as a CHOICE — plainly stated on the menu. Otherwise, it’s should be posted on the door: Warning: we only pretend to give you real food here. For actual food, drive down the road a little further.
2. If you’re going to charge 25 times the actual cost of a plate of food — it needs to be prepared better than I can make it. It has to be made with HIGH QUALITY INGREDIENTS high quality ingredients (say it again, with me — High Quality Ingredients…) — and have something amazing going fot it — like flavor. Or a bar where everybody knows your name.
Well — I recently wandered into a breakfast joint that failed both tests. Fake butter. Really. Fake butter at a place that has PANCAKE as part of their name. I realize there are a lot of folks who think margarine is as good butter (!) but I suspect they’ve never actually tasted butter. Aside from being unhealthy — margarine and whipped margarine taste AWFUL. And the “spreads” are even worse since most of them have water blended into their oil to make them weigh more — and let their manufacturers sell water for the price of a “breakfast spread.” I’m not sure which I was served — I refuse to chance a mouthful of partially hydrogenated fat, or a cold scoop of whipped spread that refuses to melt, and drains its water into whatever it is SPREAD on, guaranteeing instant sogginess. As soon as I was sure it wasn’t real butter, I moved on to something else.
The breakfast sausage on my plate was cold, hard, and tasteless. The gravy dripped sloppy over the plate — and had tiny flakes of an unidentifiable meat (?) — but there was so little of it, I suspect most vegans could eat that gravy with a clear conscience. And the “cream” gravy wasn’t even made with milk — at least not enough. I suspect about 10% milk — mixed with 90% water and then thickened to death with white flour.
The coffee was luke-warm and pale. And even pale, I still drank a full cup — but was never offered a refill. The eggs were ice cold on the plate like rubber joke shop props. –and at 8:15am, I was one of only 4 customers in the place. I should have taken that as a sign and just left without ordering.
The only possible reason for getting higher than 2 stars when failing my 2 requirements is for substituting quantity for quality. I was a single mom ‘once upon a time’ — and I will accept plain and plentiful portion size when trying to fill a bottomless-well growing teenager. But this cafe’s portions were short — not a real plate full of anything — so they don’t even get that “pass” to an extra star in their rating. Even before tasting their food — I already felt a little cheated because the plate showed more empty (about 60% of the plate) than full. They should get smaller plates so their tiny portions don’t look so cold and lonely.
The final disrespect of customers was how little value there was for the price. The ingredients were so obviously cheap and low quality that it was clear there was no intention of giving customers value for their money. The bill was over $10 — for a plate of breakfast that wasn’t worth fifty cents.
As cheap as breakfast foods are — at wholesale, eggs are still less than .10 each — an omelet should be made with at least 3 eggs — and 4 isn’t outrageous. Flour for pancakes and waffles costs almost nothing per portion — so make sure the plate is full and overflowing! If sausage, bacon and ham are the most expensive things on the menu, then at least go for quality on those.
If you sell real food and high quality ingredients — you won’t need poisonous flavor enhancers like MSG and it’s brothers — and you won’t need a chemistry set of preservatives and additives. Buy fresh and fresh frozen; store cold; and only what you need. Shop suppliers for the best and the freshest — and buy local, cutting out the middle-men of the food industry that seem to only insure the lowest common denominator is widely available.
And most important of all — buy some real fruit. Serve coffee with real cream and real sugar — at least as an option. Serve real butter with the pancakes, biscuits and toast. Fill your bottles with real maple syrup instead of the vile maple-flavored corn syrup. Serve people REAL food — and they will leave full and happy, rather than cheated and hungry.
Eating substitute foods and cheap alternatives is probably at least part of why Americans are so fat and unhealthy — because we’re never actually satisfied and our appetites are never really sated. When we stuff ourselves– trying to feel full and satisfied — we bypass that moment when food can be savored and experienced as pleasure, and the nutrition that could make make the “tank of gas” last longer and burn cleaner.
Real food and top quality ingredients are not optional. This is not a negotiable stand. If you are offering to cook for other people and you call this your profession — then it is your business to offer real quality food. Anything else is false advertising.