Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Available Upon Request

The other night Lisa and I went to dinner at IHOP. I usually order something called a "Breakfast Scramble," which is some scrambled eggs made with Egg Beaters, with some yummy veggies mixed in, with a side of healthy (possibly) pancakes. I love it. It's tasty and just the right portion size. This night, however, I couldn't find it on the menu. I was looking at the back page where the healthier options reside, but my beloved scramble was nowhere to be found. There were other options, but nothing had the combination of things I like. Available options were pancakes with fruit, or eggs with ..I don't remember what, but not a combination that appealed tome. The waitress ambled over and asked if we were ready. We weren't yet.

Then, I saw it. I had realized that the menu was redesigned, but had been having a hard time interpreting it, and thought it was just because of the new layout. But then I noticed something ... ominous. Ugly. Unappealing. At the bottom of each entry's description were some numbers. A line of numbers. Three to four digit numbers. I couldn't figure out the code...until...it dawned on me. Calories. Frikkin calories. Not only could I not find something I wanted, but to compound my decision making process, I had to think about numbers. About fat content. About how much exercise I was going to have to do to work off a serving of German pancakes. Or a Denver omelette. Ugh.

The waitress wandered back. I asked some questions about the "healthy options" menu, and she was very uncooperative. She informed me that while yes, I could have pancakes instead of fruit, it would be the same price as if I ordered just the pancakes as a side order. Because, she explained, "this menu is for people who are on a special diet plan." I'm not sure if she meant I had to have a doctor's note to order, or if she was just looking for ways to boost her tip, but it was annoying. So then I asked for a regular breakfast meal with pancakes and eggs, but to please have the eggs made with egg beaters instead. She was going to charge me an extra dollar for that, which...no. Just no.

I later found on the menu that I could request egg beaters as a substitute at no additional charge. I pointed it out to the waitress AFTER paying the bill (didn't want my already less-than-desirable meal spat upon), and as I was driving away, saw her perusing the menu with a coworker trying to determine if I was right. I was.

We vowed to not go back to IHOP. Not only was the service less than stellar and I could NOT get what I wanted upon request, (at least not without an additional charge,) but the added pressure of having to choose not only between this and that, but if this or that with having to weigh in caloric options as well, it was just too much. I wanted to just relax and have fun time with a good friend. Instead, I had to do math. And deal with potential food guilt. No matter what kind of math you're doing, those things do not add up to a good time.

Then last weekend I went to the movies. For years we've gotten away with bringing outside food into the theater. There are tons of eateries in the neighborhood and pedestrian malls, and with busy schedules, it's just easier to grab a meal and bring it into the theater. It's not so much a blatant disrespect for the theater, but a meal of popcorn or nachos just doesn't cut it. This time though, I couldn't ignore the MANY signs requesting no outside food or drink being brought into the theater. Okay, fine, I grumbled to myself. I settled for a compromise. I still brought my Chipotle lunch into the movie, but begrudingly forked over a small fortune for a Diet Coke instead of bringing a much less expensive one from the restaurant.

While I was standing in the concessions line (Chipotle bag safely and discretely stowed away in my purse), I scanned the options on the fancy digital menu/price listing. It's certainly not your mom's concession options anymore. They've branched out to offering items like individual pizza and chicken fingers in addition to the traditional movie fare of popcorn and candy. I was looking for prices, but the only numbers I could easily find on the digital readout was...Yes, that's right. Calories.

SERIOUSLY???? I go to the movies to relax. It's not enough that you have to be willing to part with a hefty percentage of your weekly paycheck just to gain entry, and then have to dig into your 401k for snacks. You sit there and mentally go over your budget and financial options instead of fully enjoying the movie. But now, I can't even sit still because I want to do a mini sit-n-tone exercise session to work off my popcorn. I wouldn't have felt like that if I didn't know I was consuming enough calories to get a small child through the day. I don't want to think about that stuff! I just want to relax!

I'm an adult. I have more than a rudimentary awareness of cause and effect. When I eat, there are consequences. I get it. Why must I be reminded of it in the situations I want nothing more than to just relax and enjoy myself?

Today I went through the drive-through of El Pollo Loco. As I was waiting for my order, I saw something in the service window that fairly made my heart sing and stomach soar. "Nutritional Information Available Upon Request."

Thank you, El Pollo Loco. Finally, an establishment that understands I don't want to have to think. I want to put stuff in my pie hole, for a reasonable price, without haggling about my options, and without having to do nasty caloric math.

If I get fat eating there, it's my own darn fault.

Speaking of fatties, a new season of my favorite reality show is starting tonight. Stay tuned to this channel for my next entry about my fatties and the dumbest thing I've ever heard one of my spin students say. And that's saying a lot. I've heard some doozies so far.

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