You dine like a coward

Most of the time, I try to be understanding of other people. I realize that everyone is raised with different values. I know that expecting everyone I meet to tolerate my beliefs is short-sighted and self-centered. But I am tired of feeling like a martyr. I am tired of feeling persecuted for my own beliefs, and I am tired of continually explaining that feeling to other people who could never understand how it feels for me as a young, middle class white man. Even my high school days, spent rising and grinding every single morning to get that bread and chase my dreams as a student athlete, failed to prepare me for the struggles that await me every single day.

I am tired of getting thrown out of restaurants for eating the napkins.

Have you ever seen restaurant notices claiming that we napkin-eaters are unwelcome? That our habits are so foul, the slightest nibble will justify our public humiliation? Do I deserve punishment just because I love the dry, inescapable tack of napkins eaten one after another? Have I been a Bad, Bad Boy?

I love all-you-can-eat (AYCE) buffets as much as any other insatiable American. I admire any business built around challenges, and AYCE buffets are some of the best examples of this competitive ethic. While other restaurants might bully you into pre-selected portions and a deliberate eating pace, buffets look you dead in the peepers and say, “Come and get it, you coward. Our selection of pre-cut Jell-O cubes alone is enough to overpower your weak, un-American gut.” But my personal experiences have exposed these posturers as the true cowards of the national dining landscape. When I find the secret reserves of food disguised as dining fixtures, they claim I have “gone too far” and created “a disgusting spectacle of gnashing teeth and frothing spit that would make Hannibal Lecter lose his appetite.” Cowards!

This injustice is indicative of a larger cowardly epidemic spreading throughout our dining habits. We have allowed arbitrary limits to dictate our actions for far too long. It is time to cast off the bibs of cowardice at the dinner table. As I have mentioned, one of the most deplorable examples of this cowardice is the passive refusal to take advantage of a genuine AYCE offer. If the restaurant truly wishes for you to consume everything you could possibly eat, then you must avail yourself of the dining fixtures in the restaurant. Servers and managers who attempt to curtail your efforts are merely trying to preserve their profits. Silverware, drink glasses and the stuffing in booth seats are some of the more expensive items on the secret menu, so it makes sense that they would try to prevent brave patrons from eating them.

There are other cowardly dining practices too, of course. One egregious failure on the part of the collective American constitution is the continued use of forks, knives and spoons. I have demonstrated the true purpose of silverware in restaurants, and the traditional use of the tasty silver morsels baffles me. Using silverware, especially multiple pieces in a single meal, is a practice fit for cowards and traitors. Even our nation’s favorite alternative to Harry Potter for Bathroom Reading Material confirms this, as the use of silverware is unequivocally condemned in the Bible. Unfortunately, the New Testament has lost some of its original specificity in the last two thousand years. In the original edition, as my fever dreams have shown to me, Judas was paid for the betrayal of Jesus with thirty silver forks and spoons. These Devil’s Tools are still in use today. There is only one option for anyone who lists “Exceptional Bravery” as a skill on their resume.

Eat with your hands, you frail tapeworms leeching off the withering husk of this red-blooded nation. There is a reason that state fairs, the largest assemblies of valor and verve, have few dishes that cannot be eaten with your trusty fingies. The true Spirit of Bravery lives in finger-food and eating all other food with utensils is nothing but gross misconduct.

This extends to every dish, regardless of its consistency. Some of you might be clutching your pearls at the prospect of queso hands, but I dare you to look me in the eyes and tell me that eating spaghetti would be less fun if you could stick your hands straight into a mound of saucy noods and brandish a dripping handful for all to see. Eviscerating steak with your bare hands is the best way to display your bravery on a date and consuming fistfuls of sushi will do nothing but demonstrate your unbridled respect and love for the dish.

There is another common dining practice that reeks of cowardice. This plague has spread through all age groups and classes, infecting fancy restaurants and cafeterias alike. I have even witnessed this behavior at our own university. It represents not so much a fear of accepted dining practices than it does a fear of something primal — the inescapable human state of loneliness.

I speak, of course, of couples that sit on the same side of the booth.

You have undoubtedly witnessed this crime against human independence. Despite the absence of other friends dining with them and a perfectly usable, unoccupied side of the booth, these symbiotic Twin-Boothers will sit next to each other, gazing out over the rest of the dining area in silence like two speechless cattle chewing their cud. Even cattle only eat their meals together because we box them into small spaces to make our burgers juicier.

“But Dan,” you might say like the slippery devil’s advocate you are, “you need to be more open-minded.” Fine. I suppose that I, too, have once been so afraid of the looming specter of loneliness that I could not bear a single meal without hip-to-hip contact with a loved one. If I went more than twenty minutes without rubbing shoulders with my girlfriend, I surely would wither and die from the cold breeze of independence. I also harbor such an extreme fear of eye contact with any person, even my significant other, that I relish the opportunity to stare ahead into a room full of strangers. One day, I hope to find the courage to sit across the table from my girlfriend like a functional adult, but until that day arrives I will continue to inhabit a shared zone of personal space like a creep at a dinner party who thinks the pinnacle of subtle “flirting” is repeatedly bashing his arm into yours over the course of the night. Oh, woe to the significant other who must bear a moment of shared experience without the semblance of cuddling! Our relationship is predicated on physical contact alone!

I am tired of sheer cowardice wreaking havoc on the dining experience. I ask each and every one of you to find what courage remains in your hearts and return to the days of bravery and unabashed hunger, when both sides of the booths were used and our hands were streaked with flecks of napkins and barbeque sauce.