Food Is About Pleasure, But Please Control Yourselves

Sometimes, once I post a new review, I’ll take a moment to browse sites like Yelp and Citysearch to see what other people think. Sometimes I’ll stumble across a comment that really makes me laugh. Some people really feel passionate about the Bistro I just reviewed. Take this comment:

“This jewel knows food & drink is but signifier of things far deeper & sublime. It embodies excellence. Much care is given to insure deeper things shine through. Joy, contentment, passion, simplicity_the lifeblood of Bistro. From arrival you are welcomed & woven into the “terroir” like you are both royalty & family. Deborah brings a gracious luminous delight as she welcomes you. Her heart of blessing & spirit of celebration make it axiomatic that everything be the best_food & drink quality, presentation, purpose, attitude, staff, nothing is allowed to be mediocre! This desire for excellence is what honours breaking bread together. Their food is their “vision made flesh”, a culinary incarnation of the “sacred.” Simple yet nuanced & balanced, tasty yet fresh & clean, never heavy & burdensome. Chef JJ matches Deborah’s front of the house perfectly, a marriage that rends the veil of time & allows eternity to break in on the meal. Staff is an extension of the vision. A visit to the Bistro will be remembered as one of those magical “time stands still for awhile” evenings full of magic & delight! You depart bubbling over with the life, the fun, the company…restored & renewed & deeply content. If you are searching for exterior signs that confer status and importance, this is not the place for you. Go elsewhere and be dazzled by the inevitable culinary sophistry that is the inescapable result of seeking to make the “road sign” into the destination. If you are searching for flattery that inflates & infatuates, Bistro is not for you. You will be disappointed & unfulfilled. But if you love the essence of breaking bread__community, hospitality, contentment, satisfaction, joy, then this is for you, a Way Station to the Kingdom of Delight! It has my utmost recommendation & gratitude for being honoured with memories and experiences there that will outlast a lifetime.”

Wow! This is one restaurant where I’d like to eat. Strangely, I had just had a thorough sampling of the menu items at Bistro Maison with a good friend of mine, a long time Portland pastor. Since this rave review seemed to have strong religious connotation, I sent him a copy and asked if he had felt the same strong emotions about our meal this person had. He did me the favor of annotating it with his opinion, section by section:

It embodies excellence.

The restaurant seemed very nice.

Joy, contentment, passion, simplicity_the lifeblood of Bistro.

Okay, here is where we enter my turf, religion. Joy, contentment, passion, simplicity … all callings of Jesus upon his disciples. When Jesus raises the cup, he raises eyebrows and say, “This is my blood …”

From arrival you are welcomed & woven into the “terroir” like you are both royalty & family.

I thought our greeter was very nice and let us down easily that there was not a garden spot available.

Deborah brings a gracious luminous delight as she welcomes you.

Jesus said luminously, “I am the light of the world …”

Her heart of blessing & spirit of celebration make it axiomatic that everything be the best … food & drink quality, presentation, purpose, attitude, staff, nothing is allowed to be mediocre!

Blessing and spirit, again with the Jesus words. (Rifles through dictionary for “axiomatic.”)

This desire for excellence is what honours breaking bread together.

“Breaking bread together” … our bread was nice and the butter exceptional, however no where near the “body of Christ” level.

Their food is their “vision made flesh”, a culinary incarnation of the “sacred.”

This is where to commenter becomes out and out creepy. The essence of Christianity is “The Word became flesh …” (John 1:1) But to then say outright, “… culinary incarnation of the sacred. A farm fresh salad is still a salad, even if the bacon is quite tasty.

Simple yet nuanced & balanced, tasty yet fresh & clean, never heavy & burdensome.

Jesus said, “Come unto me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” My corn chowder was tasty yet fresh and not in the least burdensome.

Chef JJ matches Deborah’s front of the house perfectly, a marriage that rends the veil of time & allows eternity to break in on the meal.

The veil of time and eternity breaking through sounds like a steal from Revelations, but upon checking this further only the word “eternity” is found there. Our service was not rushed and timing was good, but not apocalyptic.

Staff is an extension of the vision.

Again the use of visions in Revelations is a key literary element. Reading Revelations can seem like an acid trip at times.

A visit to the Bistro will be remembered as one of those magical “time stands still for awhile” evenings full of magic & delight!

Magic is frowned upon in both the Old and New Testaments. The only time “time stands still” for me is waiting at the doctor’s office.

You depart bubbling over with the life, the fun, the company…restored & renewed & deeply content.

I’m not a “bubbly” kind of guy. And even my conversion to Christianity did not leave me “restored, renewed, and deeply content.”

If you are searching for exterior signs that confer status and importance, this is not the place for you. Go elsewhere and be dazzled by the inevitable culinary sophistry that is the inescapable result of seeking to make the “road sign” into the destination. If you are searching for flattery that inflates & infatuates, Bistro is not for you. You will be disappointed & unfulfilled.

Christ was not about status either. He was most happy when dining with, lepers, tax cheats, and hookers.

I am constantly amazed by comments I see on this and other sites. What is it that makes some people take time to post a comment, just for the pleasure of sending a little jab to someone they have never met? Has our society become so tense, that we can’t resist a chance to feel better about our sad little lives by putting someone else in their place?

I was browsing YouTube the other day, and came across a video of an 8-year-old girl who had cerebral palsy, singing. At the beginning she explained her situation, and said she wasn’t a good singer, but was doing it anyway, because she loved to sing for her family. I admit, I turned it  off after 30 seconds, but then my eyes drifted down to the comments. Hundreds of mean, scathing comments. For what? So people can make someone with an enormously challenging future feel even worse? I don’t get it.

Many people are having a very hard time now, heck, I’m having a hard time. But that doesn’t give us license to be a complete ass. Take this comment, left on the post where we were all poking fun at the concept of deep fried oil.

“why mess around, just go straight for the “fryer grease mimosa” and call it a day. If deep-fried butter speaks to you, well, hopefully it has its logical effect on your health before you get a chance to pass your genes on to the next generation of mouth-breathers.”

This is one seriously messed up woman. Here’s another one. Did the writer really think I’d put this through?

I couldn’t agree with you more. Not only is he a snotty buffoon and an idiot. He is VERY permiscuous and VERY racial. He also likes to play on the flute if you catch my drift;) and swings both ways like a monkey on a tree. I have known the guy for twenty years and he is also a sociopath and loves himself. Sociopaths have no remorse or feeling about anyone.

I’m also seeing an increasing amount of well thought out, literate comments that completely lose their credibility, because the writer can’t resist a dig in the last line at whomever he is responding to. Something like, “…but then you obviously don’t know anything about XXX, so go back to Gresham where you belong”.

I understand that part of my “job” is dealing with criticism of my reviews, and the fostering of intelligent conversation. I know if I post anything which could be construed as the slightest bit negative about smoking, an army of people will feel so personally threatened they have to post some vitriolic response. That’s fine, but do you really think those comments are going to change anyone’s mind about smoking? I  don’t lose sleep over negative feedback, but those who comment to other people in a particularly inane or nasty way, will not be tolerated. I will either rewrite your prose to make you look like a complete fool, or, more likely, will delete them.

To me, food is about pleasure. It’s about love, companionship, conversation, taste, art and soul. It is Yo Yo Ma cello suite written for the experience of eating*. I understand it stirs passion within us all, but let’s keep it reasonable. Otherwise, your comments will join the trash heap.

*I can’t help but wonder, has anyone ever written a piece of music about the experience of eating?

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. qv says

    “I couldn’t agree with you more. Not only is he a snotty buffoon and an idiot. He is VERY permiscuous and VERY racial. He also likes to play on the flute if you catch my drift;) and swings both ways like a monkey on a tree. I have known the guy for twenty years and he is also a sociopath and loves himself. Sociopaths have no remorse or feeling about anyone.”

    I am glad you finally posted my comment, FD.
    But you really should have given me credit.

    Now what are we talking about?

    I will say that online review you just posted of a Bistro (with all the strange psuedo-religious overtones) I am unfamiliar with looks like a PR company wrote it.. a very strange, heavy handed PR company.

    As to online review sites like Yelp?
    Egad, I cannot say enough bad things about them.

    It seems these days dining out is less about enjoying the food and company of the moment and more about scheming out your scathing online review which will be written shortly after getting home.

    Seriously, I can’t tell you how many tables I start walking up to check on only to overhear them planning out their review of a meal they’ve not even completed.

    So, that said.. is dining really about pleasure?
    That is too broad a statement. For some it is for some it isn’t.
    For some it is status, for some its diversion, for some it is finding yet another thing to complain about and for some it is purely utilitarian.

  2. mczlaw says

    Throw anonymity into the mix and you have the perfect storm for incivility.

    I hate to sound like an old fart (though I kinda am), but the rise of incivility is hardly limited to the internet. Hell, we all see it on the streets and on television every day. One can speculate on the cause(s), but the overall effect for me is a lot of heavy sighing, eye rolling and a resigned disappointment with the state of our culture.

    Wish I had a delete button I could use while I’m out and about.

    –mcz

  3. mrs. thompson says

    Hi, so sorry to get out the red pen, but to LOSE something is spelled l-o-s-e. “Loose” is to mean not tight, like a loose thread or loose wheel. “I’m also seeing an increasing amount of well thought out, literate comments that completely loose their credibility” should be “… lose their credibility”. It won’t show up on spell-check, but it’s a distracting grammatical error. It showed up twice on this post and is probably just a bad habit at this point. Sorry again. Your post will be more intellectually credible if everything is spelled correctly. Best to you, love your reviews…

      • grapedog says

        mrs. thompson reminds me of a teacher I had in grade school grammar class years ago. (i’m an old fart too, like mczlaw) After reading her post, I imagine she was trying to figure how to use a ruler on FD’s knuckles as punishment. maybe the poor dear just needs a good meal at a relaxing restaurant in these challenging times.

        • pro-people says

          I’m sheepishly glad I’m not the only one who notices these things. I’m reading “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” right now and it speaks to me! Plus there is simply nothing like droll, British humor. I am the grammar police. I do write for a living so I guess it’s a good thing…

  4. ryan says

    While I agree with your sentiment, you have to admit that you’ve allowed quite a few nasty things to go through, both in your forum and in your comments.

    In fact, I’ve always remembered one particular nasty post on this site. And while, to be fair, they weren’t your words, you decided to post them.

    http://www.portlandfoodanddrink.com/2005/11/26/service-with-a-snarl/

    It’s old, but was rather simple to find, really. I just searched for “frog,” which was the (quite ungracious) term that Carolyn Manning used to describe a French waiter that displeased her. After making fun of his accent in ridiculous spelled-out phonetics. Like she’s Mark Twain talking about Jim, just without the benefit of history to excuse the condescension. Even given the larger point about suffering rude service (which she surely suffered in her case) I don’t see how posting that story added to civility in the least.

    There’s something about motes in eyes that I should quote here, but I don’t know my bible all that well…

  5. Pam says

    Love this, both your commentary and the response from your friend! Nice writing too, loose/lose aside. And I had to laugh at the thought of pollo railing against the internet as he replied via his computer.

  6. says

    Working behind the counter for 4 years now, my conclusion about people is – 99% of our customers are the most wonderful people on planet earth, it is that 1% that made me have doubts about humanity occasionally. Pretty much everyone is having a tough time these days, may that be jobs, money, marriages, children…most of us can handle ourselves quite well. There are, however, a small handful of people whom make themselves feel better by making others feel worse. Yes, they do exist. For example – so what if someone thinks our hot dog is overpriced and they can get one from 7-11 for 99 cents, leaving feedback on Yelp/City Search/Urban Spoon about how expensive we are and wondering how long we’ll be in business. Does it make the world better? I don’t know, but I guess it makes this reviewer feels better. The way I look at it from a business owner point of view – one bad review with no merit will not tank the business, going on the internet to argue with someone about a bad review is just plain stupid and waste of time. That reviewer is miserable as is and I sure don’t need to make another contribution in that direction. If I ever have something negative to say about another person’s business, I write them a letter instead of board casting it over the internet. Last but not least, don’t let the mean spirited kept you down.

  7. Melissa says

    I find the premise of this critique of critiques interesting. One could postulate that FD has the monopoly on discretion and harmony. Therefore when FD decides to villainize someone (as in those who may be mislabelling local foods) then we are ‘fostering intelligent conversation.’ However, if FD finds something trivial, such as an off-handed remark about smoking (which some MIGHT infer as condescending and elitist and in no way related to love, compassion or yo yo ma), then those who disagree have ‘vitriolic responses.’

    While I understand that name calling and insults are poor manners, what rouses one person’s ire versus another is subjective. My background and interests dictate which societal trends I find upsetting and which I assign a laissez faire response. Hence I may become more animated about a perceived hypocracy than where my potatoes come from.

    • Food Dude says

      It is one thing to show that a grocery store is mislabeling foods, but quite another to use a long string of swear words and sexual terms to someone on the site. I’m getting those on a pretty regular basis these days.

  8. JasonC says

    I do find it very useful when people post the same review of a restaurant on multiple sites, because it makes it easier to assume they have a grudge or are hard to please (when it’s a negative review) or have a connection to the restaurant/are easy to please (when it is positive).

    • Food Dude says

      I agree; it’s very telling. I have deleted a couple of comments on this site, when I noticed they carpet bombed every food site they could find.

  9. Food Dude says

    People can write anything they want. They just have to be polite about it. If they are so inarticulate they can’t do this, then yes, they need to go somewhere else. The number one complaint I receive when I ask people why they don’t comment, is that they don’t want to deal with all the haters. Can’t blame them.

  10. skamama says

    Yes, there are songs about food. Here are my lyrics to a Dexter Gordon tune, “Fried Bananas,” which in turn is an alternate melody to a standard, “It Could Happen to You.”

    FRIED BANANAS

    Platanos verde, (Green plantains,)
    o muy maduro. (or very ripe)
    Deliciosa, (needs no translation)
    todo el mundo. (all over the world)
    Yo se que tienes sabor, amigo, (I think they are tasty, friend)
    con gandules. (with pigeon peas.)
    Fritas in la mantequilla— (Fried in butter)
    ooh, por favor, (Oh, please,)
    dame mi amor. (give me some, love!)
    Arroz y ropas vieja (Rice and (a Cuban dish of stewed shredded beef))
    y los pequenos roja. (and the little red ones (bananas, that is))

    I like bananas,
    whether they’re fried or not,
    give me some ripe ones,
    fried and steaming hot.
    I like them with some black beans.
    They’re not yucca.
    So give them just one try and you’ll know
    that you like them,
    give them a try,
    and you’ll really start to fly—
    solo. So why not give them a go.

    By the Skamama

  11. JDG says

    I spent a long weekend in Chicago last summer, and of course did extensive research on where to eat while I was there. lthforum.com is pretty much the Chicago equivalent to portlandfood.org (all forums) and was a valuable resource; after several hours poking around there, I had two thoughts, either:

    [a] Chicagoans are much more civil than Portlanders; or
    [b] lthforum is much more tightly moderated than pf.org or pf&d.com

    I found NONE of the snark that is pervasive here and at pf.org, none of the worthless banter (more characteristic of pf.org). I wondered what someone coming to Portland from Chicago, and doing similar research on our sites, might conclude about Portland and Portlanders, and what such snark and banter does to lessen and dilute the worthwhile efforts that people like Food Dude, ExtraMSG, and many others put into these sites.

    I suspect that [b] is probably more the case than [a], and that there’s probably some cause and effect at play — tighter moderation in the name of civility (and simply good editing) up front probably leads to more civil and productive discourse in the future.

  12. Joisey says

    but quite another to use a long string of swear words and sexual terms to someone on the site.”

    In the future, feel free to forward that stuff to me. I don’t seem to have enough of it in my life at this point.

  13. says

    Quote from Paul Sherwin via Twitter- “African proverb- you will understand if u have been to Africa; The tree with the sweetest fruits has the most stones thrown at it”.

  14. Dee Dee Gustibus says

    I’m completely confused. Someone is passionate about a bistro, so you characterize their online post as something that makes you laugh. Your pastor friend writes a hilarious religious analysis of her post. Then, suddenly, you’re complaining about the haters and online feedback.

    I suspect I’m missing something obvious here. “I am constantly amazed by comments I see on this and other sites. What is it that makes some people take time to post a comment, just for the pleasure of sending a little jab to someone they have never met? Has our society become so tense, that we can’t resist a chance to feel better about our sad little lives by putting someone else in their place?”

    I didn’t find a jab in the bistro commenter’s remarks, unless you count their emphasis on enjoying food over status in restaurants, a jab that didn’t seem to be directed at anyone in particular.

    ?

    • qv says

      The whole tone of your comment assumes there is something innately insulting in saying something makes you laugh.

      I don’t get it.

      There are a lot of reasons why something makes one laugh and I didn’t find FD’s tone particularly snarky… i saw it as bemused.

      So in remarking in your comment about how our society has become so tense… well, has it become so tense that your first response is to take something that could be seen many ways and choose to view it in the one that is offensive?

      This is not meant to come off as an attack you you for your comment DeeDee. You stated you thought you might be missing something obvious and I think what you were missing is insight into FD’s intent. The which I am not claiming to have either but I chose to take his post in a lighthearted way and you chose to see it as a snub… this is the rub of most human interactions, no?

  15. Dee Dee Gustibus says

    Um, because I didn’t understand the connection between the bistro reviewer’s post and Food Dude’s complaint about haters and commenting?

    I am unlikely to read that as a snub except in this case I was actively re-reading this whole post, attempting to find why Food Dude felt so insulted or snubbed by the bistro review that he proceeded to launch into a whole essay about haters and nasty commenters. Genuinely trying to figure out how that innocuous bistro review related to haters and nasty comments.

    • says

      DDG…Ignore the negative. It is not worth the energy. I own the Bistro Maison that fd opened this very interesting post on. The reviewer that used alot of religious overtones in his experience with us is a customer that represents a segment of our customer base that walks through our doorway weekly. I was actually overwhelmed and truly touched by his post and personal email to us. We are lucky enough to receive them weekly. For those that want to comment that they don’t appreciate or even ridicule the ways in which others express themselves, take a flying leap(maybe of faith)

  16. Dee Dee Gustibus says

    If Food Dude would come on in and answer I’d probably understand. I don’t need to ignore the negative; just wondering how people’s minds work.

  17. PDX-NYC says

    Touche, Lilybelle. While I thought that the prose in that diner’s “review” was extremely overworked and looked like something from the 19th century (and the pastor’s comments in response truly hilarious IMO), I suppose that we can’t just assume that all these things couldn’t possibly be genuine. To each his own…

  18. Felicia says

    “I can’t help but wonder, has anyone ever written a piece of music about the experience of eating?”

    I think Lionel Bart put it best in this little number which has been a favorite of mine since childhood:

  19. Felicia says

    …And for those of you who are interested, someone else took the time to compile this weighty list of compositions relating to humans’ obvious love affair with food and eating:

    http://www.mixedup.com/foodsongs.htm

    I mean- it’s an activity we perform, on average, 3 times a day & is essential to our survival. That warrants some notation, does it not?

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