Saturday, January 26, 2008
Tonight we got together with my dad and his wife for dinner. They had suggested a pretty fancy restaurant, not knowing whether it was kid friendly enough for us. At this point in our lives, we tend to say no to restaurants that have cloth napkins, so they were glad to change plans and go to my favorite restaurant of all time. It’s great Mexican food, the service is fast, and the kids love it. We go there several times a month. Within a few minutes we ordered. I’ve been getting the exact same entree for 30 years, so I rarely open the menu. Sometimes I consider deviating, perhaps to prove I am a risk taker or at least not a stick in the mud. Not tonight—I went straight for old faithful, a bean burrito platter with green chili, and an iced tea.
I had downed half a bowl of chips when my order came. Digging in with my fork, I saw something in the sauce that looked weird. Knowing this dish well, very well, I was puzzled. I reached my finger into my sauce to touch it. Ugh. It was some sort of caterpillar, grub, or larvae over one inch long. This bad boy was not skinny either—it looked like the caterpillar from “A Bug’s Life,” but real, and in my food. To be sure I quickly handed my plate to my husband. I had lasik surgery on my eyes about a year ago, and my near vision is pretty unreliable now, so I hoped I was wrong. My husband gasped and quickly put the platter on another table. I thought he was going to retch. By this time I was in a sweat, I had that mini throw-up in the mouth feeling, and I was fending off questions from the kids. The waitress was on her way over, but before she got there, I had the good sense to tell the kids to go look at it. I realized if this became part of our family lore, they would not forgive me if they never got to see the creature. My husband showed the waitress, whose eyes got like saucers. Quickly grabbing the platter, she headed to the kitchen to show the manager and kitchen crew. I figure the conversation could have gone two ways back there: “Dios Mios! A worm in the food!” or “Ooops! Another one slipped through.”
At this point, the other 5 family members stared at their food, debating whether to eat. “Baskin Robbins?” I joked. To call my dad fastidious would be the understatement of the century (I saw two large bottles of antibacterial cleanser in the cupholders of his car tonight), but he and his wife gamely dug in. When he pulled an offending item out of his quesadilla, we all held our breaths until we saw it was just a wayward mushroom. Phew. It took the kids a few moments longer before they started eating, then my husband followed. I just couldn’t do it. The manager came out, apologizing profusely, but I just could not order anything else. Not even a margarita.
You may wonder if we got free dinner for 6 out of this. No, they took my burrito platter off the bill and gave us some coupons for free entrees on our “next visit.” I’m sure if we had made a stink, we could have received more, but I felt torn between barfing, laughing, and wanting to protect my favorite restaurant from a bad reputation. I think we were pretty discreet, because none of the other tables saw what was going on. Remember that scene from “Stand by Me” when one kid barfs at a pie eating contest, and before long everyone else is barfing too? That’s what I did not want to happen at my all-time favorite restaurant.
We kept it quiet, and then went out to get frozen custard to cleanse our palates. We laughed like crazy, making puns about worms, larvae and grubs. I’m feeling better now, but I am also a little worried. If time doesn’t heal all gross-outs, I may need to find a new favorite restaurant.