Sunday, November 24 2019

late church, madison restaurants, and surgeon jenga

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Sunday to everyone out there. This morning, we're all sitting around the table enjoying some French toast. Going to bed last night, when Marissa and I calculated our wake up times, for some reason we were hell bent on waking up at 8, convinced the morning would tight. But we were wrong, and here we are leisurely enjoying breakfast around the table with plenty of time before church. The take-away here is that 11 o'clock church is the best. You can stay up late, sleep in a bit, cook breakfast, and somehow still have time to go to church. So here's to the 11 o'clock church service - ride or die!

Yesterday was a wonderful day - once Marissa returned with the emergency coffee traveler from Moka. Before then, I was just wandering around the upstairs of our house like a ghost. Once Marissa returned with a box of coffee and I had the first sip, I felt empowered to start breakfast. We treated Chris to a typical Recker family Saturday morning breakfast. A pair of Dutch babies and bacon. We took our time around the breakfast table, digesting and drinking coffee, then head out for the day. The plan was to take a little walk around the Atwood neighborhood to leave some art fliers in the coffee shops sprinkled around the downtown area. There were even more coffee shops that I knew about. As it got later into the afternoon, we deliberated on a place to eat lunch, and we settled on Lao Laang Xaang, the Laotion place on Atwood ave.

Lunch was tasty, but the whole experience dredged up an unpopular opinion we have about Madison, and that is most Madison restaurants really suck at hospitality. Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of places that have good food. But you may have to wait an hour for it, and your waitress might huff if you ask for a water refill, and if you try to order an appetizer it will be forgotten the first time. Yesterday we watched our waitress nearly collide with a bus boy in the dining room and she quietly but audibly cussed him out. She dropped a plate of crab rangoons that was still dripping with scalding hot oil in front of Rodney. For the hour and a half it took to eat lunch and leave, we probably saw her three times, and two of the times she complained about how they're running out of dishes in the kitchen.

I know it sounds like I had one bad experience and I'm crudely fashioning this anecdotal evidence into an ill-thought conclusion, but we have plenty of other stories. We've only been cooking regularly for ourselves for about a year, and for the first five years of knowing each other, Marissa and I were habitual restaurant hoppers. "If you had to guess," I later asked Marissa, "what percent of the visits to any typical Madison restaurant amount to terrible service experiences?" Marissa paused for a moment and answered. "Sixty percent of them are bad." Anecdotally, I agree. And having already gotten plenty of flack from the Madisonian locals for this theory, I'm well aware that I'm not going to prove anything to you. But for any Madisonians out there reading this, ready to rush to defend the restaurant scene in our beautiful little city, all I ask is that you start keep track of how often it takes an hour to get your food, how often a restaurant will get your order wrong, or - probably the most egregious thing of all - a waiter makes you feel guilty for showing up when it's busy. The worse part about this is that Madisonians are kind, and most of them probably apologize to waiters and waitresses that are short with them, or concede to eat their misplaced order and not make a scene. The uncomfortable truth is that most restaurants in Madison can make good food, but most of them are also taking advantage of how nice the locals are and don't take the same pride in giving people a good dining experience. And like I said, I've given up trying to prove this to people. Madison is growing, and if I'm right, the other shoe will drop, and soon even the good, long-suffering people of Madison will run out of patience for restaurants that treat patrons like an annoying roommate who keeps raiding their fridge while they're trying to get work done.

Just putting that out there. It's a harsh criticism, and it bubbles to the surface of my brain whenever a friend or family member comes to visit. If we eat out twice with them, there is a good chance they're going to go home with a restaurant horror story. We're just tired of being embarrassed by local restaurants

OK, back to the happy Saturday recap. After lunch, we walked to the grocery store and picked up some things for dinner. On the way home, the bag I was carrying ripped, but luckily the two bottles of red wine were spared, and only the olive oil broke. The garlic, cheese, and beef rolled onto the sidewalk slick and shimmering with oil. We piled the groceries into Rodney's blue car stroller. We got a lot of funny looks from neighbors pushing a little blue car with two bottles of wine in the toddler cup holders, but it gave us a good laugh.

We napped as the beef simmered on the stove, and ate dinner in the evening. Afterwards, we played Jenga. I'll tell you this, reader, if you ever somehow get tied up in a situation where you need to play jenga competitively, it would be good to have a trauma surgeon on your team. Chris probed the wiggly jenga tower with the dexterity of… well… a surgeon. Somehow the analogy is less powerful when it's just the truth.

Well, time to close this entry off. All the time in our generous pre-church morning has waned, and somehow I'm only left with ten minutes to shower and make my self presentable for church. Hope you all have a wonderful day today.