Monday, June 8, 2009

Temple of temptation

I went to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch today with a group from work. The Cheesecake Factory may just be Ground Zero for dietary temptation. I picked this location as I figured it was a festive atmosphere and the menu was so big that everyone could get what they wanted, including me. I did think the big portions would be hard to resist, as I remembered their food as tasting good, but I figured I'd eyeball the right amount and put the rest in a to go box. It was kind of shocking to me how much my mindset had changed once I got inside. The Cheesecake Factory is just a slightly more polished version of McDonalds. 

Everything about that place is so over the top that nothing was appealing. It was the restaurant equivalent of driving a Hummer. So ridiculous, gratuitous, bad for everyone for so many reasons. I didn't like watching people shovel in massive amounts of food. Most people ordered salads, and only two didn't finish. People talked about eating what was in front of them as opposed to what they needed. I kind of smiled to myself thinking about a book I'd just read about that very phenomenon. Most salads were full of cheese and crunchy things and only moderately healthy. Ironically, I ordered a tuna sashimi salad that was actually not really enough food. Well it was more than enough tuna but it had no starch at all - no rice, nothing. I wasn't even all that full and I ate the whole thing.

I politely passed on the bread, and felt all eyes upon me. I tried not to judge the people who ordered pasta with cream sauce. Don't you care about your health??? We did share some cheesecake, which I kind of scoffed at, perhaps even a bit rudely I fear, and I had a few bites. The Godiva one was pretty damn good, although a few bites was enough. 

The "festive" atmosphere I remembered was kind of sterile and sequestered-feeling. It was a lovely sunny 80 degree day, but the daylight was cut off like a Vegas slot room, and it was FREEZING even with a sweater. The book/menu was of course overwhelming. The whole event was just so unnatural. I was with my closest work-mates but the conversation was still a bit stilted. I can't really blame that on the Cheesecake Factory, except that somehow I was not relaxed. I wasn't worried about making bad choices or going over in points, I was just uncomfortable with the whole Temple of Gluttony atmosphere of the event. A picnic in front of our office building with fresh air and tuna sandwiches would have been much more relaxing. You can take the girl out of the Pioneer Valley but you can't take the Pioneer Valley out of the girl, I guess.

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