Authors and American Cuisine: David Foster Wallace At A Fancy Restaurant

by  | June 15

This is water? You call this water? I didn’t ask for tap¹, I’m not the kind of guy who asks for tap; I am, in fact, the kind of guy who gets in a taxi and says, “Perrier, and step on it.”

I’m sitting at a table, surrounded by patrons and waiters, forced to give my order. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t make them hear my words. And so I’m hot pink with embarrassment, sudoriferous in striped flannel, hair a boscage mess behind an old bandana. I’ll try and fail to make a decision w/r/t my meal, but the choices dangle in front of me like some bloated inner-city corpse plopped unceremoniously into the Charles River.

No, I will not take off the bandana, please stop asking.

Here are the things I see: linguini. Salad nicoise. Coq au vin. Chicken Kiev, butter dripping down the fork onto a rose lady’s chin. French onion soup. A man living inside his suit. Steak tartare, so named for the Tartars of ancient Eurasia, who would ride across the plains with raw meat slammed under their saddles. The stress of their trip would soften the meat, and they’d munch it for a snack after raiding a village or two. Another order of Chicken Kiev. Crab risotto. Crab risotto is a great big thing of a meal, isn’t it?

Pardon? You know, I didn’t even consider the lobster, but now that you mention it, it does sound good. What is it served with? Ha! My friend, zestiness is contextual.

Why not try the escargot? Why not not try the escargot, then?

I think I’ve over-fished the seafood options for tonight. Perhaps just some split pea soup, mm? Not on the menu? I’m shocked. This is a supposedly fine dining experience I’ll never do again, that’s for sure.

Now, listen here, garçon, I will set you free, but not until I am finished with you. The roast chicken: Is it made with Tarragon? I don’t mean some withered nuclear-age spice mix but fresh Capital-T Tarragon. And what kind of onions was it roasted with? Every chicken dinner is an onion dinner, after all.

I truly believe that being hungry is caused primarily by choosing a dish for dinner.

My waiter in a too-large three-piece suit, longest coattails in the world, miles of sleeves, infinite vest. He wants me to order a dish, maybe some big red wine, but how does he expect me to do anything when flaws jactitate from the tablecloth. A curious hair amidst our butter pats; “Irouléguy” on the drink menu missing the accent aigu; and to be perfectly honest, sir, this menu could really use six or seven hundred more pages.

I cannot order another green salad. Day after day I’ve resigned to the safety of green salads, Kale King that I am.

Sorry, I’m high² as shit.

Baked like this tofu dish, a terrifying prospect of a meal both flesh and not like yogurt-flavored Jell-O. This restaurant has no idea what cuisine it’s flogging to the masses.

Don’t think I can’t see that ugly man over there eating, my God, beef goulash? Is this December, 1936 Hungary? And such a small, pretentious serving. A mere sip of goulash. Do you expect me to drink brief winter stews with hideous men and pay $120 and smile? To eat a single skewered portabella with a sprig of rosemary aloft and resign myself to yet another mushroom of the system? March on into oblivion, one hand on the remote control, the other in a bag of artisan niche homestyle organic poppy seed gumballs?

I’ll just have a Toblerone. Thanks.


  1. This is not to say that I won’t drink tap, or haven’t drank³ tap, but certain situations demand sticking to moral fibers one never knew existed in the first place.
  2. (−)-trans9-tetrahydrocannabinol  ((6aR,10aR)-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)
  3. “Drank” feels like the wrong tense to use there. I believe this stems from a childhood of fantastical grammatic errancy, in which I believed “drinken” to be a suitable verb and “eye-deer” the proper pronunciation of “idea”.