There are still people who use margarine rather than butter, and what you do in your own home is certainly your business, but when I go to a restaurant, and I include any place that serves food in exchange for money in that category I expect the real deal. Not so long ago I met a friend for breakfast at a diner that sounded OK, and was equidistant from each of our homes. When we got there it seemed sketchy, but, we reasoned, how badly could you mess up breakfast? Oh, how naïve we were back then.
Kristin thought I was brave to order an omelet, I cannot recall what she opted for… Like at most diners I had choices with my eggs; toast—rye, potatoes or grits—grits. I am a fan of grits since the first time I had it, and I can remember that meal clearly. I was in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and I was fourteen. I had no idea what grits were/was (?) we didn’t have grits on Long Island, they were still strictly a Southern dish. They arrived all white and creamy and topped with melted butter, a liberal addition of salt and I was in love. But I digress. Now I exercise the grits option whenever it is offered.
Our plates arrived and they looked about as I expected, not great, but certainly acceptable, or so I thought. With the food our waitress provided a monkey dish with miniature plastic tubs of margarine. I asked her for butter and she said they didn’t have butter. Did they by any chance have butter in the kitchen I asked. No. So, there is no butter at all in the restaurant? No. How is that possible? I was incredulous, Kristin thought this was all pretty funny, but I had a big dilemma on my hands, do I defile my grits (and my sense of all that is decent) with margarine, or do I leave them uneaten. I thought I could suck it up and I did try to be a sport, but I couldn’t. This was NOT butter, it wasn’t even like butter, it made me sad.
Last week I was at a restaurant, not a diner, a mid-priced Pennsylvania chain, Appalachian Brewing Company, at one of their brew pubs, and the (not great) coffee arrived with single serve non-dairy creamer. Why, oh why? I am a hater of the single serve anything; it makes so much extra trash and is much more expensive than getting quarts of cream and putting them into little pitchers. Have you ever thought about what’s in those non-dairy creamers, or the flavored ones? You’re skipping the dairy for a helping of soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup whether the product is sweetened or not. There’s no way you’re going to convince me this is preferable to half and half!
When I go out I try to keep my expectations proportional to the prices I am paying. I don’t expect to get shaved truffles on my scrambled eggs at a diner and I’m not going to kvetch if the eggs are a little overcooked. When I go to a brew pub with “an innovative brewpub menu” (their words) and craft beers I expect to get real food, from the precious appetizers to the delicious brewed coffee served with actual diary product. When we are fortunate enough to live in a country with plentiful supplies of good, real food why do I encounter a food establishment with no butter on the premises? Why when I order seafood fried rice is the seafood surimi? If I order pie and am offered whipped cream, please, please don’t give me Cool Whip, which is pretty much the same thing as non-dairy creamer whipped to form an emulsion that will coat the inside of my mouth like a spoonful of Vaseline.
I know there are so many more pressing issues than my complaining about getting margarine instead of butter for my grits. I am aware that there are children who go to bed hungry every night, and I should probably shut my overfed, privileged mouth, but I invite you to consider this rant from another perspective. If we (the overfed privileged) start refusing this swill, perhaps manufacturers will stop making it. Perhaps we’ll spend more on farming and cooking food than packaging it. Maybe we can impact the companies turning out this crap to use their powers for good rather than evil. Are you with me? Can I get a Hell Yeah?