I once knew a woman that always checked out the bathroom of any home she was visiting. She said it was her way of finding out what they were really like. It was a rather odd thing to say as she was visiting the home of my grandparents after my uncle had just died, but it has certainly stuck in my memory. The bathroom was her test. To this woman, the cleanliness of the bathroom indicated whether or not this family really kept things tidy or just managed to shove a few things out of the way when they heard the doorbell ring.
I don’t go around testing the homes of other people. I have three active children, therefore I have enough to worry about in my own home! But we do test Italian restaurants. I have a very simple test – is there anything here I can eat? I’m a bit of an oddity, as I’m a vegetarian that can’t eat cheese trying to eat at an Italian restaurant, but I manage. It’s a very simple test – is there anything here I can eat? I’ve only been refused service at one restaurant, which by the way has since closed down.
The real test for Italian restaurants is the Fettucini Alfredo. First of all, is it delicious. Secondly, is it consistent. My husband devours Fettucini Alfredo, or for some of you, Fettuccini Alfredo. Truthfully, it used to annoy me that he wouldn’t try anything new at an Italian restaurant – it always had to be the Fettucini Alfredo. Alas, years of working on our marriage and seeing that he is not like me and I am not like him has produced in me a new appreciation for his Fettucini test.
On a recent medical trip for our daughter, we stopped at an Italian Restaurant we had never eaten at before. Of course Karl ordered the Fettucini Alfredo. As soon as the steaming hot plate of deliciousness was delivered to our table, I could see him giving it the visual part of his test. This plate passed. I began to ask the normal questions. How does it compare to such and such restaurant? I’m always amazed at how many ways there are to describe the experience of eating various versions of Fettucini Alfredo.
There was one restaurant in Shreveport, Louisiana, that had the most beautifully paper thin fettucini that melted in Karl’s mouth. We decided to go again and take friends to share the wonderful experience with us, but the restaurant wasn’t consistent. They no longer have a great rating on Karl’s Fettucini scale, but he still remembers that one day he got a really good dish of it there. It remains the one dish of Fettucini Alfredo that he judges all others by.
As stated before, it used to annoy me that my husband always and only ordered the same thing at Italian restaurants whereas I love to try whatever I can eat! But I’ve learned, much to his joy, that this is a process for my husband. This is how he makes the connection of what he likes and doesn’t like. It’s how he analyzes (he does this a lot) to determine if this is a restaurant worth coming back to or not. If I try to persuade him to eat something else, I’m robbing him of his connection – of how he rates Italian restaurants. To his credit, however, my husband will try other dishes once he has eaten at a restaurant before and has had enough experiences with their Fettucini Alfredo to warrant a slight deviation from the standard order.
How do you connect with your neighborhood? Is there one particular part of it that you always use as a guide for how your little corner of the world is doing? How do you connect with your larger community, your kids’ schools and your local government? Your local City Council meeting won’t be serving Fettucini Alfredo for you to taste and see where they are at, but I’m sure there are other ways you can gauge your community. Take some time. Get connected. If you find your community isn’t what it used to be, get involved and turn it around! It’s easy to stop going to a restaurant because they aren’t consistent in the food they prepare and serve, but you can’t just leave your community. Get involved and make it great!