Monday, November 11, 2013
The Worst Eatery
The worst eatery in the entire world requires a membership card.
I use the word ‘worst’ judiciously. It has been my privilege or misfortune to eat in a number of places both here and overseas that easily could--but do not--earn the title. In Senegal, a few miles outside of Dakar, there was a roadside stand that served mystery meat with hair in it. Or maybe it was fur, I don’t know. The person I was traveling with, a young African man who spoke five languages more or less fluently but could not write any of them, ate with relish. He pushed a full plate towards me and when I demurred, admonished me for my squeamishness. In Nepal I was served something that had small eyes in it. One, I’m pretty certain, blinked. In Bangladesh I made the mistake of eating a fish dish that sent me running for the bathroom and staying there for the balance of two days. None of these places, however, could match the eating area at Costco.
Yes, Costco. Let me explain.
At Costco, you stand in line, order food that is limited in scope, generally tasty, and outrageously inexpensive. I recently went there and for $5.19 got a very large and loaded slice of pizza, two huge hot dogs on buns, and two soft drinks with unlimited free refills. Another $1.75 got me a good-sized container of frozen yogurt with a healthy dollop of strawberry preserves. Had I wanted a Caesar salad, a churro, a strange pastry with chunks of chicken in it, or an Italian sausage, I would have paid less than four dollars per item.
To qualify for all these goodies, I have to be a Costco member, which is $50 yearly. It’s not a bad deal since the store does offer good prices on a number of household items and food if you’re willing to buy in quantity, which explains the very large number of shoppers--mostly Korean and Vietnamese--who trundle what look like Home Depot lumber carts loaded with fifty-pound bags of rice, cans of tuna fish large enough to bathe in, entire flanks of animals I imagine were once either cows or pigs, and cartons containing the dismembered breasts of an entire mid-Western chicken farm. And of courses there are tires, motorcycles, guttering, roofing supplies, books and DVDs, lawn furniture, electronic pianos, decks, and the occasional small boat or two.
But back to the food. It’s not bad. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty good road food. I have been addicted to their hot dogs for years though I have given up on the Italian sausage. So how does the store deserve the ‘worst eatery’ title? Well, this may be petty, but I really resent the fact that the relish machines never dispense relish. I really don’t like the linked plastic tables that are rarely wiped down (personally, I’ve never witnessed an actual Costco employee performing that service), and on more than one occasion, my feet have stuck to the floor; only a concerted effort have freed them from the Superglue consisting of spilled condiments mixed with highly sweetened lactose products.
Since Costco does not offer those nifty little cardboard carriers with their foods, you learn to juggle. My personal best is two hot dogs, two cokes, a salad and two slices of pizza. Amateurs routinely drop (and leave) their meals on the floor, adding to both the pungent atmosphere and the environmental stickiness.
Also, I’m pretty certain mothers bring their newborns to Costco there for the express purpose of letting them wail. There is always at least one baby having a breakdown at Costco. Sometimes there are two, and once there were four. Maybe they didn’t like the food…