Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Review: Food Poisoning

You know those books and movies you're embarrassed not to have read or seen? So embarrassed that you lie about it? Think Anna Karenina or The Good Soldier. Well, among a certain circle, food experiences rise to that level. Haven't been to Nobu? Lie. Peter Luger's? Lie. Nozawa? Lie.

Until now, I had to resort to this kind of ignoble but not totally damning behavior when it came to food poisoning. No more! The night before last, I finally got my act together and paid a visit, and you, lucky readers, are the beneficiaries.

You'll notice, if you're careful, a discrepancy in the above two paragraphs. First I say I've never had food poisoning, and then I call Monday's visit "my most recent." Let me put you at ease. I would not feel qualified to write up a restaurant having only stuck my head in, or, say, sat at the bar for just a drink. Comparing any of my past, admittedly mild, food-borne maladies to this one is like that. So let's just say this was my first visit: the decisive one. Without further ado, then, and with complete, transparent honesty, here is my review of my most recent bout of food poisoning.

From the moment you get the nod that you will be attending a bout of F.P., it's a wild ride that leaves you gasping at every turn. Imagine my giddiness when I got the call! Me! I'm not even a real food writer! My head was spinning, and not just from the surprise.

My first complaint is that the service, while quite snappy at first, kind of tailed off after the first course of dizziness and cramps (neither of which disappointed, mind you). It's strange how quick service up-front followed by a long lag can sometimes be worse than slowness all through, and this was one of those times. I really wanted things to move along after the initial offerings, but I was made to sit there for more than an hour, wondering what to do with myself, with only a glass of water to keep me company.

But then. Oh, then. F.P. really came through after that. We've all had friends lucky enough to have been there in the past, and as savvy consumers, we're all aware of the potentially disappointing effect of too much advance notice. Well, fear not. It's all different when you're the recipient. Violent, projectile vomiting, so powerful that it makes you yell at full volume? You've heard about it, but that does nothing to dampen its effect on you when it's your own voice waking the neighbors. Fever that makes you put on two sets of sweats and get under every blanket in the house while it's 80 degrees outside? Not cheapened a bit by having heard about it first. In fact, you almost feel like "It's about time! I've heard so much about this, and now it's my turn!" It's like visting the Mona Lisa--kind of an experience and a meta-experience, both at once. Really awesome.

I could complain again about the lag following that course. I mean, why the constant hurry-up-and-wait? And with such impressive courses, why make me sit around and twiddle my thumbs in between? Well, this time I can't even complain about that. The service did indeed slow to a crawl after the second course, but the crawling was mine, because I couldn't walk. Nor, I realized, could I twiddle anything at all, because I couldn't feel my hands or feet (a truly brilliant touch that I had never heard of before!). If it hadn't been for the involuntary thrashing about, I would have been worried that I'd been paralyzed, but thankfully the management saw ahead and provided me with a tween-course set of convulsions to put my mind at rest. They really do think of everything, even if at the time you're not convinced. It's like dinner at El Bulli--you need time to think it all over after to realize the true and complete genius at work.

Next course! More of the same? Yes! Disappointing in its repetitiveness? Strangely, not at all. In fact, quite the opposite--you welcome the sameness, as it signals progress through this difficult-to-navigate experience. And for me, the end of this course--which was executed with even more gusto than the last--really did mark the beginning of this feast's denouement. But I don't want to short-shrift the description. If the second course (remember, we started with apps) was a prime rib, then this was a bone-in kobe rib-eye: both bigger and more impressive, with tons more nuance and substance. A tour-de-force in every way. Louder, more painful, longer by at least 10 minutes, and introduced by a delirious and lovely set of hallucinations that were completely free! More kudos to the management--this was one of the most memorable half-hours of my entire life. What a surprise that it would happen on my bathroom floor with me dressed like some crazy, homeless, software engineer!

Like I said, that was pretty much that. But how could you follow up such a performance with anything but an anticlimax? Of course, F.P. knows how. Shambling back to bed after being turned into a human cannon for the second time, I knew I was on the mend, and that feeling was one of the sweetest of my entire life. It's this blend of Hieronymus Bosch awfulness and final tranquility that truly defines food poisoning, but to sum it up with some saw like "it feels good when you stop banging your head against the wall" really cheapens the whole experience. This is just something you'll have to enjoy for yourself, if you're lucky enough.

All in all, this was a chance in a lifetime. It seems odd to say that a food experience changed how I look at myself, my life, the world, but this one really did. It's like everything I took for granted--being able to pick up a shoe without my hand hurting, having the motor functions to tie that shoe, knowing what the temperature in the room really is--has been re-given to me, and I have food poisoning to thank. I'd also like to thank the good people at either All-American Burger on Sunset or Yabu on La Cienega. One of those two establishments is responsible for my opportunity to visit F.P., and for that, I owe them much as well.


Blogger The Dancing Kids said...

Having visited FP myself just a matter of weeks ago, it's so nice to read a review that I can identify with at every turn (or toss as the case may be).

In my case though, you had the kind and adoring husband, who, while standing framed in the doorway of the bathroom watching me vomit, said with a touch of awe "wow - you're like, a REAL actress now"

3:42 PM  
Anonymous c said...

poor guy. welcome to the topsy-turvy world that food writers must endure.

next time take mental notes of tasting your food the second time around. last time i did that, i regretted pizza hut with an aversion that continues to this day. it's something which, one might argue, is actually a good thing.

but i sympathized with you, (note the past tense) until you put Hieronymus Bosch and awfulness in the same sentence.

for that i think the penalty box is due justice for you:

one week in the box for gastrol indiscretion with a cheeseburger.

two additional weeks for sushi misconduct - unwise ingestion of a gunkanmaki.

and while in the box you are restricted to a diet of matzah balls and chicken soup.

1:00 AM  
Blogger MEalCentric said...

Ouch. I got FP a couple of times from a certain chain from "BAJA" that prides itself on "FRESH"
I wont name names, they know who they are. Wont go into details but my FP, well lets just say, found an opposite way to get out of me...for 2 days.

9:42 PM  

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