Many of my friends have beliefs that make them hate chains – and most of the time they are right. They know that chain food is bad food, it’s bad for the environment, it’s bad nutritionally, it’s bad for employee’s, and they are bad for the local areas. It’s bad. There are studies that prove it. However I’m not about to stop eating in chains. Sunday’s lunch is a good reason why.
I’m a working single mother. My friend who I had lunch with is not just a working single mother, but a mother of two primary aged children, one of whom has recently been diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum. We both spend a lot of time cooking for our children, worrying about their health, trying to balance nutrition and whatever quirky need the kids have chosen this week, with the jobs we love. Other’s need come before our own, everyday. We rarely get to choose to eat what we want. So when we do go out to eat, we don’t necessarily want life changing food – we want food that is tasty – and someone else washes the plates.
The rare chance we got to eat together we chose to eat at a chain. Cafe Andaluze on George St, Edinburgh. It’s a chain, good decore, comfortable seating, reasonable service. A few months ago I would have chosen Las Iguanas, but I was rather put off by the fact they treat their staff in an appalling manner. (I emailed them about this, and the reply could at best be described as “PR”.) We’re working single mothers, we don’t have time to discuss this stuff…
“Oh, have you read the latest (once a month review outside of London) in the Guardian?”
“No, do tell. I’d love to know the most fashionable way to eat this week while I’m juggling the needs of a tiny human being who doesn’t give a fuck. Ever.”
At the end of the day, when your a single mother, someone else cooking your food for you is a luxury. We ordered tortilla, patatas bravas, and a really good lamb tagine. We finished off with a crème brulee. It was… passable. Not bad. There was flavour. There was nothing wrong with it. But there was also nothing amazing. My friend works in hospitality and we decided that despite the staff being good at their job their service wasn’t good enough to deserve a tip.
It was all a bit ok. A bit “meh”. None of this however makes me feel it was a bad experience. The point of going out wasn’t to have THEBESTMEALEVEROMGITWASSOAMAZING! The point was to catch up properly with a friend who’s company I enjoy but don’t see as much as I’d like.
Sometimes adequate service and adequate food is enough, because it is the people and the situation you are in that makes a memorable evening. As much as chains can be bad employers, and stifle the life from local service, sometimes I just want someone other that me to cook and wash up. If you disagree, until you cook and wash-up for me on a regular basis I’m going to be ok with adequate. Adequate is ok with me.