By Jim Heffernan
We had a late supper Saturday night at a fancy-dancy downtown Minneapolis restaurant following an evening of theater.
I generally try to avoid fancy-dancy restaurants (by dancy I don’t mean there is dancing, which I really try to avoid, but rather because it rhymes with fancy, the way toity rhymes with hoity).
As a meat and potatoes kind of guy, I generally don’t like the dishes offered at fancy-dancy restaurants, not to mention the food. If I pick up the menu and it includes a preponderance of words I do not understand, much less would be comfortable pronouncing to a waitperson, I become somewhat uncomfortable.
I have learned over years and years of dining out that the more unpronounceable the menu item, the more it will cost you and the less you will get to not enjoy it on an oversize plate. That’s just the way it works in the world of fancy-dancy dining.
So on Saturday night, reviewing the wine list (hmmm no Thunderbird) and the menu, I knew right away that we were in for a shellacking, as President Obama might describe it. Of course, at this writing, I could never recall or, especially, spell some of the offerings, save for one, which I ordered: spaghetti. Yup, spaghetti. And meatballs, it said.
Not plain ol’ regular spaghetti, mind you, but some kind of spaghetti, to be sure.
“I’ll take the spaghetti,” I told the waitwoman in no uncertain terms, proud to be able to pronounce SOMETHING on the menu.
I think she knew what I was up to – pronunciation. In a very nice, helping, way, she said, “Did you know the meatballs are tuna?
Well, no, I didn’t. But I usually like tuna OK, like on a sandwich with pineapple and mayo. “That’s fine,” smiled. “I like tuna.”
Hmmm. Black spaghetti. A pasta of a different color. That’s a new one on me, but then I’m from Duluth. I probed further: “It’s black?”
“Well, kind of dark,” she said, “but it’s shaped like regular spaghetti.”
I did hesitate momentarily, but then went ahead with it. Black spaghetti and tuna meatballs. You have nothing to lose but your cynicism about menus that make no mention of things like “steak,” “baked potato” and other foods that my eye always seeks out when deciding what to order.
To make a long story even longer, I was able to tolerate the black spaghetti and tuna balls for the first few bites, but it was one of those entrees that features rapidly diminishing returns. Half way through the second tuna ball, for example, I realized that I didn’t like it as well as the first. And far be it from me to ask for sides of pineapple and mayo.
As far as black spaghetti (some would just say pasta noir these days) is concerned, it was tolerable. I finished much of my plate out of respect for the waitress (she’d warned me after all) and called it a late supper.
So it was not a great dining experience, further marred because I thought I was sitting near a booth containing none other than Michele Bachmann. Somehow I was aware that Republican Rep. Bachmann, who is running for president of the United States, was in Minneapolis that day speaking to right-wing bloggers, so I figured it was possible it was she sitting there with her possible husband and, across their table, another possible man and woman, making up a foursome.
All the while, as I waited for my black spaghetti and tuna balls to arrive, I couldn’t stop staring at this woman, becoming more and more convinced that it was Michele Bachmann. Still, her profile is so high now I couldn’t imagine that she is still able to just go into a fairly well populated restaurant and dine without people bothering her for autographs or attacking her verbally, depending on where they’re coming from politically.
Even when this woman and her party stood up and left, I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t her. I still am not entirely sure, but I’m starting to doubt it.
There is my report on how I spent my weekend. Black spaghetti with tuna meatballs and an encounter with Michele Bachmann or her twin or her clone. Well, not clone. Never clone. I’ve got to say the play we saw wasn’t so hot either. Plus, it rained quite a bit.