“So what are you going to have?” I asked my wife as we settled into the booth at a restaurant we had not previously visited.
“I haven’t checked the menu yet,” she replied, not looking up. “Why? Do you already know what you want?”
“Well, I’ll probably just get what I usually get,” I shrugged.
“First rule for eating out,” she said with a smile, “is check the menu. Most good restaurants mark their menus with little symbols so you can not only know what is good, but what is good for you.”
“Oh!” I picked up the menu with more interest. “And what else does my health food guru know?” I asked.
“Rule Number Two. See all those fancy names following the entrees?”
“Like beurre blanc, bearnaise, parmigiana, au gratin and alfredo?”
“Yes, those. They mean butter sauces and cheese sauces.”
“In other words, lots of extra calories.” I knew that much without being told.
“And the other words,” she pointed out, “like ‘crispy’ – ‘golden’ – ‘flaky.’ That means they are fried or grilled. Ask for them to be poached or baked or broiled.”
“You mean, ask them to fix mine differently from everyone else’s?” I was aghast. “Won’t they think I’m picky and rude?”
“Rule Number Three. You are the customer; you get to choose.” The spark in her eyes told me she wasn’t kidding. “Good restaurants want to please the customer – so that you keep coming back.”
“Okay. I’m in charge.” I liked that. “Order it the way I want.”
“Rule Number Four,” she said, “now that you are Mr. In-Charge, remember – how much you eat and how much you take home are your choice, not the restaurant’s choice. Just because they serve you on a platter instead of a plate doesn’t mean you have to eat it all right now.”
Memories of past talks with my wife about appropriate portion size surfaced in my mind. “One of the dangers of eating at the buffet, huh? Just because it’s there, do I have to eat it?”
“Now you’ve got the idea,” she said with a smile.
“So I don’t get to eat whatever I want?” I whined in mock innocence.
“Be creative,” she said, ignoring my childishness. “Let’s start with a nice non-creamy soup and salad.”
“Yes. Fewer calories.” She was not looking at me. “And we’ll have a salad with the dressing served on the side – so we can add the amount we want and not what the restaurant decides.”
“I get to be in charge. I like this,” I said.
“And responsible – for your own health,” she added, eyeing me over the menu. “Soup and salad and a cold drink will keep us from eating too much when the main course comes.”
“That was Rule Number Five, wasn’t it?” She nodded. “I think this takes all the fun out of eating out,” I pouted.
“You came here to stuff yourself – like a turkey?” her voice crackled.
“I came here to be with you, dear,” I recovered, but just barely. I scanned the menu carefully, thanking God for a wise wife who wants to keep me around for a few years longer.