“Chicken parm,” my stomach cooed. “Order the chicken parm and you won’t regret it.”
The idea wriggled from my stomach into my brain and once it was there, I couldn’t get it out. I looked at every single option on the Bay Cities menu and even though I rarely stray from the standard Godmother or Genoa salami and sharp provolone, my stomach was launching a full-on attack.
“You know you want that chicken parm. Just order it. You’ll love it…”
And so it was settled. I ordered the chicken parm.
From the very first bite, I knew I had made a mistake. The breading was soggy, the chicken was dry. The Bay Cities Italian roll, usually so supple, so firm, had steamed itself into oblivion. There was either no sauce or so little sauce that it appeared that there was none. There were too many pepperoncinis topped by too much oregano. It was a sandwich out of balance and I’m a guy that won’t stand for that. I was angry. At Bay Cities, yes, for serving such an inferior sandwich, but mostly at myself for ordering it. The biggest regret I had is that I don’t usually allow myself to eat things like chicken parmesan sandwiches outside of my work life. This was a football Sunday at my friend’s house, though, and on football Sundays nothing sounds better than a sandwich at Bay Cities, quite possibly the best sandwich shop in all of Los Angeles.
Food regret is tough to take. It hits me harder than most people. My thinking is that you only get three meals in a day — sometimes only two — and if you mess up that opportunity, you’re forced to sit with it until your next meal can erase it. When I have a bad meal, it lives with me. I dwell on it. I replay all of the steps that led to my bad decision and I try to internalize it all so I can avoid the situation again. It’s not just ordering the wrong thing — it’s ordering the wrong thing and knowing that I’ve simultaneously missed out on ordering the right thing.
Knowing how to order is a skill I’m really proud of. Nine times out of ten, I order so well that the rest of the table will lament that they didn’t order what I was eating. That one other time, though, I end up living with food regret for hours. Days, even. It’s a full 24 hours after my chicken parm debacle and I’m still regretting my choice. I would have been so happy with that salami and cheese. The sting of the Bears’ loss would have been lessened if I wasn’t also mourning my lost lunch. Instead, I’m sitting in a giant puddle of food regret and I can’t escape.
The good news? I’ll never order that damned chicken parm from Bay Cities ever again.
Do you suffer from food regret? Do you think I’m crazy for taking a bad order so seriously? Let’s have a conversation in the comments section, shall we?
Special note to the trolls: yes, I’m aware that I’m in the privileged position of being able to complain about food. There are absolutely people all over the world that feel lucky just to get a meal — any meal — and I know that a post like this doesn’t account for their daily struggle. If you feel that my writing about food regret is offensive, I encourage you to donate to Share Our Strength, a non-profit dedicated to providing meals to hungry kids all over the United States.