Once upon a time, some twenty-two years ago, I was still a teenager, it was my birthday, and my friends and I went to the Dolce Vita for lunch in some semblance of a celebration.
The Dolce Vita, as you well know, was at the time the premier Italian restaurant in the wealthyish Banani-Gulshan area of Dhaka. (It appears to have survived as a gelato shop.)
The menus passed around, I saw a pasta dish that looked particularly yummy. “I’ll have that,” I said.
“Me, too,” said one friend.
“That sounds great,” another agreed.
“Make that four,” said the third friend.
Time passed. We chatted. A general sense of anticipation grew. The dishes arrived and were placed in front of us. Collectively, our faces fell.
Imagine if you will a white plate, ten inches in diameter, a rim two inches wide. Now imagine slop in the middle of that plate.
In later years — specifically, when a starving college student in a New Hampshire backwater — I would learn that the white sauce was supposed to be an alfredo. But even in those formative years, I knew that sauce was supposed to grace the pasta. Instead, the pasta swam in a colorless swamp that looked so unappetizing, I’m gagging now as I type these words.
One by one, we each took one small bite. Each face scrunched at the taste.
There was silence. We looked at the plates, looked at each other sadly. We asked for the bill, and quickly left.
What did we do after that? I have no memory of it. I must have blocked it out.
While I still enjoy Italian food, there’s one way that event has forever scarred me.
“I think I’ll have the chicken breast.”
“Really? I wanted that too. Oh, well, I’ll find something else.”
“You could order it too, I don’t care.”
“I… I can’t.”