March 14, 2012
The Finest Baked Potato in all the Land
There was a fancy steak house adjacent to the hotel where I stayed in Tucson to attend the book festival. It was one of those ritzy steak houses, you know the kind you need a credit check before they will seat you. I won't mention the name of this this steak house, but let's just say there was a menu posted beside the front door to keep out any losers who might be the type to exclaim, "You mean one baked potato costs more than an entire pound of potatoes. You have got to be kidding!"
I wouldn't have even gone in this swanky over-priced steak house, if I hadn't already had a glass of wine at the free happy hour at the hotel where I was staying (and where I had a free breakfast and discounted room rate. I'm cheap and I'm proud of it.) So on my first night in town, I walked across the parking lot and took the plunge and went inside, curious what an expensive potato might look like. It had to be the size of a small planet, or at least something that would satisfy Paul Bunyan.
So I sat there in the dark restaurant at the bar. The skinny and young hostess dressed in black (of course black) asked to see my credit card first...just kidding but it felt that way. I felt lucky, when they said I could sit in the bar, as if I somehow tricked them into thinking I was rich. I was amazed at how busy the restaurant was especially when there is so much talk about a bad economy. I guess it hasn't touched Tucson steak houses.
I had a glass of wine and told myself I could do it. I could order a $7.95 baked potato. But then, I just couldn't. You know why? Because I've worked in restaurants for too long, and I know that every kitchen, whether I worked in Chicago, Denver or now Phoenix, looks and operates the same. It's stainless steel appliances, hot and greasy, men, and occasionally a woman, dressed in white cooking at a furious pace.
So I'll have to use my writer's imagination to wonder what the heck that potato looked like for $7.95. The sky is the limit, at least with our imaginations.
In between being inspired by the author's I heard speak, I thought about that potato and how maybe we all need to have a potato in our life. It might be the guy you always wished you could have dated cause he was so cute and you knew he must be such a great guy. Or the job that looked so wonderful that you just couldn't land. Then later you realized it was too great of a cost, that it would have taken something from you. It's almost better to have the fantasy than the reality. I'm sure any potato that cost that much would have disappointed me, no matter how dark the restaurant.
Call me tacky and simple, but I'd be just as happy to eat a baked potato at a place with red vinyl chairs and Formica tables. I bet at a place like this the waitress will even call me sweetie and when I get the check I won't have to take out a loan.