Last night I had my birthday dinner at a Korean restaurant in Orange County. It was BBQ style and raw meat was brought to our table in addition to the usual Korean openers (banchan) which included kimchi, bean sprouts, marinated onions and radish, among others. It was sumptuous and I was starved when we first entered. I haven’t had Korean food in a very long time and I was looking forward to this. The “all you can eat, but within limits” special included a choice of 4 dishes. We (me really, my birthday after all) chose spicy marinated pork, thinly-sliced non-marinated beef (chadolbegi), a warm glass noodle and vegetable dish, and my favorite, ojinguh bokkeum, squid in a spicy red sauce with green onions and carrots. My dinner partner shied away from this. It’s something I’ve enjoyed ever since my ex-wife introduced me to Korean food years ago. The raw meat was brought to our table and we were left to toss it on the table-top barbecue. I started eating up quickly. But slowly I become uncomfortable and overwhelmed. The restaurant was, it turned out, a youthful meeting, conversation spot. Very Korean. Korean trendy kids and loud electronic music, sounded a little jungle, a little drum & bass, shit, I couldn’t tell, I’m so far out of the loop, I don’t know what is what anymore. The music had a rapid beat and everyone was dressed like this was a club and people were yelling and talking loudly and the music was loud and there were lots of people, too many of them, and none of them would shut up. I started feeling overwhelmed and my appetite hit a wall.
See, I cannot eat comfortably when it is loud and crowded. Too much visual and auditory input freaks me out. In fact, what happens, just because I’m that mentally imbalanced, is that the noise begins to arouse a sense of phobia in me and I get nervous and antsy and feel as if I’ve lost all ability to swallow my food and I feel like I’m going to ralph it all up. I lose touch with my environment and I don’t feel like eating anymore and I wish it would be quiet. I find I try to tune out the noise but at the expense of my participation in my surroundings and I turn taciturn and less than participatory. So much noise! Panic starts to set in and I spend so much mentally energy fighting it that I turn into a mess. I started out ablaze, but by the time the noise started to whittle away at my psyche, I felt afraid to put food in my mouth because I feared I might not be able to swallow it, and if I did, I feared I might vomit it up. My stomach becomes rebellious and disconnected from my conscious control. I feel not nauseous, but out of digestive control and the noise and presence of too many people devours my serenity. I lose my ability to enjoy food. In the absence of serenity, I find I must figuratively flee. Luckily, my dinner partner shares some of my loud aversion (not to my degree), so we finished up and left hurriedly to the quiet surroundings outside. It was a cool night and I breathed the fresh air, the open quiet air, and I wished I had more food now as my appetite began to slowly return. I wanted more squid!
This happened recently to me, also in Orange County, when I went to a Peruvian restaurant. Once again, I was hungry and looking forward to that lomo saltado, one of my favorite damn things in the world, but the restaurant was small, crowded and loud. Very loud. My appetite died instantly and I could not enjoy the meal. I eat best when it’s quiet, when there are a handful of people. When there is no Goddamned music and people shouting to be heard!
I don’t enjoy culinary “scenes,” man.
I just want to eat peacefully and have subdued conversation.
Sometimes during lunch in Hollywood, I find it’s too loud. Invariably there will be a loud, shrill bitch somewhere in the room who cannot speak like a normal human being. This shit kills my appetite.
I told my friend that if I had to eat in crowded and loud restaurants every day, I would lose weight. Sure fire diet plan.