When it comes to trite phrases, you just can’t beat conversations about food and restaurants. A couple of weeks ago, I ran into Len Farbman and his wife Sheila. Len prides himself on checking out all the Philly restaurants, and he mentioned he’d just eaten in a place named Chez Nouveau which had recently opened in Northern Liberties.
I asked about the food.
“Out of this world!” exclaimed Len. “Their food is out of this world!”
“And the clams casino are to die for!” Sheila chimed.
This gave me some pause. What exactly do such overblown statements mean? The only food substance I’m aware of that's usually found out of this world is Tang.
And an ideal, like freedom, maybe is worth dying for. But I’m not going to lay down my life for a plate of bivalve mollusks, no matter how delicious they are in a garlic sauce.
I resolved then and there that I would always strive for greater precision when describing anything as important as my nightly dinner.
The following week, I took my son Brandon out to dinner with the Farbmans at the very same restaurant in Northern Liberties. Scarcely had the first course been served when a grinning Len leaned over and asked me, “How’d you like the snapper soup?”
“Out of this state!” I replied. “In fact, I’d say it’s halfway to Trenton.” It really was good, but a trifle too salty to qualify for lift-off from the planet’s atmosphere.
I ordered the roast beef as my main course. Unfortunately it was a bit overdone and stringy. “How’s that roast beef?” Len was quick to ask. “Out of this world, I’ll bet!”
“Out of this county,” I answered diplomatically. Poor Len appeared crestfallen. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that my chef’s salad, overladen with cheese croutons (which I really hate), was barely out of this room. I wished it had at least been out of this building, so I could have trashed it in the alley while he wasn’t looking.
Meanwhile, on their recommendation, Brandon was eating the clams casino. Sheila was plotzing to hear how Brandon was enjoying them and could take it no longer.
"Brandon, I can tell by the look on your face,” Sheila rhapsodized, unable to take it any longer, “that those claims casino are….
"To have a heavy cold with labored breathing for ten days for,” Brandon replied. I was at once sorry I hadn’t ordered them too.
We ordered dessert. Len ordered crème caramel, Sheila the strawberry shortcake, Brandon the highly touted flaming cherries jubilee, and I — well, I got the double chocolate mousse.
“Out of this world!” Len shouted, licking the caramel from his lips.
“To die for!” cooed Sheila.
“OUT OF THIS WORLD — TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!” I cried.
I really do love mousse.
Brandon was strangely silent. On the way home, I asked about the dessert.
“To be honest, Dad,” he sighed, "it was only to have a minor paper cut for.”
I guess maybe cherries aren’t in season right now.