Have a Little Food Faith

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The Staff Favorite. Dealer’s Choice. Mystery Item. Surprise Me.

It’s a dish known by many names to many people, but is perhaps most commonly known as Chef’s Choice. The pizza place I stop by almost every year while visiting family simply calls it the “Trust Us.” And that’s what I’m asking each of us to do this year.

The last year (who am I kidding the last few years) has been rife with what I can only describe as an overwhelming sense of doom and gloom. It seems as if this feeling has infected every one of us regardless of our creed, gender, race, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic standing. And we have watched this notion play out again and again: in our news cycles, our political debates, our economics, our social circles. The cultural climate of humanity is turning towards this theme of near-doomsday pessimism more and more (but don’t take my word for it, just look at the next entry in our never-ending stream of dystopian film and television). Most of us are exhausted, broke, and feeling like things only seem to be getting worse. Our faith in other people, not to mention most institutions, is at an all time low. So what can we do to fight back against this onslaught of pessimism, distrust, and all-around naysaying? Maybe our meals are as good a place to start as any.

Chef’s Choice is sometimes a spur-of-the-moment mishmash of ingredients and other times a secret menu item known only to those behind the counter. The cuisine of origin hailing from any corner of the globe, its recipe never quite the same. But these dishes all share one key element; they serve as a culinary pact. An invitation, perhaps even a covenant between ourselves and the establishment we’ve chosen to patronize. So if we’re going to bounce back by showing a little more goodwill, why not start with the people who feed us? After years of steadily increasing abuse and poor behavior from customers since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic it’s the least we can do.

And don’t let any naysayers dissuade you: The Negative Nancy telling you Chef’s Choice was only created so restaurants could offload their least popular ingredients before expiration. The Debbie Downer who’s sure your server is only recommending these entrées to procure a bigger tip. The Typical Thomas reluctant to relegate routine to the background. Fight back against the callous cynicism of this world with every order you can. These institutions are here to nourish, delight, and enliven you. So have a little faith.

Now this adventurous ordering won’t always work out. Some days you may end up eating less than favored foodstuffs: imperfect pizza, unsatisfactory sandwiches, or crummy crustaceans. But the opportunities afforded by We must embrace that discomfort and venture forth undeterred into the gastronomic unknown, despite the occasionally-loathsome-to-your-taste-buds buffet that will be placed before us.

I’m not telling you to abandon your favorite dishes or to surrender your entire diet to culinary anarchy. And I’m certainly not telling you to go around asking every single restaurant for their “Secret Menu” when most don’t have one (seriously, there is a time and a place for all things including this food manifesto) or if you have any kind of allergy (throwing caution to the wind is not advised when it comes to life or death allergic reactions). And I’m not saying that trusting your server a little more will create radical change; don’t start thinking you’re helping to bring about world peace or stopping climate change just because you decided to yolo your brunch order one Sunday. There are plenty of problems today that will require a hell of a lot more out of each and every one of us than a little appetizer audacity. But maybe we all need a small bite of paradigm shift. And if there’s one resolution I think we could all adopt in 2024 to do this, it’s to put a little more faith in one another. So go forth into the world full of hope and love for your fellow humankind. And make sure to show it by trusting us.