“Is that good?” A post about food and music mistakes.
I was in high-school, visiting Provo, Utah with my mom and a couple of other friends for BYU’s “Education Week”, a religious convention of sorts. It was time to break for dinner, and we found ourselves jam packed in some tiny restaurant along with a lot of other tired, hot, and kind of smelly out-of-towners. It had been a long day, probably for everyone, but it was no excuse for how some of these people were acting. It was like being in a feed barn with stinky, pushy animals. I don’t remember the name of the place. I don’t remember there being many tempting food options. Chicken fried glops of meat with a blurb of instant potatoes splatted onto the side. (As an aside, let me say this was over twenty years ago and things in Provo have drastically changed, and even if there had been a good place to eat, we were from out of town and had no clue. So all you Provoites, settle down. It’s not about you. Everyone in there was from out of town.)
Anyway we had our plates of unrecognizable food, and we went to sit at a little booth. We had barely sat down when a very sweaty man with a comb-over walked up to our table and asked my mom, “Is that good?”. Now let me explain something here. This man did not work there. He was a man waiting in line for food, who wanted to make sure he didn’t waste his $5.95 on the wrong choice. Out of all the tables he could have chosen, he picked the worst one. My mom was completely taken aback. When she recovered from being stunned, she told the man, “I haven’t taken a bite yet.” What he should have done is walk away. Instead, he hovered closer, folded his arms, and waited.
I could go on for days about what a wonderful human my mother is. Her infectious laugh. Her tender heart. Her determination to help others who are less fortunate. A lot of people who know those things about her have never seen her utter lack of tolerance for people without proper manners. They’ve never seen her look at any person the way she looked at that man. It was a glare so sharp and icy that it could have sliced open that man’s chest and then frozen his heart with cold vapors until it stopped beating. He suddenly began to look very pale, and backed away.
Our first mistake that day was following a huge crowd of people to the very closest restaurant we could see. That’s what I feel like writing about today. I remembered this story the other day because my sweet little daughter begged us to go to Golden Corral. I can’t remember how it even began, but my six-year-old loves buffets. The choices. The random salad bar items. The chocolate fountain. The all-you-can-eat scones. Pudding. Joe and I aren’t big fans of buffets, but we love our daughter and sometimes you do things you don’t love to do, because you love your kids. On this most recent visit we were particularly struck by the frantic rushing and food piling and smelliness and blandness. As we drove away, I noticed that the marquee advertised “Nonstop Steak.” There are a lot of different adjectives I might strive for when I’m choosing something to eat. Tender. Flavorful. Bold. Heavenly.
These are words that are never used to describe food that is “nonstop”.
So what does all of this have to do with music? When I was a teenager, I remember having some favorite songs and artists that I genuinely loved. But there was a long list of other stuff I listened to all the time because all of my friends liked it. And they probably liked it mainly because it was popular. Or because they had heard the key songs over and over again on the radio. Nonstop. People with a lot of money and influence told us all that it was good. We never stopped to wonder if it was or it wasn’t.
I enjoy making food for people I love. I believe Love is a crucial ingredient in food. There is no commercial substitute. Love takes time and care. Love is a tailor made ingredient for the recipient of the gift of that food. It’s missing most of the time when I go out to eat. When whatever great big chain finally comes to the little towns around here, we all wait in line. We eat the mass produced food in a room that looks exactly like rooms of 100 other places in other parts of the country. We eat food that tastes a little worse than the food at the charter location, worse and worse, the farther away we get. The Love is missing. But we “like” it because we walked under the popular glowing sign. We do the same thing with music every single day.
I love some bands that are very popular. I’ve loved them for years. I’ve also thought I’ve loved some very popular bands, and then it wore off after a year or so or maybe even a week or so. Hype can be powerful and very misleading.
Word of mouth is an important tool for both businesses. I mean, I’m totally dying for you to tell everyone you know that you love my music. I love hearing about what other people like. I love it when a friend tells me about something I’ve never heard before. I even love how social media affects it all. But we all have to decide for ourselves. When I taste or hear something new, I want to use my mind and my heart to decide. I want to be able to taste or hear if there’s love there. I want to remember that it’s okay for me to like or not like something different than everyone else. And the next time I ravenously stumble up to a friend and I ask them, “Is that good?” I hope I’m not really asking, “Should I like it?” And, dear Mother, I promise to only ask fellow diners about food if we are already at the same table.
So here we are well into a new year. My challenge to myself, and to you, if you choose to accept it, is to truly discover new things. Shows. Art. Music. Food. Don’t just consume. Study it in your heart. Sounds like fun to me. Let me know if you find something amazing. Is it good???