Food Ruts Can Happen Anywhere

Imagine an early evening in the 1970s, somewhere in Provence, France. The late Julia Child is at her vacation home, taking inventory in her kitchen. Fresh, hand-picked ingredients, ever so abundant in the local markets, are heaped on her counters. Culinary confidence emanates from her heart and mind, straight to her fingertips.

Alas, it’s close to dinner time. But Julia looks out the window and gazes at the rolling lavender fields. She sighs. This is not just any sigh, but the curious exhale of a person who, at the moment, has just about had it. It’s that familiar epiphany when one recognizes a food rut has boiled over. Boeuf Bourguignon again!

Clearly, I made up the above scenario. But I can only guess this kind of thing happened to Julia–yes Julia–an icon of the epicurean world. She was, after all, human.

For those of us who are lesser kitchen mortals, we accept our home-grown kitchen ruts. We even relish our Tuna Melt Tuesdays, or our endless pasta-thons. These are the dishes we can prepare at home, reflexively, with little brain power. We forgive ourselves, because… life.

But now I’m in the throes of a personal food rut I can’t completely excuse: it’s an eating out one. A kind that, perhaps, should never happen.

My husband and I discovered a casual “indie” restaurant that suits us like no other. This eatery, in my opinion, matches Julia’s ingredient standards. Every offering is locally sourced, slightly offbeat and just plain delicious. The décor is what I would call industrial-yet-warm. Functional-yet-cool. Seating choices are either cozy or center-stage, but always coveted. It doesn’t matter where we sit, though. We go there for the food. We’d happily perch ourselves on a nearby street curb to indulge.

I have dubbed this restaurant The Place. We frequent it way too much. I realize many couples have go-to dining spots, but that’s not really the rut part of the equation. The repetitive ingredient is me: I choose the same menu item every time. Every single time.

My eat-and-repeat dish is a fried avocado taco smothered in watercress and other stuff I have yet to identify. The fried aspect might not sound gourmet, but oh man. Generous green chunks of nature’s superfood are coated with a thin layer of breaded heaven, and then gently dunked into simmering liquid gold for just the right amount of time.

I will not budge from this selection. Nope. I’ll never try another thing at The Place because one time I did. The veered-off dinner was tasty and great, but it was avocado-less. Not a spec of watercress passed my lips. So much regret to swallow. Never again.

Some friends tell me they, too, default to the same menu items at their own favorite dining spots. Like me, they glaze over when food servers recite the chef’s specials or catches of the day. We become laser focused on That One Dish.

I don’t know what this eating out inflexibility thing means. Are we creatures of habit? Stubborn? Unadventurous?

Then again, if something is delicious and makes you happy, then why not indulge with fixation? As our old friend Julia Child used to say, “Bon appetit!”

Hmm. Talk about ruts. She uttered that phrase a lot. Like, all the time. So there.