If you were to sit in the restaurant equivalent of the Hollywood script industry it would probably go like this.
You are shown to your generic NY diner style booth by a generic waiter and offered a menu that has been through a thousand hands before yours.
‘Can I interest you in the specials today?’
‘Can I get you anything to drink’
‘Yes, I’d like a standard diet cola please.’
‘Coming right up’
A few minutes later the drink arrives in a plastic cup with a lid that has a slot for interchangeable figures on it. Today, a plastic rabbit.
‘Are you ready to order?’
‘Could I get a Minions short to start please?’
‘And for your main?’
‘Yes, could I get a Lost Animal Tries To Get Home please?’
‘Of course…any sides?’
Off scuttles the waiter to the kitchen where a catering college graduate, absent mindedly rooting around one nostril with a wet finger and dreaming of one day owning his own place, opens the cold store to take out a chilled Minions short and throws it into a pan for a low simmer.
Once thawed out, it is plated up and brought to the table. To be honest you weren’t expecting to have a starter, but since you are in the restaurant and it’s there...
Back in the kitchen. The graduate has removed the blockage and is flexing his nose in a self-satisfied way. Ok, what's for main? A quick scan of the order, nothing unusual, grab a few things from pre-prepared tubs of ingredients and prepare a lazy,unimaginative, standard meal like the other few dozen he’ll make today…
For the diner, the starter was ok.
A few minutes of chewing over the Minions, blundering and farting around an old person's home garden trying to earn enough to buy a banana smoothy maker. Nothing special, it filled a hole while waiting for the main course, leaving a bit on the side of the plate for politeness sake. You’ve had this taste before, it was fresh and zingy before, now it is over-familiar, and sooner or later you’ll want to stop ordering this any more.
The waiter takes the plate away, you take a slurp of watery cola as the plastic bunny looks listlessly, pitifully, at you…
And now for the main.
If you’d wanted a gourmet meal, then today you are in the wrong place. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, it is adequate, and for those of less sophisticated taste, or children as they should be called, this should be a more interesting fayre.
To be fair it is well presented, all the ingredients look edible on first glance, but…
It’s all so samey, all a bit bland,and a little too cold.
Where to start…
You hover your fork over the plate and decide to go for the obvious choice. You plunge into a large slice of plot…
Popping it into your mouth, you get a taste of loyal dog who adores his mistress, he’s friends with a group of various animals that are all comfortably familiar but lack any real distinction, add in a dash of interloper that causes strife, and leads to an adventure out in the big bad world.
Another mouthful is unfortunately gristly and tough, a chase scene that ultimately leads to dog and interloper in the animal control van on the way to the dog-pound…
You finish that mouthful, that was a chore, too much work to enjoy. Let's try something else.
Enough dog for a while, let's try some rabbit. It didn’t look very appetising, you’re not a fan of rabbit usually, but, surprisingly it isn’t too bad, there is also a hint of spice, that is improving the general perception of the meal.
Hmm, I’ll save some of that for later.
On to the vegetables.
Overcooked, mushy, indistinct in the mouth, these are the ‘friends of the protagonist’, a variety of forgettable cats, dogs, birds and others, off to rescue our hero, and like flaccid, tasteless, insipid greens, you can leave most of it on the plate and not suffer.
Well, this isn’t an inspiring meal is it?
You glance over to the other tables. The kids are gleefully shovelling the same meal into their mouths. They seem to be enjoying it. And as is normal they’ve got it all over their faces and down their fronts. At this speed, there’s a good chance of you seeing this meal again…
Ok, well, it’s here, I'm not leaving it so what's next.
Our lazy chef seems to have contaminated the meal with something that someone else ordered. There’s something hiding under the veg…A nice surprise, a few morsels of a much finer repast, a little spiced meat. Sausage to be precise, in a musical sauce. The sausage is a welcome taste, the sauce though...actually there may be enough musical sauce to lift the rest of the meal. Yes, that will work. Not enough to make this a fully satiating experience, but it takes the edge off the bland at least.
What else do we have on the plate?
Well, there’s that.
A purée of some sort?
Obviously this is the sophisticated element, the part that is supposed to counterpoint the bland, the soul of the food, the heart-string pulling, emotional kick. If you were eating at Chateau du Pixar, or at a Disney a La Carte, then this would be piquant, it would leave you with a lingering, burning but satisfying aftertaste, that you would be reminded of every time you ate a decent meal. Here though, the purée is watery, out of place, it’s on the wrong plate, you can put it on everything else but don't bother, it’ll just remind you of what you’re missing.
So you plod on, mouthful after mouthful, chase, escape,chase, escape...and so on.
Suddenly the main is over. The plate is nothing left but a few scraps.
The waiter offers you the dessert menu, you pass.
‘What’s on it?’
‘Well, we’re out of anything interesting I’m afraid, we have some sterilised lesson about friendship and out of date messages about getting along?’
‘I’ll pass...can I get the bill please?’
You sit, quietly digesting, already forgetting what you’ve just consumed, you realise that you could have got something better somewhere else. After all there are thousands of meals like this, the ‘Lost Animal Tries To Get Home’ can be found on a menu almost anywhere, this was straight up middle-of-the-road fayre.
The bill arrives, money changes hands, you leave a standard tip.
You walk away, the specials board catches your eye. There are some decent looking things on there that you could have had.
Maybe you will have one of those next time.