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Monday, March 2,2020

Great Expectations

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  

What if you only got to read the menu after the meal? I had this experience recently in Paris. It was probably for the best because when my husband and I were introduced to the descriptions of what we had unabashedly crowned the best meal of our entire lives, I was sure I would not have ordered any of it. Leave it to the French to decide for you what your meal will be and what wine you will have with each course.

“Zees eez zee best vine, et you may take zees viz zees.”

Translation: You will have this wine with this course because you are in France and we invented both cuisine and wine. Bon appetit!” What can I say? Le chef a toujours raison!

Before I knew this was how the meal was going down, I sipped a delightfully effervescent glass of champagne, and glanced around the dimly lit dining room to see what looked good. It was going to be tough to decide between the grilled goat cheese-looking thingy and the small portion of lightly fried veggies. Were they green beans?

The waiter set the bread plate on the table and my mouth watered, as I mentally narrowed my choices for dinner. I expected a menu – instead, the sommelier appeared next to the waiter with a new bottle of wine – a white – and explained what, in fact, we would be eating and how this wine complimented each note of taste in the dish. I soon realized that I would not be the one deciding my last meal in Paris! My husband reached over and touched my hand, his eyebrows perfectly pitched at the point between pleading and concerned…. Are you going to be okay, my queasy, control-obsessed love of my life? (I might have added that last part).

I had a decision to make. I could let go, be open to this experience, and view this meal as an amazing adventure to complete our romantic vacation in the City of Love – or I could allow my failed expectations and fear of the unknown to rule the day.

Four hours and five bottles of wine later, the meal far exceeded my expectations. That’s the thing about expectations – they inherently set you up for failure.

Whether you are underwhelmed or overwhelmed in a given situation, you are never dead-on with what to expect. Having the menu handed to me at the end of the meal was definitely not expected, but resulted in each mouth-watering bite offering itself as a blank slate for me to appreciate the artistry of the chef and the expertise of the sommelier, untainted by what would have been, had I had seen the menu prior… “Ewwww! Frog’s legs!!!” I expected the Notre Dame to look like a really nice, really big church – I was left speechless. I expected the French to be unhelpful and snooty. You know, like New Yorkers. I was met with smiles and kindness at every turn – well, except for that one time when I mistook an ashtray for a place to discard my escargot shells (eye roll and pffffft blown sideways from lips) – silly n o n - s m o k i n g American! The only thing that I expected to happen exactly the way it did was gaining five pounds. If expectations are premeditated resentments, perhaps tomorrow when I head to the gym I can leave myself open to the experience rather than hating the treadmill, which is what I expect to do.


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