I knew it the moment I took the first sip. The beer was strong, and it was falling on my empty stomach like burning knives. The name of the brewery jumped at my hungry eyes scrolling Google for a restaurant late at night, and the website bluff worked. But now, sipping the poison, either the fancy glass didn’t honor its name, or I was too hungry and cranky to judge rationally.
I wondered why was I there in the first place. With nothing else to do, I carefully unraveled my last string of decisions, as I waited for the food and kept sipping. More blades, more burn. Too late to walk away.
I had a doctor’s appointment far away from home. It was worth the drive because he’s the best optometrist I’ve ever met, and I wear glasses since age 15. He’s a mad scientist, and has experimented with me with more than 10 different contact lens prescriptions to address what he calls “Your left eye knows really what it wants, and the contact lens industry doesn’t have it”.
The Doctor gave me really good news: my eyesight is not getting worse. I don’t need reading glasses yet, but probably will in the next couple of years. Better yet, Pharma has just come up with these miraculous, expensive drops that you can put on your eyes in the morning to help them focus -without reading glasses- for the next 6–8 hours. Magic! No need to track more glasses, if you want to pay the $80 tag price and experiment with new drugs on your pupils. The doctor and I agreed we’d do it as soon as I need them.
Tracing my decision to eat out after the late doc appointment far away from home was not hard. I was hungry, it was a fact. The quick Google Map search gave me options I wasn’t so keen on, especially after driving to a couple of them and seeing the sad interior scene from my car: a lonely customer sitting at the bar in the Tavern (there goes my burger); a pizza-only choice for the Mediterranean spot (why??), a closed Japanese place that would have been perfect.
By the time my starving eyes glazed over La Cabra Brewery I was sold. I drove as fast as the suburban speed limit allowed, hoping for good light so I could read. I chose the coziest table I found, already salivating over the smoked meats that the website promised, and the mouthful of bright citrus my IPA was going to deliver.
As I took the first sip, it hit me: the only food I had the whole day was a mango, a pear, and two pieces of bread with goat cheese, almost 8 hours ago. Yes, I’m hungry. Yes, it feels like a celebration (my eyes are not getting worse!). But perhaps what I really need is a warm plate of wholesome food, at least some vegetables…
Nothing green on the menu. Duh! It’s a smokehouse-brewery. Just beer and meat. I order 6 ribs and the smoked cauliflower, the only vegetable other than peppers and pickles. And as I wait and sip more burning knives, I wonder why.
Coming from a cattle country has its benefits (our meats and cheeses are famous and delicious), and its downsides. When I get so hungry that my brain goes into single-focus, meat beeps and blinks like a smoke alarm. Conditioning? Sounds like it.
As the kind server puts in front of me a piece of burnt brown baby back ribs, and I take the first bite, I know it: another poor choice. It’s smoked (yum), but also very spicy. The cauliflower is charred (obviously), and also quite spicy. There’s a small container with a red sauce, which is even hotter. My stomach will thank me tomorrow, I think as I bite.
After all, the food isn’t bad. Relax and eat, I tell myself. The place isn’t lit well, so instead of reading (bad habit, you can judge me) I observe the crowd of young college kids complaining about their teachers and planning some sort of revenge I get too bored to follow. After 3 ribs I give up. I’m seriously burning. One of the many misconceptions about South Americans is that all of us love spicy food. Not true. Unless I am the exception.
I finish the beer and check my phone. Elizabeth Holmes has been convicted. I think about unicorns, valuations, and hype, and my stomach burns again. Let’s get out of here.
“Would you like a box?” — the young waiter kindly asks.
After all, meat is always meat. We’ll see how to eat it tomorrow.