I think it was Anthony Bourdain who wrote that a key contributor to the perfect meal was the company at the table.
Sure, a lot of the best experiences are enhanced when you share it with someone who digs it as much as you.
But there are exceptions.
Some things are just so fabulous that it wouldn't matter one whit if someone was there or not.
For example, Sizzler's cheese toast.
The once popular chain recently closed its last stores in Australia, 35 years after introducing us to the toast with the golden touch. Apparently, Australians' dining expectations have moved beyond the super smorgasbord. I'd add also that most of us these days have little faith that fellow diners can follow safe food-handling guidelines. Between poking a wet finger in the bacon chips to sneezing on the pasta salad, the average free-for-all feaster is a potent public health risk.
Then there were those Sizzler patrons who piled up their plates like they were carb-loading for a marathon. In the absence of buckets, they took dinner plates to the dessert bar.
Even though it was excruciating waiting patiently behind the Olympic eating team as they served themselves multiple soft-serve Matterhorns, it was better than being caught in the middle of a potentially explosive situation triggered by a faulty ice-cream machine.
My family and I were confronted with this scenario years ago when we dropped into a Pizza Hut in Goulburn. Everything was calm in The Hut until the soft-serve taps started sputtering like a kinked hose. Tensions escalated quickly. I prayed that we wouldn't hear the dire announcement over The Hut's PA: "Goulburn, we have a problem".
After a few hangry blow-ups, most patrons appeared to accept that ice-cream was off the menu. But there was a dangerous chill in the air, so we ate quickly and left.
Indigestion is easier to treat than serious injury.
Sizzler kicked off in the 80s, so it's no wonder this Gen-Xer has turned all nostalgic. My formative dining experience consisted of visits to Sizzler, Big Al's and The Hut.
Big Al's had its own magic item on the menu. Its delightful shoestring fries were seasoned with magic salt. Some say it was chicken salt. No way. It was super-special seasoning created by the fast-food gods.
Thank goodness Ikea's meatballs are kicking on. They are definitely worth the drive to Sydney. If the Swedish giant can be enticed to Lake Mac, it might help soothe my cheese toast blues.
In the meantime, as a parting gift, Sizzler has shared its golden toast recipe:
Ingredients: thick sliced white bread; pecorino cheese and margarine.
Method: Combine equal amounts of margarine with pecorino cheese and mix to create a paste. Cook it in a frying pan on a low to medium heat for about 60 seconds. When it's golden brown, it's ready to eat.
I'll give it a go this weekend, but I fear it won't be the same and I'll need a shoulder to cry on. Maybe Bourdain was right?
It's better to break bread with a friend.
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