Reverb12 Day Seven: Memorable Meal

I went back to Daily Angst for today’s prompt.

Hopefully you had more than one spectacular meal in 2012, but what is the first that comes to mind?  Were you surrounded by family at the dining room table?  Sitting on a bench by the lake?  Bring us there.

I don’t know about spectacular, but certainly one of the more memorable and satisfying meals of 2012 was my birthday dinner.

My birthday is February 23. It is, frankly, one of the lamest possible times to have a birthday. In Maryland it’s right at the business end of the dark, depressing, frigid post-Christmas months before the spring thaw. Nothing is happening, and little is pleasant outside. Kind of blah.

A few years ago I started a bit of a tradition with my mother of going to Red Lobster for my birthday dinner. We almost never go there otherwise as it’s a bit pricier than we like, so I thought maybe once a year would be acceptable. That is what we did for three years. For 2012, things changed.

My younger sister and my youngest niece, Ella, were up for a visit during that weekend. Ella, at the time all of eight months old had been out to dinner before with her parents, but I had never done so with her. I thought if nothing else it would be a fun twist on the evening.

We tend to eat around 6:00PM in this family, so we left home around 5:15PM. One of the few blessings of February is that the days at last begin to get longer. It’s marginal but noticeable. So unlike 5:15PM in the middle of December, there was still some light left outside when we departed. Enough light in fact to reveal an encroaching grayness. A grayness I thought may be a sign to postpone the dinner. But it was decided we’d be fine.

When we got to Red Lobster, the place was covered both in heavy swirls of falling ice and snow, and the single biggest mob of humanity I have ever seen trying to enter a restaurant in my life. People standing in line in the parking lot to get in. I’m not one to wait in line just to get into restaurant, and this didn’t bode well for the recent tradition.

Nonetheless, my sister parked the car so Mom could go in and scout the situation. To the surprise of nobody, she came back and reported it could be more than an hour before new customers were served. It was decided then and there that there would be no traditional serf and turf birthday dinner for me that night.

As my sister eased her colossal Jeep Tahoe out of the cramped and somewhat slushy parking lot, I suggested that perhaps we just abandon the entire affair. Taking into account the gray mass in the sky I saw before we left home, the insane, unprecedented run on the local Red Lobster, and the increasing winds, I thought perhaps it was a sign that this family meal was not to be.

Having packed up Ella and come all the way to town, however, my sister was determined to make at least something of the evening. Down the road a short way was a Ruby Tuesday, and we made it our alternate destination. Though we were only out of the car for a few minutes, the winter walloped us a bit. It took a few minutes inside the warm, (and thinly populated) eatery to shake off that chill.

It turns out, they too had serf and turf. Not as big, and not as tasty, (though not as expensive) as that at Red Lobster, but it was there. I ordered it as my anxiety over the increasing snow and ice fall outside climbed.

Ella threw things on the floor from her provided high chair, and laughed. We laughed with her, and so did just about every server and every other sporadic customer in our part of the restaurant.

The food came with unusual speed. I suppose because there were not as many orders to fill on that particular Saturday night. It wasn’t Red Lobster, but the steak was tender, warm and well seasoned, with just a hint of the sizzle remaining even as it sat on my plate. The lobster was fresh, perfectly white meat surrounded by a sunset-orange shell of a well-cooked crustacean of the genus. Over all, quite satisfactory.

It had grown dark by the time we began eating, though the sidewalk lights and parking lot lamps outside the nearby window illuminated the still heavy winter slop as it fell around us, beginning to coat the pavement and the cars. I didn’t like that my sister would have to drive in it, and I was glad I didn’t have to. But for about an hour, there was a special fulfillment in being warm and comfortable inside with family and a hearty meal while still able to observe the unforgiving swirl of winter just outside the building.

Certain things, meals included, take on a higher quality simply due to what you have had to go through in order to obtain them. The four of us had not gone through life and death, nor did we struggle getting home, given the four wheel drive nature of the vehicle. But after several dead of winter misadventures, finding an alternative place for serf and turf on my birthday, and being able to share the evening with Ella, her mother, and my mother made for a meal that was, in its way, spectacular.




  1. I love your description of the lobster shell. 🙂

    Describing the trial of actually getting to a Red Lobster brings back so many memories, you don’t even know. It used to be my little brother’s favorite restaurant for a long time, and whenever he wanted to do something special for a birthday or event, we’d drive to the closest one (a pretty small one) and wait for forever and inevitably end up with many crayon table drawings and sibling arguments. Now, my brother and I have both learned to cook quite well, although we’re both admittedly amateurs at seafood. 🙂

  2. I don’t do steak or lobster very often, so it’s the perfect combination for a birthday treat and to perk up an often depressing winter’s evening.

    No crayon table drawings for me while there, though that sounds like fun, and perhaps I should request the equipment for that next year. =)

    I am a below average cook, myself. Slowly getting a tad better, though probably quite a far distance from being able to prepare my own lobster.

    • Start with chicken to get better. Most everyone can do chicken. (Unless, of course, you don’t like chicken or are a vegetarian.) Also, an article that’s oddly helpful for beginning cooks was something on about 5 (or whatever the number was) mistakes every beginning cook makes.

      • I will check that out. And I do lots of chicken things in the slow cooker I have. Which may not count, I don’t know. =)

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