Monday, December 13, 2010

Portion Control

For the past few months, I have had the good fortune to have my weekday take-out lunch assembled by a particularly heavy-handed worker at the assembly-line style restaurant, Chipotle. This has meant my daily salad has included more than the average dollops of roasted chili-corn salsa, shredded vegetable-based rennet cheese, and sustainably raised chicken. A coworker who frequents a different Chipotle branch (and, hence, has never experienced the topping-overload from my unselfish server), informed that her location normally charges extra for especially hearty helpings. I’ve hit the jackpot with this plastic-gloved altruist who the manager has entrusted with doling out the cubes of pepper adobo steak, naturally raised pork carnitas, slowly braised barbacoa (no idea what that is), and fajita vegetable toppings. Too bad he doesn’t wear his Chipotle-issued nametag so I could properly credit him for his largesse.

I actually didn’t pay too much attention to the heft of my salad toppings until a few weeks back, when I opened my salad at my desk to find it to be limp and concave, as though its very soul of chicken chunks had been extracted and replaced with a mere spattering of foul morsels. I had grown accustomed to mounds of marinated chicken, smoky pinto beans, and tomatillo-green chili salsa; now, a sad pothole of romaine lettuce mocked me from the take-out container.

Last week, my salad savior was still not at his station, causing me great pains, hungerwise. One day he was at the cashier station, which did me no good at all. Later in the week, not anywhere to be seen. I considered specifically requesting his ingredient-scooping services, to see if maybe he had been relegated to pork-chopping or lettuce-shredding duty. But not only was I intimidated by the fast assembly-line pace of the environmentally sensitive fastfood chain, I couldn’t quite figure out what to ask and whom to ask. I rehearsed various scenarios in my head: “Excuse me,” I would ask the tortilla warmer/rice scooper (first in the assembly line), “Is the guy who sometimes works the chicken/cheese/salsa shift available to service my order?” The Chipotle I habituate has workers from all over the world, so my internal rehearsals usually involve me repeating the same request several times, getting louder and making more dramatic hand-gestures with each attempt, while the restaurant goes silent, E.F Hutton-style.

Probably if I had never experienced the glory of a salad that weighs more than a newborn, I wouldn’t have thought the more recent version of my $6.42 salad to be deficient in any way. But, knowing that it has indeed been possible to make virtuous salad-eating into an extreme sport, I just wish I could experience that roughage high just one more time…..

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