Sunday, September 6, 2015

amazing grace

In this post, I revisit a previous rant, because it keeps coming up. Thank you for your indulgence. — JPiC
We made plans to meet my brother-in-law* and his family for dinner. The chosen restaurant was a small independent Italian place not too far from their home. Mrs. P and I arrived a good fifteen minutes before I saw their car pull into the tiny parking lot. (That, in itself, was a rarity.) While we waited, we perused the surroundings, taking in the atmosphere, as it was our first time there.

The small, boxy building was obviously something else before it was re-purposed as a restaurant. A row of tables lined the front of the building whose wall was a large, multi-pane, picture window. On the other side of a narrow aisle was a diner-like, low counter sporting old-fashioned swivel stools, with wait service from the open kitchen across the sparkling white Formica. In the corner, situated near the cashier, was an imposing coal-fired oven, its glowing embers visible through the brick-lined, semi-circular opening. A stocky fellow, with a bandanna knotted around his perspiring head, shoveled pizza after hand-prepared pizza into the fiery depths of the oven, carefully monitoring the quick cooking time and withdrawing perfectly-browned pies for eager (and hungry) customers. A glass-sided case displayed the many exotic, gourmet pizza offerings. 

Mrs. P and I marveled at the wide array of selections — both the meat and meat-free varieties — all made from various combinations of over two dozen available toppings. They were colorful specimens, decked out in brightly-hued peppers, onions, tomatoes and other assorted vegetables. Others were chock full of huge hunks of sausage, large disks of pepperoni and big globs of ricotta cheese. Each one was an edible work of art, beautifully presented and each more appetizing than the last.

Soon, we were joined by our familial dinner companions, who were equally as surprised that we beat them to our destination. (Obviously, we have gained ourselves a reputation in the "tardy" department.) While we waited for a recently-vacated table to be cleared and cleaned, my brother-in-law began to extol the virtues of this establishment, as he and his family are frequent patrons. 

"The pizza here is amazing." he avowed.

Ugh! There's that word again. "Amazing!" Oh, how I have come to loathe that word. Well, not so much the word itself, but the over-usage and application to everyday, decidedly non-amazing things. I don't know when it started, but "amazing" has become the go-to standard description for anything that is not horrible. And I mean anything. And it has gotten out of hand. Listen for it everyday. People describe everything from their children to a movie to a piece of fish as "amazing." Merriam-Webster defines "amazing" as "causing amazement, great wonder, or surprise." Now, is that an accurate description of a lump of ground beef on a bun? Or your kid bringing home a gold star on a third-grade math test that thirty other kids in the class and hundred other kids in the school took? Does that really evoke "great wonder or surprise?" Amazing? Really? Y'know, if everything is amazing, then nothing is amazing.

I grimaced at my brother-in-law's assessment of the pizza. I told him that I rarely find that any situation begs for the word "amazing" as a suitable description and I have never ever used it in reference to food. I like food. I like food a lot, but I have never had any food that I would classify as "amazing." You can add "life-changing" and "to die for," as well. Food is "good." Sometimes it's "very good," even "excellent," but never — and I mean never — amazing.

"You know what's 'amazing'?," I told him, "The story of Zion Harvey. That's amazing!" I related the story of Zion Harvey, an 8-year-old boy whose hands and feet were amputated after he contracted a life-threatening infection as a toddler. Little Zion underwent a grueling 10-hour operation in which doctors grafted an operational hand onto each of his wrists. He is now receiving intense daily sessions of physical therapy to strengthen his new hands and to enhance his coordination and dexterity. He is admirably brave and, at the same time, blasé about his situation. He stoically stated that he looks forward to one day holding his baby sister. That is, in every sense of the word — amazing. Does a slab of dough decorated with cheese, sauce and a few tomatoes rate in the same category as doctors guaranteeing that a courageous child receives a second chance at a normal life? I don't think so.

Not amazing.
The pizza was pretty good. Very good actually. But amazing? It was just pizza.

*not that one, the other one.

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