the robinsons v. tgi fridays

Today was a lazy Sunday. So lazy, I wondered if it were possible to have kettle-cooked potato chips delivered. I didn’t get chips. I got something mediocre at best.

Want to get endless apps?

Ah, that new manifestation of American gluttony in the face of your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Yes. let’s go to TGI Fridays.

I read the Gawker article where 32 mozzarella sticks were eaten, much to the author’s disdain. I wondered how much of something there I could choke down. I used to be a fat kid, so the answer, when I put my mind to it, typically is, “Lots.”

If you don’t know, your choices for the last meal you’ll eat on a given day are:

  • Garlic & Basil Bruschetta (ampersand theirs)
  • New Recipe Mozzarella Sticks (emphasis theirs)
  • BONELESS BUFFALO WINGS (Emphasis mine, technically. Everything is in all caps on the menu; it’s a little intense.)
  • New Recipe Loaded Potato Skins
  • Tuscan Spinach Dip
  • Crispy Green Bean Fries
  • Pan-Seared Pot Stickers
It is not.

Sounds like a piece of cake.

In my strategic eating plan, I figured the wings would be my best bet. I’m not the biggest fan of carbs, so the bruschetta and potato skins were right out. The cautionary tale of the mozzarella sticks put the kibosh on that idea. I saw the green bean fries and pot stickers being great for about the first plate and then tasting of nothing but breader and grease.

The spinach dip. Now that would have been my best bet. I love spinach. I love spinach dip. I loved neither the thought of endless nachos accompanying it nor the mental picture of an industrial vat of bubbling spinach dip waiting to fill our gaping American maws.

But the wings! The boneless Buffalo wings! PROTEIN, BRO. In my lifetime, I’ve put away two dozen real wings like nothing. I’ve eaten the hottest of hot wings like nothing. What probably will be the same frozen microwavable breaded hunks of chicken breast found in your grocer’s freezer should be a breeze.

I got a Sprite to wash it all down, and Renée got a tarted-up Red Bull and vodka to go with her potato skins. I tried a sip of her drink. It was OK, but I like my vodka neat in a teacup.

It’s time to get it on.

My first plate contained 10 chicken chunklies in a mildly spicy sauce, four pieces of celery and two containers of ranch dressing. I gobbled down the first few without really tasting them.

Then I did.

There was pretty much what I expected: pre-made poultry bits with slightly gritty breading and enough fresh cooking to justify it coming out of the same kitchen as steaks and broccoli-cheese soup.

By about the sixth boneless wing, the cumulative effect of the “hot sauce” parked between Satisfyingly Sizzling and Mediocre Mild.  The fresh, crispy celery was a welcome reprieve from Annoyingly Average.

Somewhere in the middle of Round 1, the title track of Arcade Fire’s Reflektor came on. I use it as a timer when I walk uphill from my house to the plateau of most of downtown Charlottesville. I feel accomplished when I’m further along my route when the song ends than the previous time. I saw it as a good omen.

By the eighth chicken crumble, I was beginning to regret my choice. I quickly ordered a second plate although I didn’t exactly want it. It had to be done because you have to get at least two plates for this to be a Great Deal.

I burped. The combination of Red Bull and wing sauce tasted like junior year in college, and not in a good way.

A few bites into the second plate, the strangest thing popped into my head.

Is this killing me? Is my life flashing before my eyes? Is there some sort of repressed Lego-related childhood memory that goopy chicken breast medallions are trying to dredge up?

I didn’t want more. I wasn’t full. I just could not consider taking another bite.

I wondered if TGI Fridays endless apps constitute a round in one of Dante’s circles of hell — millennia of extreme hunger, followed by green beans coated in greasy breading that slips off like the skin on a bloated, waterlogged corpse, the only reprieve being the periodic New Recipe.

I cut the 17th chicken bite in half.

The waitress asked if we were ready for our next plate.

I froze.

I can’t remember if she took that as a no, or if Renée, who’s second helping of potatoes were mostly burnt, threw in the towel for us.

Another burp. Another haunting from early 2004.

I mindlessly took that final bite. It didn’t chew it for a few seconds as my teeth made a silent protest until it was clear I wasn’t spitting it out because we’re in public.

He’s a Lego maniac. …

With that final swallow, I was defeated at 17.5. I don’t know how I feel right now. I don’t feel bad, but I don’t feel very good either. Oddly enough, I really want a real chicken wing. And for the Red Bull burps to end.

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