A food enthusiast


My platings never look this good.

My friend Ryan is a foodie. He is, without a doubt, a person who, according to some online dictionary, has “an enthusiastic interest in the preparation and consumption of good food.”

Now I know a lot of people who are enthusiastic about food. Heck, I’m enthusiastic about food. But, I’m far from someone whose refined palate drives them to seek out the best of the best of the best ingredients, restaurants, dishes, what have you. Actually, I don’t even have a refined palate, but, that’s the sort of someone Ryan is.

When Ryan calls and says, “Hey, I was thinking about making dinner. Want to come over?,” all bets are the dishes will be delectable culinary feats with multiple courses and ingredients like swordfish or pomegranate or some other non-rural Ohio item, and paired with a wine that will further enhance the flavors. When he calls and asks, “Hey, want to grab a bite to eat?,” I know we’re not going to McDonald’s (sorry, Ronald) but rather a fine-dining establishment (or as close as we can get in Ohio), where he will quiz the server about the entrees and their ingredients and preparation, savor each bite accordingly and openly share his opinion.

Good or bad.

I’ve heard of his experiences at numerous restaurants and of cooking even more meals. The aromas. The tastes. The textures. The platings. The ambiance. What he liked. What he would have liked better. What he loved. What he hated. Where he’ll never go again.

Which is why I told Lara, who was preparing meatloaf and potatoes with onions for dinner one night last week, to not take to heart anything Ryan might say about her meal. Especially if she asked for his honest opinion. Because she was making her mother’s meatloaf recipe. And, because Ryan would give his honest opinion. And, because Ryan is the master of, like, four different meatloaf recipes.

“What’s wrong with my meatloaf?” Lara asked me, defensively.

“Nothing is wrong with it,” I replied. “I’m sure it’s wonderful. But, I’m also sure Ryan will secretly critique it because, well, that’s what foodies do. They critique their meals. But, he’ll only give you his honest opinion if you ask him, so if you don’t want his honesty, don’t ask.”

One time, I did a restaurant review of Poco Piatti in Perrysburg, Ohio, and asked Ryan to join me. After quizzing the server about all the dishes on the menu, we sampled next to everything, including the desserts. Ryan wasn’t shy about telling our server what he liked and what could have been better, and he left the restaurant with an increased desire to become a food critic. He’s bummed that I haven’t written other reviews and asked him to join me at more restaurants.

So, back to Lara’s meatloaf and potatoes. She couldn’t not ask Ryan what his opinion was. It turns out Ryan isn’t a fan of onions, which put a bit of a damper on a meal that consisted of a 10-pound bag. Literally.

“You can’t even taste the onions!” said Lara, defensively, of course. “They’re practically caramelized!”

“Oh, but I can see them, and I can taste them, too,” said Ryan. “And, they’re slippery. I don’t like the feeling of slippery. Much of the time it’s a texture thing. If the texture is too weird, I don’t like it.”

Told you not to ask, Lara. But, don’t worry; judging from the amount of meatloaf and potatoes everyone else at the table ate, I’d say your meal was a hit. We’ll just have Ryan impress us with his culinary prowess at the next meal for which we gather.

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