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Bite or Flight

A few days ago in the office we coined a new phrase (credit to our A&E editor, Melissa Goldstein, must be given): Bite or Flight. I was describing an experience that happens to me when I’m dining out. Full of expectation and anticipation, I sit down in a new restaurant, eagerly open the menu and then…wish that I had chosen a different place to have dinner.

As I pour over the items, from the blueberry mole to the cured lamb tongues, I start to develop this kind of desperate, panicked feeling. Then, in my head, I start scheming about what to do: leave now, before the waiter returns? Order the most straightforward item on the menu and suffer silently? Toss caution to the wind and try things that sound, on paper, quite terrible? The pain and indecision is particularly acute when it’s an expensive restaurant. In the case of expensive restaurants, the bite or flight response is coupled with acute buyer’s remorse, which usually manifests itself in the following way: Immediately following the meal, I start listing all the other meals that could be eaten for a fraction of the price. “We could have gotten a pizza at Delfina,” I’ll moan. “We could have gotten 47 In-N-Out burgers!”

Normal people, I’m told, people who aren’t obsessed with food, can just shrug off a bad meal. “Eh,” they say, unfazed, “not great.” But for a person like me (a person with, clearly, a pretty good life and nothing real to worry and complain about) a bad meal remains a thorn in my side, sometimes for days or weeks. I just can’t let it go.

Which brings me back to my original question. Faced with a possible bad dining experience, what’s a girl to do? Book it after looking at the menu? Bravely resign myself to a bad meal, then get over it? Who out there shares the Bite or Flight response?