It’s a very privileged problem to have, let’s acknowledge that out of the gate. Most people in this world who are worrying about food are worrying about how to get enough on to the table, not how to eat the very best the world has to offer while flitting about. Again, let me be the first to file this post under “Privileged People Problems” or “Problems That Are Not Very Serious In The Grand Scheme of Things.”
That said, I leave for Europe in one week and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all the “shoulds” floating across my screen. “Oh you’re going to Paris, you should go to Pierre Hermé,” says one person. “Skip Pierre Hermé,” says another person. “You should go to Jacques Genin.” It’s almost like I’m studying for the S.A.T.s and pretty soon I’m going to be in a gray little room with my #2 pencil, guessing C when I don’t know the answer, instead of strolling carefree around Europe, letting the day unfold in ways that might take be surprise. This is what it’s like being a Type A food person planning a trip.
I know it’s a purely psychological phenomenon and that the best way to deal with it is to just casually study everyone’s suggestions without letting them overwhelm me. That’s when the FOMIM kicks in: the Fear of Missing Important Meals. Anything can trigger it. For example, reading a Bon Appetit article about new Paris restaurants, I see this sentence from Christine Muhlke: “Book a table [at Frenchie] the minute you even think about going to Paris.”
Oh, Christine Muhlke, I tried! On the website, all the tables are booked up. I tried to use personal connections; no dice. Now I feel like the guy who bubbled in all his answers one row off; no matter how hard I erase, I’m going to score a 0 and wind up at a community college. (Not that there’s anything wrong with community college.) All this because I didn’t go to one of the hottest restaurants in Paris.
See, that’s FOMIM working at me. Even when someone relieves the pressure–my friend Brian, who just got back from Paris, says he ate at Frenchie To Go for lunch and that it’s a great second option–some new anxiety sets in. For example, I’m seeing two plays in London (King Lear and The Pajama Game) and thinking about where to eat beforehand. I Google “Pre-Theater Dinner London” and this Mark Bittman article pops up. Sayeth Bittman: “A reminder: Book ahead. Way ahead, if you can. Most of these are wildly popular, and pre-theater is prime-time.”
Geesh, just when I think I’ve planned a nice evening for myself humming along to “Hernando’s Hideaway,” it turns out I’ve failed miserably. Now all these new questions rise up: do I really want to make a pre-theater reservation? What if I change my mind about where I want to go? What if I pick the wrong spot? What if I’d rather eat after the show?
And that’s all micro stuff. On the macro level, I have to think about my whole trip in general: which cities do I splurge in? I’m only going to be with Craig in Scotland and Germany, shouldn’t I save my nicest meals for when we’re together? But aren’t the restaurants better in France and England? Will Craig even enjoy a fancy, shmancy Michelin restaurant if it means he has to wear a jacket? Speaking of wearing a jacket, do I need to pack a suit? Or can I get away with my beige jacket and jeans? Will I be turned away from that fancy place I booked in Strasbourg for not being dressy enough? Will I miss an important meal?
Deep breaths. Here’s the truth: the only way to get over FOMIM is to give yourself permission to miss those not-to-be-missed eating experiences. Instead, you have to make your own experiences. Maybe, wandering around Paris, I’ll stumble into a little cafe, order a croissant, and it will be the best croissant of my life. And maybe it will be at a place nobody’s heard of yet.
But if I eat that croissant at that magical cafe…won’t I miss the croissants at Pâtisserie Boulangerie Blé Sucré? They’re supposed to be the best.