Imagine, a young fawn ready for the new world, looking at the entrance to Olive Garden as if it were the gate to the Garden of Eden.
Now, let me explain. Since I was 5 years old, I had always wanted to go to the Olive Garden. I would see it every time I went on my annual trip to Florida. My eyes would light up like watching Mickey Mouse break dance to a Britney Spears mash-up. The reason it was such a special place to me was its great marketing team and my young desire to be in the Italian environment it seemed to evoke. But for whatever reason, I could never get to this pinnacle of Italian restaurants.
My life continued, and year after year, I would ask and not receive. My mom would either not have time or not want to go, my grandma wanted to go somewhere else or I was just out of luck. It felt as if I were a dog wearing a hat with a steak on a string dangling in front of my face. I had no means to get this elusive Olive Garden, no money, no job – just a wish, a dream and a Sesame Street education. Every year, though, I kept plugging away with the hope of making it to my restaurant of choice.
I reached my senior year at my middle school – eighth grade for those who don’t know – and I quickly realized my Olive Garden hopes were being dashed as my innocence was beginning to fade. I knew this had to be the year. I drilled the idea of an Olive Garden graduation present to my mom every day. Drilled and drilled until the drill hit my mom’s heart. It got to that great day of my life when finally, I was officially no longer a young fawn butnow a teenage gazelle ready to take on the world. I graduated, and Olive Garden was on the horizon.
I hopped in the car, ready to go to this land of milk and alfredo sauce. While my family and I were in the car, I kept raving about what I was going to eat and how great it was going to be. I mentioned how my taste buds would be on a rocket ship ride to Pluto and explode into a fireworks show that the world had never seen.
So, after about a 30-minute drive, we reached the gates of Atlantis. I stepped out of the car and walked into Olive Garden triumphantly. We found seats, and I was already not too impressed by my surroundings. It looked like Red Lobster with an Italian facelift, but it didn’t faze my jubilation, and I looked at the menu. The menu looked bland. I could not believe the lack of actual selection at my disposal. All I knew was that there was endless salad to be had. Red Lobster with a facelift and crappy menu, but I thought the food must be awesome. I could not let my dream be dashed so easily. So I sat and waited for my glorious food to come out.
The food came, chicken parmesan to be exact. My reaction: Imagine just realizing the person you had unprotected sex with was someone who had herpes. I was totally appalled by what was placed in front of me. I thought the portion was going to be unbelievable, but it was meager. I almost broke down, but I continued and took a taste.
Let’s just say if mediocre was a talent, the chefs would have it coming out of their pores. I finished my meal and pretended to be happy because my mom really was happy she could take me, but my Eden had definitely become my wasteland. I give the marketing team who worked on those commercials great credit. They made a kid believe in something that was never going to happen. If only I knew appearances are not always reflective of the truth.