Using Cystic Fibrosis to Defend My Taste in Chain Restaurants

The other day, in violation of my long held belief that anyone who puts lettuce on a pizza is my enemy, I went to California Pizza Kitchen. I was lured from my comfortable conviction by the promise of free food and the fact that I didn’t want to throw a fit in front of a group of co-workers. Also, what if I was wrong? Maybe the last time I went to CPK, my underdeveloped palette was incapable of discerning the subtle nuances of a pizza topped with mayo tossed lettuce.

No, I was right. It sucks.

California Pizza Kitchen is engineered from the ground up to make me miserable. From the atmosphere to the fact that to them “chips and guacamole” means 12 chips and a smashed avocado, every part of the experience makes me uncomfortable. However, nothing is as egregious as their insistence that any random ingredients piled atop dough and cheese can be called a pizza. Wrong.

Exhibit A:

What the fuck is this?


Exhibit B:

And this shit?


I can tell you what the fuck they’re not: pizzas. You want something wild and new? Light and healthy, but with an array of flavors? Here’s an idea: don’t eat fucking pizza. Their menu has a section labeled “Lite Adventures”. If your restaurant’s name has “Pizza” in it and your menu has the phrase “Lite Adventures” anywhere on it, here’s what you can do: get the fuck out of here with that shit.

Given the tremendous energy it took to hold back all of my rage, it was only a matter of time before I slipped up and said something to alienate the rest of the table. I did not, however, expect this to be it:

“Denny’s is probably my favorite restaurant.”

The only controversial thing in that sentence is “probably”, because Denny’s is straight up my favorite restaurant. My friends and I used to go so much that the cook would let us order off menu, meaning I not only have a favorite Denny’s item—a full order of Zesty Nachos—but a favorite off-menu Denny’s item—the delicious French Toast and Buffalo Chicken sandwich.

Now, I can understand that a Buffalo Chicken Monte Cristo isn’t for everyone. And I understand that Denny’s isn’t everyone’s favorite restaurant. But I could not understand the bewildered faces looking back at me after I professed my love for Denny’s. In fact, I started to get defensive when asked if I was “fucking kidding”—not because they were questioning my motives, but because the implication was that California Pizza Kitchen is somehow superior to Denny’s—so I clammed up. What I wanted to say was:

“This place radiates cotton twill Banana Republic cleanliness in an effort to convince us that gluing arugula to day old bread and charging $10 for it constitutes an upscale dining experience. It’s a place for Jimmy Buffet fans to go after the excitement of Margaritaville has worn them down and they’re ready to take a chance on something fancy. ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be wild if we had a pizza with pears and gorgonzola on it?’ You know what’s a wild flavor combination? A milkshake with fucking bacon in it. And Denny’s didn’t charge me $10 or pretend it was anything more than a terrible idea brought to glorious fruition. You know what I had afterward? A nap. I didn’t have to go to Wendy’s to get my calorie count for the day.”

That last sentence is key. I have a contrarian streak that has often seen me accused of just trying to be different. Unfortunately, I’m not trying to be different; I just am. I say this not as a point of pride, but to explain that because of Cystic Fibrosis, I need a lot of calories. And because those calories don’t pay for themselves, I need food to be cheap enough that I can afford to eat a bunch of it, but delicious enough that I don’t mind. While drinking Half and Half is fine most of the time, sometimes you have to treat yourself. And that’s why I end up at Denny’s so often.

I often wonder if CF makes me view the world differently. Since that question is impossible to answer, I’ve settled on the theory that CF did not create certain impulses, it feeds them. My natural contrarian streak is well nurtured by the fact that, if I pushed hard enough, I could probably get a prescription for Pancake Puppies. My distrust of parties/large gatherings supported by the fact that community chip bowls are a haven of bacteria. My love of Swedish Death Metal preordained by the sound I make when I cough.

Or maybe I’m just using CF as an excuse for those things. Either way, what’s important here is that if you have any extra Denny’s gift cards laying around, I’d be happy to take them off of your hands. It’s a medical necessity.

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