My name is Self-Appointed Expert, and this is my blog. It is part memoir, mostly fiction, and above all just trying to be funny. Some of is based on stuff that happened to me, some is based on stuff that happened to people I know, and a good deal is just entirely made up. So, if you find yourself offended, just remember - it's a joke. When you give me that look, it's a joke. Consider it my homage to the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, A Million Little Pieces, John Hodgman, and Christopher Guest.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

If you are what you eat, then I am A LOT OF THINGS.

Yesterday I posted some of my initial thoughts on the eating habits of summer associates. The tone was a little irreverent, comparing SA’s to foie gras’d gooses and opining about the possibility of consuming raw penguins, but it was mostly supportive of the wining and dining recruiting practices of the summer law firm job. Frankly, I feel I owe you all an apology. My tone was misleading. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to emphasize that I only have one word for the summer associate’s ritual of the midday meal: absolutely disgusting. And by one word, I mean two. Specifically, an adjective and a qualifier.

In the week that I’ve been at the firm, I’ve learned there are a lot of topics that are off-limits at work. You can’t talk about law (it would make you look like a nerd, and it’s probably illegal under confidentiality rules); you can’t talk about politics (no small feat in a DC firm); you can’t talk about religion (don’t want to look too crazy before you get your offer); you can’t talk about movies (no one’s seen any) or books (no one’s read any) or going to the gym (no one has time); and you certainly can’t make any jokes that are actually funny (because it makes you look like a “racist”). What does this leave you with? (1) The weather – whether it’s going to rain, when it’s going to start to get really hot, how it compares to weather where you’re from, (2) How great the firm is – with the associates using a tone of voice usually reserved for “The More You Know” commercials, and the summers nodding smilingly back at them, and finally (3) Food.

Food, I’ve found, is the topic of choice. Mostly because there’s only so much to be said about the humidity, so you can get through weather quickly, and because summers really have nothing to contribute to the “how great the firm is” conversation (besides “yeah, but will you hire me to work at it?”). Food is great because it incorporates the two main attributes of the other two conversations: (1) it’s universally accessible, and (2) it emphasizes how successful and awesome working at the firm can make you. Where most kids your age are eating tuna salad and mayo from a can, you get to savor seared sushi-grade ahi served with a side of crème fraiche – sitting at tables right next to the Bush Twins, Justice Scalia, and the Commissioner of the NBA (true stories).

So how do you go from eating all the best food at all the best restaurants to being totally and revoltingly disgusting? Well, first you go for two hours in the middle of the day, then you order a full dinner feast (bread, appetizer, salad, entrée, desert, drink, coffee), and finally, you do it every day for 14 weeks. Also, you talk about what you’re doing the whole time you’re doing it – before you go, when you get to the restaurant, as you’re eating your meal, while walking back to the office, and then again whenever anyone is looking for restaurant recommendations, which is all day every day.

It changes you. You start to see Beautiful Mind-esque patterns in menus: there’s always some sort of undercooked fish, exotically flavored oils, complicated words for simple things (pommes frites for fries, aioli for mayo). You start to invent games to play with yourself using ubiquitous ingredients (e.g., “find the fennel’). And soon you realize that even though you’ve been a pretty good conversationalist for most of your life, you can no longer find the energy to contribute anything to your fifth “what’s good here?” conversation of the week. So, instead you find yourself sitting in silence, shoveling food into your mouth or nervously sipping your hibiscus infused lemonade (which you requested to be mixed with half seltzer water, just to prove that you weren’t mute), and hoping against hope that someone will say something about the Simpsons or American Idol or the Da Vinci Code controversy or something, anything, that lets you imagine that you are not some soul-dead drone sitting in a fancy restaurant turning your liver into pate, and are actually some measure of the interesting person you were before you showed up to work at this firm.

But by that point, it’s time to start reading the dessert menu. I hear the citrus flan is pretty tasty.


Blogger kayellbee said...

Uhh...I can't wait to start work?

4:36 PM

Blogger Joe said...

that's not a lot of conversation topics, especially since we don't have any weather here in L.A.; however, since people here watch TV and work out instead of sleeping, that should "help"

10:52 PM


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