Food Fight 

Designated diners befoul restaurant experience

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Those drunken hordes who enter restaurants under false pretenses—pretending they have come to ingest food and then proceeding to get unspeakably sloshed—have been cleverly foiled by the philosopher kings who rule the kingdom of Utah. Unless the reckless imbibers can irrefutably demonstrate an “intent to dine,” they will be booted from the premises.

As we know, the “intent to dine” requires more than just a polite request to see a menu. Would-be diners must not only order a full dinner, but also smack their lips, rub their tummies and ask for a second helping. And since serious drinkers have been known to fake symptoms of gustatory pleasure, restaurants are obliged to provide proof to liquor authorities that meals have successfully traversed the digestive system of their customers and exited the requisite orifice in a timely fashion.

The ingenious “intent to dine” statute has sent the drinkers packing, or more accurately, driven them to drink, in the privacy of their own homes, a lot more than they otherwise would have. This is good for everybody. The drinkers don’t have to pay for food they don’t really want to eat, and the nondrinking normal people can go to restaurants without being exposed to the disgusting sight of folks lubricating their innards with demon rum. An added benefit is the removal of the so-called Zion Curtain, which was mandated by the philosopher kings to make sure normal folk wouldn’t be corrupted by the dazzle of shiny booze bottles arrayed behind the bar.

But now that drinkers have been run out of town, the kingdom of Utah is faced with what might prove to be a much bigger problem than the fake-dining drinkers. This problem has largely gone unnoticed, though now and again complaints have been lodged, letters written and protests filed.

The problem whereof I speak is that of diners who neither drink nor dine. These diners are fasters, also called “proxy diners,” who typically arrive for Sunday Brunch in large numbers and watch other people eat. One local restaurateur, who prefers to remain anonymous, says the proxy diners are taking a big bite out of his profits.

“I’m kind of stymied,” he says as he wipes the sweat from his brow and slaps a steak on the grill. “They always have one person who orders a big meal. As far as I can tell, this person is the ‘designated diner,’ and in addition to stuffing himself (or herself) until his or her face swells like a sausage, this person is also the ‘designated driver.’ ”

I guess the proxy diners in the party are so dizzy from going without their normal Sunday breakfast that they can’t be trusted to get behind the wheel.

“I’m getting more and more complaints from the other diners. For one thing, the designated eater quite frequently makes a spectacle of himself, chewing with his mouth open and licking the bacon grease off his fingers and getting maple syrup all over his chin. What’s worse are the noises emanating from the stomachs of the proxy diners. There are squeaks and growls and squeals and rumbles. All those noises tend to put the other diners off their food. A lot of the time, folks will just pass on dessert and ask for the check. People in Utah aren’t big tippers, and the customers grossed out by the intestinal borborigmi, also known as a burning in the bosom, of the proxy diners won’t even leave a measly 10 percent.”

Religious fasting is hardly confined to our pretty great state. Scholars tell us that fasting is a nearly universal practice among major religions. What differentiates the dominant religion in the kingdom of Utah is the pragmatic approach taken to the practice of fasting, as evidenced by proxy dining and designated diners. Researchers say that worshipers in the kingdom of Utah are practical fasters. Fasting is an important element of the higher ceremonies; the low blood sugar produces dizziness and hunger pains that lead to an infusion of spirit and a burning in the bosom.

Some local congregations have been known to soak the sacrament in Mountain Dew to prevent the faithful from falling into a confused mental state, however useful that might be on other occasions or in other ordinances.

Nevertheless, many fasters confess that even one missed meal on Fast Sunday gives them a buzz not all that different from that derived from a tall beer.

D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.

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