Gateway Drugs

About two year ago, Eloise went to spend the night with her best friend. Their plans included watching her brothers in a hockey tournament in some suburb in a land far far away. Upon her arrival home Eloise said in a crazy-excited voice, “Mom, we went to the most amazing restaurant last night!” And I was all like “Unless you’ve eaten at the Peninsula in Hong Kong – you have no idea what an amazing restaurant is.” And she was like “Seriously, we have to go to this restaurant sometime – it’s called The Olive Garden..have you heard of it?”


And then I tried not to laugh.


“No honey, I haven’t…but yes, sure, let’s go there sometime.” I said, convinced that she would just forget about her experience in the suburbs soon. Or that counseling could perhaps help her cope with her new love for the never-ending salad and bread sticks.


But no. Two years later she still remembers that meal as one of the finest of her life as if she broke bread with Jesus that night. And sometimes I hear her tell her Olive Garden story to her sisters and they too ask to go to this mecca in the parking lot holy land outside of the freeway ring that separates the liberals from the Bachmann voters. And frankly I get scared.


So I’ve never taken them and I change any talk of The Olive Garden into “Hey, let’s talk about how babies are made!”


Because I consider The Olive Garden a Gateway Drug. Sure, it seems safe to eat there once in awhile and enjoy the sub-par pasta, mediocre wine list and unlimited bread sticks. But then you get bored and want more. Soon you find yourself waiting two hours for a table at The Outback on a Saturday night, shopping at Costco for that 20 lb tub of peanut butter, waiting at the drive-thru at McDonald’s on Sunday morning..and soon, soon…you find yourself sleeping in the Disney World parking lot so you can be first in the park when the gates open.


I know my addictive personality and soon we’d even wear matching family t-shirts everywhere we go.


And it’s not like anything is wrong with those things. I just feel safe in the city eating at the local corner restaurant and pretending we only eat organic when we shop at the Farmer’s Market and use our hemp shopping bags.


But Jed is out of town and I’m feeling weak, worn down and evidently out of my mind – because last night the kids wore me down and we hopped into the minivan and crossed a freeway to wait in line for dinner at The Olive Garden.


And it was everything they dreamed of and more.


And all I kept thinking about was that my prom date took me there in 1986 and he was truly a cheap bastard.


And if you’re looking for us next Saturday night – well you will probably find us at The Outback in our matching shirts.

About Tracy

My name is Tracy Morrison and I live in sunny Minnesota. I'm neither British nor a nun - I'm just a Midwesterner with a headache. This is mainly a humor and lifestyle blog that documents the lighter side of parenting. I am an ex-corporate ladder climber turned freelance writer, social media manager, and fashion expert - and ruler of my own little universe(very small). Aren't we all. I would love for you to contact me at

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  1. says

    I feel the same way as you about waiting in line at a sub-par restaurant (4 hours for dinner at Red Lobster? No way!) and we live in a suburb. An exurb, actually. But sometimes you just want to go to Olive Garden. And then you go to get it out of your system, and you vow never to eat there again. But then you do. I think they put drugs in the food.
    Andrea recently posted..Learning To Do It All

  2. says

    Hilarious. I am the same way. Give me a funky local restaurant over a huge chain any day. I think the last time I went to Olive Garden was a good bye party for a friend, and I only had dessert. I just don’t see the appeal when there’s so many other cool options out there.
    Leigh Ann recently posted..The last glimpse of summer

  3. says

    This makes me happy my kids are the pickiest of the picky. We live in the Burbs, but at least I don’t have to worry about them begging to go to Olive Garden.

    However, my husband took me to Outback for our first date. He also forgot his wallet and I had to pay. It’s a good thing I liked him so much, and I have since schooled him on what food is good and appropriate.
    Tricia O. recently posted..SPANK! is silly parody fun

  4. says

    “Unless you’ve eaten at the Peninsula in Hong Kong – you have no idea what an amazing restaurant is.” You had me right there. HA.

    So funny. When Miguel was little, we went to the Olive Garden on xmas eve because it was the only thing open and we didn’t want to cook. Fortunately, he is too young to remember it. Now, our children can never meet.
    Vikki recently posted..Kids Are Funny – Part 4

  5. says

    I have never been to Olive Garden – I’m not sure if we have them in Canada? But we live in the Burbs and my children like the bigger chain restaurants. I have never considered possibilities of the matching family T-shirts, though. :)
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted..Between the Lines

  6. AnnJ says

    This is funny! How did you keep it from them for so long? Some day they will look back and remember all the neat local restaurants you visited in your wonderful neighborhood! They’ll also wonder how they ever thought OG was better! Keep up the great parenting – - and blogging!

  7. says

    Oh my god, I am laughing out loud. I went there, the one just across the freeway, for my senior homecoming dance. And yes, we loaded up on unlimited breadsticks. I don’t think I’ve been there since, and fortunately, my 4YO prefers potstickers and sushi to pasta. maybe i’ll get lucky?

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