Monday, October 12, 2015

They Say It's Cannelloni, But I Know Better

From this story five years ago that took place during my sunglasses experiment a mainstay of my presentation has been to call for a boycott of The Olive Garden due to them taking manicotti off the menu. What's the big deal with that? The segment in my presentation that this is talked about, which is also episode two of Asperger Insights in which, "whatever happens first always has to happen" is film theory. To put simply, if I do one thing, one way, one time then it must always be the same and from my first experience at The Olive Garden when I was five, which I vaguely remember my brother working there that day but I could be wrong, was that I first got manicotti (after a hunger protest because when I was five I only ate three foods) and since then that was all I got. That was until it got stricken from the menu in 2010.

My boycott was in jest (or was it?) in my presentations but a big part of my life (okay, may not be big in terms of life changing but with my associative memory system losing The Olive Garden wasn't just a small loss that I could say, "oh well" to) had been changed. That was until a couple weeks ago someone posted a picture to my Facebook wall that had a picture of a menu from The Olive Garden AND.................. MANICOTTI. Sort of.

The picture showed what I was used to but now it was topped with this red sauce that wasn't the normal sauce (normal? It'd been five years... Surely I wasn't about to complain, right? You bet I was!) and it was topped with chicken. This was certainly a foul (HAHA!) in my book because manicotti, since it was first introduced to me in 1988, was and is forever supposed to be served meatless.

A couple weeks passed and two days ago I was in Springfield with a 3:30 presentation so I had to search out lunch and it was time to return. Was it a reality? Could I order it in the traditional way and not in this new pushing the limits way? I hadn't been this excited and anxious to have lunch in, well, potentially ever.

The menus came out and on the seasonal specials was, in fact, this manicotti and it was labeled as such but it was also name Cannelloni. I have no idea what that is, but all I knew was under the unneeded new meat and sauce was the tubular pasta filled with the cheese that I grew up with and when I ordered I said I wanted the manicotti without the chicken and the server responded with, "and the new sauce is highly recommended" and I looked at him in befuddlement because, when it comes to food, "new" and "highly recommended" do not mix. Give me what I know, the way I've always known, because I've been waiting five years three months for this day to return.

Just with trips to The Olive Garden in the previous decade the irking experience of having the breadsticks, salad, and the entrĂ©e coming all at once happened but there it was, the manicotti! I asked for the traditional marinara sauce and I got it! Forget the breadsticks, forget the salad, what happened once was about to happen again and it did taste the same. For most others I'm sure an event like this would be a non-point, but for myself this was a return in my memories to all the other times I had from the highs to the lows. This was, in essence, a return to my childhood but also a key thing knowing things once again were the same. I don't like change, change is bad, and if something has been a part of my life, no matter how small it actually is, and is taken away this is an emotional response to it. It irks me when I hear the misnomer that those with Asperger's, "have no emotions or care" because we do, but perhaps it isn't in the traditional sense. To most food is food, but this manicotti represented the time my family was together at The Olive Garden all those years ago, the times after school when we would go, discovering the Saint Louis locations after we moved here in 1993, and eventually losing it only to be able to have it one more time.

One more time... This is just on their seasonal menu so odds are it will disappear again for, well, perhaps forever. Maybe it was fitting that on the receipt it did indeed say cannelloni because in a few weeks perhaps that's the only thing that will remain and the manicotti, once again, will fade into darkness and with that I'll become even more fierce with my call for a boycott in my presentation because I know there's hope and someday, yes, someday we'll get it put back on the permanent menu!

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