I’m worried about you, Vino.
Vino is a blogger. Like many bloggers, he’s using the medium to document a special period of his life. A trek across Europe, perhaps? His wife’s pregnancy? No, Vino will liveblog his efforts to eat nothing but pasta from the struggling pseudo-Italian restaurant chain Olive Garden for 49 days. The blog is called “All of Garden,” which is just the best.
If that quest sounds arbitrary to you, then you obviously haven’t been following the over-priced Americanized ethnic food beat very closely. Earlier this month, in an effort to boost visibility for the struggling chain, Olive Garden announced the “Pasta Pass.” It’s the dark, sordid, logical conclusion to its Never-Ending Pasta Bowl promotion, allowing wet carbohydrate enthusiasts to consume for seven straight weeks as much pasta, salad, breadsticks, and soft drinks as they wish for the price of $ 100, plus untold amounts of emotional and gastrointestinal despair.
And because human beings are lunatics, because in the industrialized world food is so plentiful that eating has literally become a sport, and because the Internet, some guy will attempt to survive solely on the Pasta Pass and its offerings and of course write about it.
“For the 49 days of Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl™,” Vino writes, “I will consume nothing but food obtained through that fine establishment. On this site, I will document my journey – the friendships I create and destroy, the changes my body goes through as it adjusts to a purely carbohydrate-based diet, reviews of each and every one of the 150+ combinations of pasta, sauce, and toppings – and so on.”
As a writer and documenter of one of the great capitalist absurdities of the 21st century, Vino strikes a curious tone. It’s earnest, but not as earnest as, say, food critic Marilyn Hagerty’s legendary Olive Garden review that went viral two years ago (“The chicken Alfredo was warm and comforting on a cold day.” Pure poetry.) Nor is it as snarky as Gawker writer Caity Weaver’s epic, existential battle against TGI Friday’s Endless Mozzarella Stick promotion.
Vino’s reviews are light and funny. For his first plate of pasta he makes the ill-advised decision to top cavatappi pasta with fried shrimp and alfredo sauce, a dish he calls “Long John Silver.” (it gets a one-star review). Improbably, the very next day he orders the same dish but replaces the cavatappi with spaghetti — and gives it five stars! I wouldn’t expect the shape of the pasta to cause a four-star swing but Vino is clearly the expert, here. I trust him.
But the fact that Vino is so likable makes me that much more worried about him. I’m not going to make glib comments like, “Oh, this guy has a death wish” or “Ha ha, eating that much pasta will kill you,” because I’m actually a little worried that it might. When Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days for his film “Super Size Me”, the once-reasonably healthy 32-year-old began to suffer heart palpitations, sexual dysfunction, and dangerous hikes in cholesterol. And it’s not as if Vino’s eating, say, two plates a day — he’s eating upwards of five. As someone who’s worked at Olive Garden and participated in the human farce that is the “Never Ending Pasta Bowl,” eating three or more plates in one sitting requires some recovery time.
By the end of Day Three, Vino’s already feeling the pain:
There are certain things man was not meant to eat. Today, my body made it quite clear to me that “Nothing but pasta, forever,” is near the top of that list. I will spare you the details, but suffice to say it will take some time for equillibrium to be re-established and for me to restore order among the bacterial fauna of my gut.
Undeterred, the next day he ate four plates of pasta, including a “regretful” breaded chicken and roasted mushroom sauce dish. (One-star).
Vino, I beg of you. Please take care of yourself. I have the utmost respect for the courage of your convictions and the eloquence with which you’re documenting this strange journey. But don’t hurt yourself. It’s not worth it. And please be nice to the servers.