When it comes to meal time, bowls conjure images of being spoon-fed as a baby and holing up on winter weekends. Food served in bowls is goopy, soupy, sloppy, melty… comfort food. Think hot fudge sundaes, thick clam chowder, creamy risotto, a hot, steaming bowl of steel-cut oats dripping with melted brown sugar, and streams of whole milk. Bowls beg to be cupped in our open palms, like fuzzy, newborn bunnies, warming our souls from the outside in.
Moreover, every winter, thousands of the flu-stricken are spoon-fed chicken broth by helping hands, the steaming bowls held tenderly beneath their bottom lips. The dumped and the miserable scour their kitchens for something soft or sweet, something suited to a bowl… bottomless bowls of Ben and Jerry’s, or maybe Cocoa Puffs, to soothe their troubled hearts. Memories of mammoth bowls of cereal… Golden Grahams, Cap’n Crunch, Life… send us drifting back to blissfully aimless Saturday mornings when we’d watch cartoons in our pajamas, big bowls of cold milk and more cereal than we could possibly eat teetering in our tiny hands.
Where is all this fluffy imagery leading? A grand proposal.
Here it is: a restaurant that caters to those creature comforts (nurturing safety, home, and relaxation) delivered via those round, reassuring serving vessels called bowls. I’d call it, simply, “Bowl-O.”
Everything on the menu would be served in — you got it — bowls. Ordering would be simple and fun. Patrons would ask for a “bowl o’ mac and cheese,” a “bowl o’ split pea and ham,” even a “bowl o’ pizza” (a thick slab of crust baked beneath a ragout of tomato sauce and choice of pizza toppings and shredded cheese). Also on the the menu would be meal-in-a-bowl standards, like soups, mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, pudding, beef stroganoff, individual egg bakes, chili, and the like. But there’d be plenty of room for creativity, too:
Bowl O’ Break Up: bowl of chocolate layer cake, chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, chocolate-covered espresso beans, nuts, and sprinkles
Bowl O’ the South: bowl of cheesy grits kerplunked with chunks of chicken fried chicken
Bowl O’ Skinny: bowl of fat-free yogurt, lowfat granola, sliced fruit
Bowl O’ Britain: bowl of warm beer
Bowl O’ Neighborly Love: bowl of tuna casserole
Bowl O’ Death: bowl of densely stratified, melted cheeses: aged white cheddar, gorgonzola, mozzarella, muenster, and sage derby, each layer pebbled with a layer of bacon bits. Perhaps a couple thick wedges of crusty baguette would be served alongside.
Diners would sit on plush couches, bean bags, and oversized chairs. Bowls nestled in hand, they’d be free to tuck their knees beneath their chins, a Bowl O’ Death balanced on their kneecaps, or slouch a la Al Bundy, legs splayed, a free hand unabashedly tucked inside their front waistbands. No stiff upper lips or manners encouraged in this joint. Bowl-O would make diners feel as if they were eating at home when the ‘rents aren’t looking. Rather than reaching for a cocktail or a cigarette, customers would be able to head to Bowl-O, where they’d let the troubles and stresses of the day absorb into the heat of the warm bowl in their tired hands, leaving well-fed and invigorated.
Why would anyone dine at Bowl-O? To feed oneself a bowl of something steamy in one’s open hands as if it were a tantalizing offering feels life-giving. And how delicious would it be to inhale a vat of melted cheese without the grilled bread getting in the way? Heavenly delicious.