Meditative Meals: Free Samples And Sweet Potato Fries

An Afternoon At The Food Court

Amelia Olson
4 min read
Free Samples and Sweet Potato Fries
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Best friends take pictures in a photo booth, and I can hear them squirming around on the plastic, squeaky seat behind the curtain, deciding which face to make next. They’re teenagers, and the selfishness of teenagers is something I both cherish and am annoyed by. I’m at the mall, a tiled building full of people from our town. We come here to eat and to shop, and for many, to simply walk. Lap after lap, as early as 9am, the security guard tells me. A perfectly safe gym track, dotted with our grandparents and energetic moms pushing strollers.

It’s hard to get people to go to the mall with me. My husband has learned the ways and smells of Sephora, and while he is a gem, it makes him unusually impatient watching me walk up and down each aisle imagining how to incorporate butter cream Brazilian coconut serum for extremely dry hair into my life. My dad only goes if he thinks there is a chance of meeting a nice lady to go to Applebee’s with someday. And my friends don’t shop at capitalistic, evil places like the mall. This leaves me with my mom, or myself.

At the food court, a woman with long black hair and a ponytail wrapped so tightly I’m concerned she will get a headache, hands me a sample of orange chicken on a toothpick. A man with a mustache offers me a tiny cup of what I think is a strawberry banana smoothie. This little-bite-here-little-bite-there of different things is my idea of a perfect lunch. But I don’t want the employees in the food court to think I would take advantage of their hospitality, and I am also supposed to meet my dad at Fuddruckers in 10 minutes. So I slip out.

Fuddruckers is simplified and to-the-point. You order the burger you want, pay, they give you a number and eventually call for you to come get it from the window at the grilling station. I order a plain and, because I am inexplicably worried about food poisoning, well-done cheeseburger with no bun and a side of sweet potato fries. I’m still full from the food court sample tour, but I can always make room for sweet potato fries. The burger is … well done. It’s surprisingly good considering the offensive way in which I asked for it to be grilled. My dad is happy with his cheeseburger, and he especially likes his sweet potato fries. We agree the fries are the best and honestly, the only reason to go there. We eat our burgers, plan a fishing trip, and I explain to him who Kim Kardashian is.

While the sweet potatoes were awesome, if you are ever hungry, you should just go to the mall food court. “Samples?” multiple men and women will ask you as you walk by each restaurant. You can fill up on pineapple chicken, tiny slices of pepperoni pizza and lemonade. All for free. I bet dogs would love the mall food court, if they were allowed to go, and if they were allowed to eat people food.

After lunch, I walk past each store’s window and imagine how everything here was once small. Every business was once a tiny idea. Every human was once an embryo, even embryos that grew up to be jerks were just a tiny baby at one point. It’s hard to believe things just grow—that they grow up, grow old, grow out. And as I ride the escalator down to the food court, I watch a toy train drive by with four children in the cargo. I think this is awkward. But I am glad the children are happy and that they’re riding a train, even if it’s in the Coronado Mall.
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