Monday, January 31, 2011


For today, pretend that a man named Christopher Jensen approaches you in your darkest hour.

Three hours earlier, the government shut down the avant-garde restaurant to which you had dedicated the past decade of your life. After months of surprisingly good attendance rates and a slow climb out of debt, you had just made a name for yourself in the burgeoning Chicago food scene with an eclectic menu, superlative customer service and charmingly warm ambiance. Yet your ex-spouse has a new squeeze, and this venal, ill-tempered person works for the Health Department. Strings are pulled, petty vengeance is swiftly wrought and your place is shut down indefinitely via the ice-cold machinations of a spurned lover and a corrupt wonk.

You mull your deadened future over a case of Natural Light on the front steps outside your mortgaged home. You've just come straight from the restaurant and you can't bear to ascend the stairs and face your significant other with the devastating news.

Enter Christopher Jensen. He is riding a bicycle and has apparently been riding for days nonstop to reach you. He gently asks for some water and a comfortable place to sit before he tells you something important.

After the two of you have settled, he nonchalantly agrees to help you solve your problem(s). You are humbled and a little embarrassed, but eternally grateful. What luck!

Decades pass, and your reopened restaurant has become an international sensation. George Clooney eats there alongside Turkish diplomats and the lady who invented chalkboard paint. They film a bunch of movies there; it's always very difficult to get a table. The whole thing is a dream. The current President of the United States, John Martinez, got his first summer job there as a server while in high school.

All along, one dish stands above the others: The Jensen Special. This is what George Clooney and the Turkish diplomats split after a Blackhawks game. It's a five-course array of culinary delights, exceedingly simple yet unquestionably brilliant in its confluence of flavors and consistencies. It inspires the fifth red star on the Chicago Flag after U.S. and Chinese officials broker a deal for total nuclear disarmament while splitting a Jensen Special.

As your restaurant prepares to serve its millionth Jensen Special, you decide to organize a special appearance by the man himself, but he has pursued a monastic path since your last encounter and is skeptical of making public appearances, especially after his legend has traveled to each corner of the world in light of this most famous meal.

For today, write Christopher Jensen a letter of extreme gratitude. Include reports from several dignitaries, celebrities and regular Chicagoans who have for years enjoyed the wonder that is the Jensen Special. Earnestly plead with him to attend the festivities. Describe the Jensen Special to him, and then elaborate on how this particular combination of foods represents an appropriate salute to the man himself. Ultimately, persuade him to cycle down from his secluded hill on a distant horizon to your restaurant in order to enjoy the millionth dish that bears his name.

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