May 17, 2007

Stop being fussy, and eat already !

When I dine in public with certain friends, I know ahead of time that I shall cringe. One friend makes all sorts of demands, asking for two salad dressings on the side, and that certain items not be included (such as salt) or substituted (rice for potatoes, for instance.)

Another friend takes forever to go through the wine list, comparing prices and wanting to know what sets one apart from another, not as a connoisseur but as a cheapskate (er, value seeker) trying to wring the most for her money. By the time she is ready to order, we are on our second drinks, fortifying ourselves for the silly requests to come: Most are very specific and somewhat unreasonable. When the bill arrives, she calculates the costs down to the penny. The only reason we include her in our select group is because she is smart and funny, but frankly, as a public diner she is a PAIN. Hear me, dahling?

In the Ten Commandments of Paris Dining, Fodor's mentions two commandments that speak to me:

  • Thou shalt avoid awkward requests
  • Salad dressing on the side, omelettes without egg yolks, well-done steaks -- when a chef takes pride in his work, these things make him bristle. Try to save this type of request for caf├ęs.
    --- From the Forums: A Low-Carb Dieter Heading to Paris

  • Thou shalt not assume that the customer is always right
  • It's fine to send a dish back to the kitchen, but don't expect to see it deducted from your bill.
    --- From the Forums: Where was Your WORST Meal in Paris?

    Recalling the divine meals I ate in Paris, I agree with the following passage from Serious Eats:

    From talking to people in the industry, I know that waiters will think less of you and so will the kitchen, and even in the best of restaurants in the world, you and your dining companions may receive lesser service and lesser food because of your fussiness, so just stop already. If you think about it, one of the most beautiful things about eating at a restaurant is that what arrives at your table is the result of someone's life's work, so if you can't do them the honor of letting them do what they do best, maybe you should be eating elsewhere instead.

    Dahlings, next time I visit Paris I will take Fodor's Ten Commandments to heart. Now, how to introduce them to my fussy friends?

    Plat du jour in a cafe in Montmartre (the name escapes me). The bundled green beans were a delight, and those garlic mashed potatoes melted in my mouth. The steak? Rare and perfect. I took 2 hours eating this meal, enjoying the parade of Parisians passing by.


    BigFella said...

    Don't torture me like this ms place, that looks like a veritable mountain of mashed and a heroic hunk of beef. What was the sauce on it, do I see peppercorns or maybe capers?

    A leisurely two hour meal, prepared with care and fresh ingredients in a sidewalk cafe in the city of light, I would never ruin that combination by allowing any clueless acquaintance to dine with me, no matter how smart or what ever they may be. Life is too short.

    Jessica said...

    You have such fun friends!You know, many of my own friends are alike.But it's always fun, when you are out with friends. Have fun!

    ArtfulSub said...

    Why I should be acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide. The deceased:

    1) Sat staring into space saying nothing while awaiting Server. In spite of having access to Artful's vast knowledge of things Culinary.

    2) Amid cacophony of canned music, clanging flatware, and other diner's speaking at normal volume begins WHISPERING her list of questions, substitution requests and leave-offs. When told she can't be heard, clears throat and begins WHISPERING at a slower pace.

    3) Addresses her concerns to a 16-year-old wearing a badge that says "Be nice to me, it's my first day".

    4) Questions include " Were the grapes used to make the raisins all picked by people making a liveable wage? If so, was this calculated using regional C.O.L.A. statistics or the Myers Method?"

    5) When it becomes clear that her putative dining choice won't meet her standards has NO SECOND CHOICE in mind and says "Well, I guess I'll have to look over the menu again".

    6) All of the above occurred at the Waffle House in Collins Mississippi.


    Linda Merrill said...

    People are funny when it comes to food. I wonder if it comes from parents making their kids special meals throughout childhood. My mother's favorite expression was "I'm not a short order cook!" We ate what we were served and respected the effort that went into it. We were never allowed to ask what was being served when invited to a friends for dinner. And rarely was food sent back to the kitchen. So, I'm always embarrassed be people who pick and poke at everything. I think it must make them feel important - that they are in charge. But, would they go to a theater and start dictating acting tips to the usher?

    jinxy said...

    I can so relate to this post. My boyfriend is the fussiest eater in the world and it drives me nuts. Unless you have an allergy to a food, eat the dish as it was intended to be prepared. Taking even a minor ingredient away from a dish can rob it of it's harmony of flavors and it is a crying shame to me. The problem is that mommy always made it his way as a kid to get him to eat it, and if he still didn't like it, he could fix a sandwich or go get some fast food once he got old enough to go get it.

    At my house as a kid, we had 2 things on the menu: Take it or Leave it. We were not forced to eat but if we did not eat what mom or dad made, then we didn't eat at all.

    I also have a friend at work that cannot even eat fast food without being super-picky. I seriously refuse to eat with her anymore. It's embarrassing and irritating. Also, my food is sitting there getting cold while they are making absolutely sure that all her demands are met to the T.

    I find that behavior rude and selfish and I won't be around it if I can help it.

    eric3000 said...

    It drives me crazy when people are so fussy when ordering and so weird when the bill comes. I always try to have cash if I know I'm going to be splitting the bill because I hate complicated requests on the charges:

    "Could you take $40 from this credit card and $60 from this credit card and then the rest in cash and then bring the change in a ten and two fives?"

    Argh! I don't have much money but I'd rather just pay for the whole damn thing myself!

    I only have one annoying request in ordering: I cannot eat bleu cheese. I will throw up. Usually I just don't order a dish that has bleu cheese in it but some restaurants put bleu cheese in almost everything so I have no choice but to ask if it can be left out. I hope that doesn't make me too much of a problem.