It’s been a while since Fakename discussed food, which her byline says is one of her favorite topics, so it’s only fair that she give the subject some attention. The perfect opportunity arose when the NY Times published this article yesterday. I could hardly make it through the article without stopping to laugh and applaud. It’s essentially about chefs who say no, you can’t have it your way.
That’s because in part it reminds me of someone I used to know. Fortunately I haven’t seen him in years, and wouldn’t have chosen to see him voluntarily even when I knew him, but regrettably, he was the partner of one of my very best friends ever. Going out for a meal with him was torturous and maddening. It was like…restaurant rage.
It didn’t matter where you went, he wanted to alter the menu. I think it was more of a control issue than a taste issue. You just wanted to say to him…if you don’t like black olives, DON’T ORDER THE DISH WITH BLACK OLIVES IN IT. Pick something else! But really, it was far worse than that. Ordering was more like an interrogation of the server. If he was leaning toward the shrimp, it would be, how large are the shrimp? Are they fresh or frozen? Where did they come from? What school did they attend? (Just seeing if you were paying attention there.) If he could make it through all the shrimp questions without stumping the server, he’d start on the chicken. After about 20 minutes, he would finally settle on something, only he would rewrite the whole dish. (“I’d like the pan-fried grouper, except broiled instead, and tartar sauce with no capers, the mixed grilled vegetables except leave out the carrots, and I’ll have unsweetened tea but bring me some Splenda. What? You don’t have Splenda? What kind of place is this anyway?”) Fakename would be grinding her teeth by this time, probably some sort of primitive precursor to biting him. It’s like, Dude! You need to just go home and cook your own bleeping food.
So if you go to a restaurant that only serves burgers with Roquefort, don’t ask them for a burger with Provolone. Go somewhere they let you pick the cheese, or otherwise, see above (go home).
That said, some things can be a little too picky on the part of the chef. A refusal to provide salt and pepper for example, as described in the article. If they are serving steak or roast beef, you should be able to have it cooked to your specification. You should be able to get salad dressing on the side. None of these things interfere with the chef’s “vision”.
A funny story now…at least, I think it is…in September of last year, Fakesister came to visit. We went to the coast, and on the way back we had lunch at Angelo’s in Panacea, FL, a very famous place around these parts. They have their own fleet of boats, and whatever they bring in that day is whatever gets served. I ordered a dozen raw oysters, and when they came, I asked the server, “Why are they so small?” That was not intended to be a criticism, it could have been (and probably is) because past hurricanes have diminished the oyster beds. And the server answered, “Um. Because that’s what the boats brought in today?” I almost spit out an oyster, I laughed so hard. “Good answer!”, I said.
Sharing a meal with someone is a surprisingly intimate experience. I don’t know why that is, but it must be some evolutionary issue. I always feel as if I know someone better after sharing a meal, although, again, I couldn’t say why. Perhaps a reader can enlighten me. I do know that if you start complaining about the sauce on that mammoth steak I’m feeding you, I’m moving your ass way outside the campfire. And I might bite you first.