Monday, 8 March 2010

On The Menu

"You simply must try the dickled octopus - it's to die for."

I found myself in an unusually charitable mood this evening, so when N picked me up from the station after work, I suggested we go out for a bite to eat. He chose an Italian down the road. We went in, were shown to our table and ordered our drinks. All was going swimmingly - I even bumped into a friend in there, which made me feel like I was in Cheers.

The waitress, a friendly Italian woman, left it just the right amount of time before asking whether we were ready to order our food. The starters were ordered without a hitch. For my mains, I chose an unadventurous Spaghetti Carbonara - I was in the mood for something simple. N, however, wasn't;

"Can I have the pasta marinara..."

'Good choice,' I thought - but alas, there was more.

"...but I'd like a carbonara sauce instead of the tomato sauce please."

The waitress was speechless - and it wasn't her level of English, which was impeccable - nothing could have prepared her for this. I sat there in silence, aghast. It got worse. She had to check with the chef. Check. With the chef. I implored N to chose one, or the other, and not to insist on this mash-up, but he was adamant. She was gone for what seemed like ages - a time probably spent forcing the chef to cast aside his culinary pretentions and cook whatever pig's swill this mad customer wanted. She came back to tell us that the chef could prepare the meal but...wait for it...he wanted us to know he would not be held responsible for how it might taste. Too right - if my career was built on cooking good meals for customers, I'd have N banned from my restaurant and distance myself as much as humanly possible from his insane gastronomic inventions. The meal arrived and N ate it. He made it out it was delicious, but I'm not sure I believe him.

The situation exposed a difference between us - I am of the opinion that menus are not lists to mix and match with. Of course if you have an allergy or other dietary requirement, or would like a meal without mushrooms, for example, go for it. But I draw the line at pick n' mix pasta. If someone has gone to the trouble of creating a menu of fine food - with ingredients carefully selected and included in the right proportions, who are we to waltz in and crap all over it? Would it not be more...proper to choose one of the options offered? (Proper - another word I love. Proper). Surely that's part of the experience of eating out?

N, however, is of an entirely different viewpoint, i.e. you're paying for the meal, so you should be able to have exactly what you want. While I do see some reasoning behind this, I refuse to change my allegiance. I will forever belong to the 'You-get-what-you're-given Camp'.

I'd be interested to know whether I'm alone in this. Am I being a food snob? Should I try to ditch this reliance on the menu and create-my-own?

1 comment:

  1. I will admit to being in-between in this instance. As a family who has a place its okay to be in the middle. Try it sometime to make it a 'bit different'.