It’s all a matter of choice.

Yesterday, during a drive from Las Vegas to Riverside California, my wife and I stopped at the famous Peggy Sue’s diner for lunch.

We took a seat, ordered a couple of drinks,and perused the laminated menu full of 50’s puns and references to see what took our fancy.  Soon enough the waitress came over in her 50’s diner uniform and asked us what we wanted to eat.

Mine was easy; I wanted a cheeseburger.

When my wife ordered it highlighted another big difference between the USA and the UK.

Below is an almost exact word-for-word account of the conversation my wife had whilst ordering her meal.

Waitress – “What would you like?”

My Wife – “Steak and eggs”

Waitress – “How do you want your steak?”

My Wife – “Medium”

Waitress – “How do you want your eggs?”

My Wife – “Scrambled”

Waitress – “Do you want hash browns?”

My Wife – “Yes”

Waitress – “Toast, biscuits and gravy or English muffin?”

My Wife – “Toast”

Waitress – “White, wheat or sour dough?”

My Wife – “Sour dough”

If that had been in the UK, the conversation would’ve gone something like this:

Waitress – “What would you like?”

My Wife – “Steak and eggs”

Waitress – “OK”

America 1, England 0.

too many choices

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Waiter minute!

I’m a fast eater.

eat-fast

I always have been.

I’m not sure where it stemmed from, but I’ve never remembered a time when I ate slowly. My brother is the same.  Maybe it was due to having Italian relatives (on my Father’s side) who loved to feed us whenever we visited, or maybe it was from our time spent in prison.

I’m joking of course. There’s no way my relatives are responsible.

I suppose I began noticing my accelerated eating pace when I became an adult and started dining with other adults. Whenever I go out to a restaurant with anyone I’m usually the first to empty my plate.

This isn’t an issue for me as I’m happy to sit there having a conversation as they painstakingly take an age to eat their meal that probably went cold an hour ago.

Really, it’s fine. I can always lick my plate if I get bored.

Or can I?

You see, my big issue with finishing first is the fact that the waiter/waitress inevitably comes to the table and does the unspeakable; they take away my plate.

Why?

Are they so bereft of crockery in their restaurant that they need to relieve me of mine as soon as possible?

They’re like sharks, circling the table and watching.

fight club waiter

What makes it worse is when they quietly ask “are you finished?” whilst reaching for my plate before I can answer “yes”.  And let’s be honest, the only answer I can possibly give is ‘yes’ because my plate is empty.  I can’t say no because, well, my plate is empty.

“Actually, I’m not finished yet.  There’s still a pattern on this plate” is not a well received answer.

And once I’ve been parted from my plate I’m left sitting there watching the others eat. I realise I was doing this beforehand, but somehow I now feel less involved.  I’ve now become an outside observer like a scientist with a room full of chimps.

I really hate this behaviour in restaurants (from the waiter/waitress, not my chimpy friends). I’m sure the waiting staff think they’re doing the right thing, but I find it intrusive, unwelcoming and a bit rude; and they don’t even have the decency to leave a copy of Watchtower magazine to keep me occupied.

To me it’s the same as saying:

“Wow, someone was hungry weren’t they Mr Piggy McOink? Look everyone! This guy has finished before anyone else at his table!  How Fatty-Boombatty is this jelly-belly?”

This is all made worse when it’s only two of us having a meal. Now they’re not only mocking me non-verbally with their smile, they’re piling the pressure on my fellow diner (usually my wife):

“One down, one to go. Come on slowcoach, you’re wasting everyone’s time.  Pay up and get lost; I need this table for another couple.”

A while back I went for a meal with a friend who is the slowest eater in the world. And when I say slow, I mean s-l-o-w.  Usually, by the time she approaches the end of her meal, the restaurant has become a bank and cobwebs have formed on her plate.

As frustrating as it could’ve been, I didn’t mind. We were so busy catching up on old times that it didn’t matter she took an additional 20 minutes to finish her food.

Seriously, 20 minutes.  Time it.  That’s a long time on a single plate of food.

eating-tortoise

The worst part was when the waiter unashamedly cleared my plate and cutlery after I was finished (5 minutes, tops).  My friend, who was now feeling the pressure, apologised to me.

It can’t be a good thing when the person you’re eating with feels the need to say sorry for being ‘too slow’.

I didn’t care. I was there for the company and the conversation…and dessert, but there was no way I was seeing that for at least 2 hours.

My point is, don’t take plates away until everyone has finished.

In America they get it right. And here’s why

  • They don’t usually take away your plate until everyone has finished.
  • If they DO take your plate away, they replace it with something else (free refills on soup in Olive Garden anyone?).
  • Usually the meal is so massive it’s almost impossible to finish it anyway.
  • Sometimes the meal comes with more than one plate of food (breakfast at Denny’s for example has one plate for your massive breakfast platter and one plate for your massive stack of buttermilk pancakes).

Sometimes a waiter/waitress will also attempt to take your plate after a period of inactivity, despite how much food is still on your plate. It’s like some kind of evil computer screensaver with a plan for world domination through malnutrition.

If you stop eating for a period of time (I estimate this to be about 2 minutes), it is assumed you’ve finished and they will attempt to wrestle your food away from you.

I will stab you.  Be warned.

This behaviour wouldn’t translate anywhere else would it?

For example, whilst writing this post I’ve stopped a few times to re-read paragraphs, check my splellnig and make coffee.  This means I’ve left the keyboard for small periods of time.  By their reckoning I’m finished with this post and they’ll simply attempt to take it away from me, even if I’m in the middle of a

Some gross ‘under the table’ action.

In a restaurant there’s nothing worse than the realisation you’re touching someone’s discarded chewing gum under the table.

Then again, is it gum?  It could be part of the table.

You push your finger into it and it’s not part of the table.

Too soft.

Too warm.

Yuck.

grossed out animated gif

Are you going to eat that?

Here’s something that really pisses me off.

You’re in a restaurant with friends and you all order your meals. But when the food arrives and your much anticipated delicacy is placed in front of you, one of your friends exclaims loudly “Euw! That looks disgusting! What is that? Are you really going to eat that?”

Did it ever occur to these culinary challenged arseholes that the reason these meals are on the menu in the first place is because there are those of us out there with a palette craving more sophistication than a Big Mac and fries?

Of course I’m going to fucking eat it. Why else do you think I ordered it you prick?

Also, thanks for pointing out that it looks disgusting. No, really….I mean it, thanks. Now I really, REALLY can’t wait to eat it; knowing full well that others at the table may now perceive it as disgusting. Did I say the same about your wife when I met her? No.

At least I get to poop mine out in a day or two.

It seems to get worse with anything salad related. Usually I get told by people that they “don’t eat that green shit”. That might explain why, when we were seated at the table, you decided against sliding onto the bench behind the table by the wall and opted for the chair instead. I know you said it was for better back support and leg room, but you’re fooling no-one.

I have one friend who, whenever the word Parmesan is mentioned, scrunches up his face and squeals “Oh god, come on! What’s wrong with you?”. This is to highlight that I’m somehow an idiot for loving an entire nation’s most revered grated cheese. He then continues to loudly exclaim that it smells like baby sick, over and over again.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never actually smelled baby sick. However, I do concur that it does have an aroma not unlike full grown adult sick. Mind you, Stilton smells like feet and I still absolutely adore it (Stilton, not feet). One could argue that a curry smells* the same going out as it did going in, but does that make it any less appealing?

Does it fuck. Pass me a fork.

He makes matters even more infuriating by announcing that he hasn’t actually tried Parmesan. The smell is enough, apparently. He also doesn’t like Stilton…or any strong cheeses for that matter. He also hasn’t tried any of them either.

When I was 5 years old I probably said that girls smell funny and are disgusting too. How wrong I was.

He then continues to ‘correct’ us all by saying that chicken has no place on a pizza and neither does barbecue sauce. Domino’s and thousands of their customers worldwide may disagree with you, but what do they know? Apparently pizzas should only have pepperoni on them. I suppose he’s just being a traditionalist, although I haven’t the heart to tell him that pepperoni pizza is actually American.

But it’s not just him. Loads of people have sat there and done the whole “Euw! What is that? Are you going to eat that?” shit at various times in my life. Yes, I like a variety of foods:

Liver, steak and kidney, Marmite, artichokes, Parmesan, Stilton, lettuce, parsnips, brussel sprouts (yes, I fucking LOVE brussel sprouts….what’s wrong with the rest of you??), garlic, plain yoghurt, skimmed milk, ice-cream in a bap (the Italians do it all the time, and yet we’re accepting of it in a cone shaped wafer somehow…and arctic roll gets away with it in sponge!), calamari, baked beans, etc…..the list goes on and on.

And these were just the ones I could think of recently.

I do, however, draw the line at things like tarantulas, placentas, sheep’s eyeballs etc…because I don’t want to do something that would make the room smell of parmesan. Otherwise I’m a lover of flavours, textures and variety.

I also once got openly berated for saying that I’d eaten cornflakes for my lunch.

“Cornflakes for lunch? They’re for breakfast; you can’t have them for lunch!”

Oh the scandal!

I did point out that the cereal box didn’t specify that it HAD to be the morning, but it made no difference. What if I worked nights and my morning was actually at 5pm? Would the world implode? Apparently, it’s just the way it is…cereal is for the mornings.

I recall this conversation vividly. We were walking in town on a lunch break and when we’d arrived back at the office my friend approached some colleagues standing outside having a cigarette and said, “Dan had cornflakes for lunch, what the fuck’s up with that?”, to which one of the guys replied, “Yeah? So? I do it all the time”.

Awesome.

In your face traditionalist.

Two days later my berating friend admitted to trying cereal in the evening when he’d got home from work and had loved it.

I’m changing the world, one narrow-minded wanker at a time.

*and feels

gross-food-16