After a stressful day there’s nothing better (in my humble opinion) than relaxing over a nice meal in a restaurant.
The range of restaurants is enormous: from the hamburger establishment where you will be ‘served’ (and I use the word advisedly) at the counter by a youth who’ll ask you in a bored voice “Want a coke with that”, and looks like he can’t wait to get back to gaming during his break; to haute cuisine with a waiter who walks around as though he (still seems to be a male preserve) has a nasty smell under his nose, and gives a small, but deliberate raise of the eyebrows when I order red wine with fish (I prefer red wine and I’m paying!).
One of my favourite restaurant meals is steak, and I like my steak the way I like it: pink with no sign of blood. In England there always seemed to be (or perhaps it’s my memory playing tricks) a common understanding of ‘rare’, ‘medium’, and ‘well done’, and the various combinations: medium-rare etc. So my steak would be ordered medium or medium rare. Here in Switzerland (where I live) I have a difficulty? problem? No, it’s definitely a problem. From experience I’ve found that to get my steak how I like it I need to order ‘bien cuit’, which literally translates as ‘well done’. This causes exaggerated eyebrow movements in even the simplest restaurant. I can see the waiter’s hand shaking as he (or she in this case) writes down my order. Experience has also taught me that the kitchens’ interpretation of ‘bien cuit’ varies tremendously, most times tending towards the less well cooked side (is this deliberate I wonder; are they trying to tell me that steak should not be cooked ‘well done’; or is this me being paranoid?). A friend of mine from many years ago would have been very popular here. When asked how he would like his steak he would say “wipe its ar**, put it on a plate and bring it in”.
How relaxing eating in a restaurant is depends on not getting the table next to the person who just has to talk (loudly) to someone WHILST THEY EAT! Or a couple who don’t talk to each other, but to someone on the other end of their telephones. What annoys me of course is that I only hear half of the conversation, which really gets my curiosity juices flowing rather than my gastric juices.
And whilst on the subject of restaurants, there’s something I’ve never understood about Switzerland. It has a worldwide reputation for punctuality and cleanliness, yet it allows dogs into restaurants. Some people argue that as long as they lie quietly under the table they are doing no harm. That is until someone else enters with their dog and the two canines exchange words, heated sometimes. The owners seem to regard this as amusing and make endearing sounds whilst patting the adversary of their pooch. I don’t know if it’s my bad luck, but I usually seem to get the table where my four-legged neighbour follows, with doleful eyes, every forkful of food as it travels from the plate to my mouth.
And whilst I’ve got you attention (I have got your attention I hope) can I make a plea to all the waiters out there: once you’ve served the first glass of wine you can leave the pouring of the rest of the bottle to me. I like to drink at my own pace and not have my glass refilled every time I take a sip. It also makes me feel a bit uncomfortable thinking that you are keeping a close eye on what is happening at my table. Don’t, of course, go to the opposite extreme and disappear, so that I have to wait for half an hour to get the bill.
Bon app (as they say in this part of Switzerland).