I ordered a beer at a place in Krakow , a particular beer I’d never run into before . I’m one to taste unusual beers , so I was looking forward to tasting this one .
When the beer came , it wasn’t the one I’d ordered . The name on the bottle was another beer . It was good , but I thought that I’d point this discrepancy out to the waitress . She spoke good English and was friendly . I tried my best to not sound like I was complaining , because I wasn’t .
” Yes ,” she said , when I pointed out the beer label to her . ” There’s a problem with the menu ” .
Now , I should say right here , at this point in my story , that I’m not picking on Poland . But , I can’t imagine this kind of thing happening here in the good old US of A . Most likely in a United States restaurant the waitress would no doubt say that they had run out of the beer I’d ordered , but that they had another beer , even better , for the same price , and would I like to order that one ? Something like that .
But , on the other hand , those problems with the menu are , evidently , international .
Ada was reading John Cleese’s book ” So , Anyway…. ” Cleese tells the story of visiting New Zealand , going to a restaurant , and one of the members in his group ordered Colonial Goose . When the entrees arrived , the goose order looked like lamb . The guy who’d ordered it pointed out to the waitress that he had been given lamb .
” Yes ” she said .
” But I ordered Colonial Goose , ” he said .
” Colonial Goose is lamb , ” she said .
When Ada and I were in China we were given cards in restaurants that , apparently , listed everything possible that could be ordered in the place . And a pencil . We were given a pencil to make a check mark in front of whatever we wanted to order . I don’t read Chinese and I’m pretty sure Ada doesn’t either , so these menus were a challenge for us , being completely written in Chinese script . I didn’t know so much as whether to read up from the bottom , down from the top , left to right or visa versa . I recall , as I think back , that Ada took the pencil and began check- marking our choices . I don’t remember exactly because 1) it was a long time ago , and 2) I had my head down on the table and was whimpering in hungry helpless frustration . Food came , though , somehow . Could be Ada had secretly picked up some Chinese lingo here or there , maybe as we were walking the back roads of Shanghai . Ada’s good with languages .
And then there was the time in Mexico , of course , with my friend Jim and his nephew and , I think , my brother Tom . We were in some little restaurant in a tiny village south of Mexico , D F . , ordering our standard carne asada . We ordered carne asada in order to avoid any more exotic foods with questionable ingredients for our spoiled American stomachs . .
This time the restaurant meat might as well have been shoe leather . We couldn’t chew it up. No flavor . Win a few —lose a few ! And then the bill came and it was three times what it should have been . Stick it to the tourists , I suppose . Jim , however , lived in Mexico , in Ciudad Obregon , and wasn’t about to put up with this treatment . Jim pointed out ( in Spanish ) to the waitress that we had been overcharged .
” It’s not what’s on the menu ,” he said .
” It’s an old menu “.
” I want to see the owner . ”
” I am the owner ,” she said .
” Then I want to see the police ,” Jim said , and at this point he stood up and began shouting ” Policia ! Policia ! ”
The woman backed down immediately . Those little Mexican towns had a policeman on every corner . She waved her hands , indicating that Jim should sit down . ” You pay whatever you want ,” she said .
” We’ll pay what’s on the menu ,” Jim said . For the tasteless shoe leather so-called dinner . So, we did .
My father-in-law Tom was a chemist . He used to moonlight for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts inspecting restaurant kitchens for stray germs , infections , rodent droppings , scum , and anything else that shouldn’t be in there. I guess that , over the years , he found more than his share of disgusting health violations . The few times that he and I would wind up looking at a restaurant menu somewhere Tom’s eyes would glaze over . ” If you only knew what goes on in restaurant kitchens …. ” he would say , with distress showing in his eyes .
I think restaurants should go about business like the Gold Rush establishments did it . Everyone paid a set price and whatever food was available was put all at once out on a communal table . It was ‘dig in’ time when the bell rang , and the knives would come out . No forks or fancy place settings . Gold rushers would food-rush for whatever food they could get before someone else got it . No menus .