Is everything O.K.?
Have you noticed how waiters wait for the exact moment when you have your mouth full, before they ask you that? I often try and cheat them by staging my forkfuls when they are not around but, almost as though they are watching me closely from a distance, no sooner am I munching away, that they pounce. “Is everything O.K.?” Naturally, all I can emit is an unintelligible groan, and a nod. I wonder if their timing is purposefully strategic. Perhaps they are trained to schedule their question so you cannot speak.
The cake on top of the napkin
I do not know if this is a strictly British practice, but I have not encountered in Italy, the U.S., Germany, France, Greece or Spain. Your order cake and it arrives reclining on the napkin, as though it needs a something comfortable to lie on the cold, hard plate. Surely, the point of the napkin, is to spread on your lap, and use to dab your lips and fingers – a point defeated from the start if, by the time you have slid it out from under the cake, it is covered in chocolate, cream or jam.
The parmesan and black pepper rations
Once your meal is served, the waiter approaches and offers you black pepper. Then he gives the oversized mill a couple of twists over your plate, and walks off. I might want to add pepper halfway through my meal, but the option is not available. Is black pepper so expensive, restaurants cannot afford to keep a small mill on the table, together with the salt shaker?
The same discourse applies to grated parmesan. When your pasta is served, the waiter brings a bowl of parmesan, and sprinkles a spoonful on your dish. If you say nothing, he sprinkles a second spoonful. At that point, he marches off, unless you specifically request more. If you do, he expresses shock, as though you are being unreasonably greedy. Sometimes, I tell the waiter, “just leave it here, I’ll help myself” and that creates a mini panic response…
I know this is entirely a matter of personal preference but who actually enjoys crunching large salt crystals? What is wrong with a salt shaker that dispenses fine salt powder that blends in easily with the food?
Again, a question of personal taste but what is the logic behind serving water with ice cubes in a cold country such as England? More to the point, why do they insist on bringing me iced water after I have specifically ordered it “without ice”?