Dining At Home Discounts Maybe?

“Maybe we should go out and have dinner tonight.” says the husband clearly intending to help. In any other family, a simple statement like that will either be met with a simple acceptance or a refusal. I am sure no more would have been said about it. Of course, in our family, a statement like that wrenches the spanner into the corner of the brain where the horrors of restaurant eating reside and ply it open.

“Do you remember what happened at that Italian restaurant?” I ask. “I mean do you still want to go and press our company on restaurants. I say we take the broad minded view of ‘Live and let live.’ ”

The husband looks at me like I have a point and agrees. What happened was this: We found an occasion to dine out, and took polls to see what kind of cuisine was most voted for. It did not help that the toddler in the house thought it was a game and stuck both his arms up for everything. A vote was taken, numbers counted, tallied and thrown out the window. We settled for Italian which had one vote (the daughter’s). So, off we went looking for an Italian restaurant. Just before we entered, I checked their hair and told them to behave. It was one of those places that I’ve heard people gush about. What I had not expected, was for us to enter one of those snooty, high eyebrow places with a touch of hospitality, not overdone and a spot of hauteur, quite overdone.

I wanted to scramble and flee, but summoned the warrior spirit and pressed on. The maitre-de came up with a gleaming suit, coattails and all, looked us up and down and asked us how he may help us. I have never understood this. Would I be standing there in the luxurious lobby of a restaurant wanting to be helped with goading a herd of sheep into a waiting truck? No. I want to be seated for a meal. Thank you.

There was some brow lifting and all this while, the toddler is sitting quietly in his chair and not saying a word. The daughter is playing with him, and the two of them present a picture of a serene advertisement to entice more humans to procreate. The maitre-de, in the meanwhile, decides that he does not really need to spoil the atmosphere of a good dining experience for his patrons and comes out wearing a thin look (He may have been trying the apologetic expression, but thin is what I thought at the time). The toddler smiled at him and said, “Tar?” and showed him a toy car.

No reaction.

“I am extremely sorry Sir and Ma’am. But there is a half an hour wait for tables at the moment. Would you like to be kept waiting?”

The choice of words really! What a clever man he was too. Not wanting to take the good behavior picture, but not wanting to let us in and find out either. Could be a diplomat that man. 

We said we don’t like to be kept waiting and turned our back on the man in a dignified silence. “Come children!” I said and they came. We stepped out the door and then expressed all of our relief and anxiety at once. What if they had seated us? Maybe this is for the best. Let’s  go for a family friendly place. Nothing fancy. 

We proceeded to a familiar restaurant. The cashier there smiled at us and welcomed us. He has seen us there often and still manages to smile when he sees us. That is the kind of place I like. The fine dining can wait for a decade. I breathed freely in there, sat down and looked at the husband and asked “Where is the boy who behaved so well?”

Dining under the radar
Dining under the radar

The husband points under the table and there he is: playing with his toy car. Things may have been quiet for possibly 3 minutes or maybe 4 after the food arrived. We never make it to a full 5 minutes. There was mayhem. The toddler had put his hands into the spicy curry, and I sent the water cascading over the table while pulling the napkin underneath to wipe off the toddler’s hands before he rubbed his eyes with it. He did not like that, One would think his life’s dream was to dip his hands in spicy curry and rubbing his eyes with it, and I, the evil mother, stepped in and squashed his dreams. He screwed up his face and turned a valve that let loose a torrent of very loud tears.

The husband tore out of the room carrying the toddler and stood outside in the cold for a good 3 minutes before bringing him back again. We gobbled the dinner as fast as we could and came back, shaken a bit by the smile the cashier gave us. Maybe he needs time before we pay him another visit.

The next day, the fates decide to show this news item to me. Apparently, there are restaurants that offer well-behaved-children discounts.


I think I would like to be kept waiting on that discount. I am not sure I am strong enough to try them just yet. Dining-at-home discounts maybe?


The Waiter’s Opinion of Me

We’d gone out to dinner. Alone. Together I mean. What I mean is we went together but sans the remaining brood. So, we spent time actually looking at the menu and wondering aloud where the past decade had flown by. It was the occasion of our tenth wedding anniversary. With the latest addition to the nest, our dinner conversations at restaurants resemble rhinos hobnobbing with flying monkeys. Some heavy lifting; snorts and sighs evenly distributed and atleast one flying object caught deftly by the super bowler of the Roadside Cricket League of Chennai followed by a heavy tip.

Consequently, the dinner alone felt like a movie in slow motion. There we were sitting with both buttocks firmly on chairs. I mean this quite seriously, but it has been months since I sat firmly at a restaurant chair. The waiter came in and handed us a bowl of bread and we started nibbling. Pretty soon, we had chatted our way through almost the whole bowl.

The waiter came on again, adjusted his bulging tummy and performed the daily specials with ado. He let the chicken roll on his tongue and he caught the slippery oysters and bathed them in tomato sauce. But of course, we being vegetarians, we enjoyed the performance and then told the old blighter that while we admire his recitation, what we want is the baked oyster creole de-lol sans the oyster.
I could feel him frost inside. I mean maitre d’s don’t spend their afternoons rehearsing the virtues of the creme boulignon de salmon and the oyster creme de la creme or whatever it was to be patted on their backs for learning the tough menu.

“Is cheese alright?” asked he, in a Frosty-the-snowman-ish voice.
Yes” said the husband
No” said the wife.

Did I mention it was our tenth anniversary dinner?

We do not spar in front of menu reciting waiters and we rounded on each other the moment his back was turned. “Why the cheese?” “Why not the cheese?”

“Poor fellow – did you hear his spirited recitation of the specials? The least we can do is say yes to the cheese!” says the man of my heart. The logic frazzled me and ate the last piece of bread in the bowl, which the fat waiter caught me doing. I could feel him thinking – They sure don’t look it, but do they eat a lot?

A soup went in just as glibly and going by the size of the soup bowl applied some old fashioned extrapolation and ordered exciting items from the menus harping on the theme of the evening viz. flora is fine, but fauna is not.

The entrees made their dramatic entrance – cheese was grated on one and not on the other, and we tucked in. By around the third morsel, we realised that we may have ordered way more than necessary for a dinner for two. The soup was the googly. We decided to box the husband’s entree (it being a more boxable kind of dish – mine being the squishy, mushy gravy filled kind of dish and ate off my dish.)

I have had the opportunity to remark on this tendency of people coming at you when the mouth is full before and I will say it again. Why this thumper of a waiter had to wait till we both had our mouths brimming I don’t know, but he did. Then he comes by and asks if everything is okay. Table manners demand that we finish our morsel, but to keep the already specials-deprived waiter waiting for an answer seems cruel. So, you take your napkin and nod vigorously (which in different countries mean different things) and smile and hope that the smile will signal the benevolence and then realise you have been smiling into your napkin. You then swallow a hot lot and eyes watering tell him everything is just perfect thank you. He looks at the dish in front of me – almost half gone, and the husband’s nibbled at. The glance was merely perfunctory I assure you, but it was there nevertheless.

I don’t mean to boast, but give us a task like this and we rock. We had polished off the dish in front of me beautifully. Not a scrap left. The waiter arrived again and we asked him for a to-go box for the other dish. “Sure Madam” he said and came along with the box.

I have a confession to make: Achilles may have had a heel to trip him up. I have Tiramusu. Offer me that and you have a benevolent, mellow cat. The Tiramusu came and the husband being the chivalrous what-not asks the waiter to put it front of me.

I wonder whether you notice a trend here – place everything in front of me, while he contributes equally to stuffing in the load. The proper waiter now really can’t help wondering “How on earth? I mean! How does she eat so much?” As per usual we lick the Tiramusu clean and the waiter arrives. But now, I feel guilty.

On our way out, I ask him how many calories the Tiramusu was. He says :”720 Madam. Is that okay?
Fine! Just fine!” I assure him. I can feel the unasked question again and say, “Since we both ate it. So, I mean the whole dinner…” The husband tugs me away…”Why are you explaining to him?” I grin sheepishly and wave him good night.

I don’t mind eating like a glutton err…gourmand, but I don’t want random waiter guy judging me for it. He waves back and looks forlorn at his own bulging tummy.

We decided to walk a couple of miles before turning in. And that is the story of our dinner alone. Glad to have it off my chest.

PS: The waiter was a jolly old soul who reminded me of Old King Cole