Partners in crime

“What are you doing?” she asked me.

“I’m having one of yoru fries”, I responded, pulling my hand away from her plate. Why was she getting upset? It wasn’t like I picked up her burger and took a bite. I know the rules: Chips, fries and onion rings are fair game, communal foods if you will. Everything else you must have permission.

She looked at me as if I just spit on her dead grandmother…after I had dug her up and insulted her latkes.

I knew at that moment we would never be close friends.

Your choice of partners is a key component of your dining experience. Try dragging somone to an authentic vietnamese restaurant if they only eat steak and potatoes, and you’ll understand. If they look at the Bánh Bèo as if they had just been served a plate of slug mucous, then you may want to reconsider eating alone. If you find yourself shouting at them “It’s only steamed rice cakes for cryin out loud!”, then you most assuredly need a new friend.

There are some simple guidelines for finding adequete eating partners. First and foremost, they must never order the same thing as you. The is nothing worse than a lost opportunity at a restaurant, and a person who is so unadventurous as to pick the “Lobster Neuberg” simply because you did.

This is because of the second requirement of eating out: You must be prepared to share. Chances are better than average that what I ordered was not the only item on the menu that I wanted. Yes, I will wait until you say the traditional “Oh, this is good.. would you like a bite?”, but only because of tradition, and not because of ettiquette.

There is a sub-rule to this requirement. Any item that is a finger food, fried, and easily comes over a dozen in quantity is open for communal eating, as long as you will be assured over 50% of the food. So if I order mozzerella sticks, and I get 14, you are entitled to no more than 6 sticks.

Another rule. Dessert is an expectation, but not a requirement. Sharing a dessert is certainly more amenable than no dessert at all, depending on the restaurant. People unwilling to share a bite of their creme brulee are an insiduous lot, equitable to Ann Coulter, Kenneth Lay, and any younf child who taunts animals with sticks in degree of vileness. If you share a table with people like this, it is more than okay to douse them with holy water, lay your ands upon their forehead and shout “Begone evil spirits!”.

Also, anyone who asks for a hamburger without a bun should be left alone to eat in thier Atkins friendly fraudulance. Carb counting even more annoying than calorie counting. Both should be done either before or after a meal. Never during. If losing weight is such a concern, then eating out is probably not the best use of one’s time.

Lastly, for now, anyone who has a problem with spiciness will probably need to re-evaluate their own reasons for eating out. Complaining about how the potatoes taste of dill is not going to endear you to me. Telling me tabasco sauce is “too hot” will only earn you my contempt. Buck it up. Bland foods are best left to English housewives and TGIFridays. Everything else is a risk with a reward.

There are more rules to be sure. These are but the basic ones. Without them, the risk of a meal goign bad due to a dining partner is increased, and I’m not sure that’s what any one of us wants.

So next time you go out, order something different…something spicy. And share. Your partner will thank you for it.


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