AND JOHN McNAMEE EXPLAINS HOW HE DAILY RISKS THE WRATH OF THE BARISTAS!
Telling a barista just how you’d like your cappuccino, especially an Italian/French/Brazilian barista, can be a bit like a declaration of war.
Mercifully, most times I’ve stressed the “extra-hot-extra-frothy-please” refrain I haven’t been able to translate the spitting invective that has gushed out as violently as the hissing and frothing of the infernal coffee machine itself.
Sure, I like to live dangerously, and sure, I know I’m tempting fate by telling grandma to suck eggs, as they say.
I mean it’d be a bit like strolling into the Sistine Chapel while Michelangelo is up on his ladder painting the Creation of Man and saying: ”Excusie Signor Michel, I think you should daub more red on the bum of that cherub, third on the right.”
Or dipping your finger in the stewing pot of pork ragout and saying to Jamie Oliver: “Perhaps a soupcon more of the coriander Mister Chef.”
Or suggesting to a Sherpa guide on Everest: “I don’t think I like your way up there Mr Tensing, why don’t we go up the north face for a change.”
Or interrupting Perry Mason during a withering cross-examination of an alleged perpetrator and whispering in his ear: “Don’t forget to ask him about his alibi on the night Counsellor.”
Or walking up to Henry Ford on his Detroit production line and saying: “You haven’t forgotten to put the brakes in those Model Ts, have you Henry old chap?”
Ok, ok, you’ve got the picture!! Well, you would be playing with fire now wouldn’t you.
I mean none of us really likes to be told how to do our job and we like to think that the customer is always right.
Sadly that adage no longer seems to apply in many cases these days.
Too many cooking/lifestyle shows have created egomaniacal monsters of people who go on the box and make a whole performance of boiling a pot of spuds, banging in a few exotic-sounding vegetables, chucking in a hunk of rolled meat, leaving it for a minute or so, taking it all out again, smearing it, still oozing blood, all across a fancy plate, and shouting: “Wow, oh my God!”
If one of the judges then comes along, takes a tentative taste, screws up his/her face and goes “yerrkkkk,” the budding cordon bleu reels back horrified and starts blubbering into their apron.
This gives rise the next day to a series of articles in the daily papers in which the contestant and their family begin accusing the judges of bullying, harassment and victimisation and claiming that as a result of their execrable concoction being panned by the experts, the would-be chef has developed severe self-doubt issues and has sought the help of a professional counsellor.
I must admit, all this sort of turns you off the modern menus of so many new-age restaurants these days. Unfortunately near our beachside home, a whole “village” of trendy restaurants has sprung up serving massive indescribable meals, dripping with exotic oils and ungents and sending pungent garlic fumes permeating around our once balmy suburb.
Near our local bus stop, rude and ravenous patrons spill out all over the footpath, many in skimpy attire despite the winter chills, their heads bent over various gastronomic inventions and quaffing it down with all the grace and elegance of a pack of hyenas on the carcass of an antelope.
Many of them have brought the family dog along which they allow to roam around sniffing at other peoples’ tables, cocking their leg at will, lunging at other passing breeds, and snapping and snuffling at various titbits handed to them by their doting owners.
I was getting a coffee the other day at one of the local places, looking anxiously at the young girl behind the espresso machine as she swirled and stirred my cappuccino, when a young bloke walked boldly through the door with two large dogs.
He started greeting people and talking loudly as the dogs scampered around getting in the way of the wait staff and plonking themselves down inconveniently under someone’s table.
As I went out, I said to him: “Mate, you know the owner of this place could be closed down if a health inspector came along and saw your dogs inside the premises.”
He glared at me and looked stunned as if I’d slapped him across the face with a leather gauntlet.
“Are you a health inspector?” he asked me. I said no.
“Are you a copper?” he asked me. I again said no.
“Are you the owner of this place?” he asked. Again I answered in the negative.
I just said as patiently as I could: “Look, I’m an ordinary citizen who doesn’t think dogs, beautiful creatures that they can be, should be allowed in places where people are eating. Know what I mean?”
But he just didn’t get it. He just wasn’t used to being told that he was doing something that might be an annoyance to other people.
He stunned me then by saying, quite bizarrely and I guess with a touch of sarcasm, “Thanks for your feedback pal,” as I walked outside.
Going into even a fairly fashionable restaurant these days is often a traumatic and disturbing experience, particularly if you see the dreaded sign: “Kids Eat Free!”.
If you see that sign, and you just wanted a quiet secluded candle-lit dinner with the beloved, flee for your life. Go and buy some fish and chips and eat them in the park. Go home, order a pizza and crack open a bottle of shiraz.
Now we all understand that kids and grandkids have to eat, but many of them have not had instilled into them that this particular eating establishment is not their exclusive domain and they can’t go around shrieking and hooting and bumping into other peoples’ tables as if it’s their own rumpus room at home.
Of course, many new generation parents think this is cute and lovable and little Thomasina is only expressing her individuality by rampaging around and bursting into hysterical tears if someone suggests she should sit down, behave herself and eat her meal.
As far as the meals are concerned, I’m a bit on Thomasina’s side…they’re usually monstrous and forbidding. Parents let the kids order adult-size meals and then sit around looking on patronisingly as the beloved little offspring grab a couple of chips, cram them into their gobs, use a fork to scatter the rest of the meal across the floor and then begin bellowing for an icecream dessert while other diners are writhing in horror at the antics.
We reckon that the kids of today have probably had more restaurant meals in their first five years than we had as kids all our lives.
And the expense…it’s not rare for a two-adult-two-kid family to spend up to a hundred bucks buying breakfast at a local coffee-lounge/restaurant.
When we lived in the bush, it used to be a big treat when Dad and Mum took us to the local Golden Fleece service station on the occasional Saturday night after the footy game to tuck into a delicious mixed grill.
I can still remember the taste of those wonderful meals today! I bet the kids of today won’t have such poignant memories.