After 20 years of enduring endless smirking by my children in restaurants, I want to address a sensitive topic: ordering food. I really don’t think I’m difficult to please – at least food-wise. I definitely don’t view myself as a high maintenance restaurant customer.
I’m kind of put off when I’m out to dinner with my kids and they start looking tense when I begin to order my meal. I don’t get why they are instantly embarrassed when I ask a few questions of the waiter. I’m really not that difficult.
For instance, the other night at our favorite Italian restaurant my husband and son “conspired” to share an appetizer of Parpadella Bolognese. “Whoah,” I said, “what about me? You know I don’t eat meat and I would love to share a pasta with you guys.” The boys shrugged me off and told me to order my own pasta without meat. I must have looked a little sad because the waiter felt sorry for me and offered to bring me a small portion of the same pasta, without the meat.
Perfect! Was that so difficult? The only problem was my pasta arrived with just butter on it, and no sauce (as if for a toddler.) Bummer. I gently asked the water if I could have some red sauce on the side.
“Oh, I thought you didn’t want sauce – no problem”.
“Actually I wanted sauce, just no meat.”
My son and husband chuckled — I didn’t take their bait. The kind waiter brought me some incredible red sauce “on the side”. You see, I’m not so high maintenance.
It turns out if you’re wondering whether you’re a high maintenance eater or not, it depends who you ask; the server, your spouse, your kids or your friends.
My friends and I are on the same menu page. They’ve never even intimated I’m a difficult customer. In fact, I know I’m on the normal spectrum. As a regular at girls’ nights, women’s lunches and walking group morning coffees, I’ve seen the full spectrum of “special needs” food requests.
I have friends who order most of their entrée on the side – like my most stylish friend, who orders a virtual poo poo platter that spills over into the middle of the table with plates of extra avocado, tomato, and a little bit of extra parmesan slices to supplement her main course– of lettuce. Frankly, I love when she does that because she shares the overflow, and I love those extras.
My vegan friends pepper the poor server with questions about what’s in the soup or the sauce and by the time the server gets to me I am determined to make their life easy. After all, I’m not vegan, I like house wines, I don’t care if the salmon has been farmed or wild – but I know the difference. I’m pretty easy going about all this stuff.
I’ve been ordering dressing on the side since 1979. I’m not saying I don’t use it- I just like to be in charge of how much I put on. In the beginning (like the first 20 years) my special request was motivated by controlling my calorie intake. For instance, I used to order blue cheese dressing, but ordering it “on the side” made me feel less guilty (I told myself I use less than the chunks slopped on my salad by the chef).
The next 10 years my tastes changed—but my desire to control my calories did not. I started ordering balsamic and oil – the bottles – no pre-mixes. I believed this tasted better and it allowed the authentic lettuce flavor to shine through. But, apparently, my request still required a special effort for the server and thus – I got the raised eyebrows from my boys that said, “Mom, You are SOOOO high maintenance”. So what!
In the last few years my dressing preference changed again, and now I prefer really good salt and lemon and a little olive oil. See, I’m getting easier as the years go on. I even carry my own salt (Maldon or Himalayan)– so all I ask for is a a few slices of lemon and some olive oil. I think I must be a breeze of a customer for most servers.
On the spectrum of high maintenance orderers, I’m convinced I’m one of the easiest to please these days. I have no allergies, I don’t ask about what’s in the sauce (except if there’s onions or garlic because I can’t digest it). I don’t make special vegan requests (except if the fish has bread crumbs I request it to be grilled or broiled with no “stuff” on it). Of course butter is fine.
I’m definitely not a pain about ordering desserts. I love sweets but can’t they just offer a square of dark chocolate – I’m willing to pay.
I recently replayed the segment from Harry Met Sally about “High maintenance women”. And, I gotta say, I was totally aligned with Meg Ryan when Billy Crystal peppered her about her food issues. I’m still sticking with my story — I’m not high maintenance – I just know what I like.
How would you rate your self: High Maintenance or Low Maintenance?