Archive for January 28th, 2010

Rant #26 “Prepared to My Liking”

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Prepared to “My Liking”?

I’m about to embarrass myself the next time I go out to eat. There is a new catch phrase that is driving me bonkers. “Is everything to your liking?” What the hell is my “liking”?

It is entirely possible that I will say something so super-snarky that I might become one of those diners with a not-so-nice comments in my guest profile. But if I write about it before I say it, my good-natured dining persona might be preserved.

The question usually floats across the table during the “check-back,” the useful, considerate, moment when a well-trained server circles back to your table, shortly after serving the meal but before you’ve tucked in too deeply to a dish. The point is to make sure that everything is as it should be. Not too cold, or too rare, not too salty, not too spicy. It’s a good and important table service moment. In a busy kitchen anything can happen. An extra flick of the hot chili oil, a rare instead of a medium rare. Salt mistaken for sugar.

It’s mincing words, I know. Turning a courtesy into tiny meaningless chiffonades. The server is trying to be courteous, solicitous, even when they don’t hang around long enough to hear my answer. And truthfully, I hardly ever have anything to say. I’m not a picky eater. Rare, medium rare, more or less. Almost all restaurant meals are more or less okay for me if I like the company and I’m being treated with warmth. But the question confuses me. I know how to answer, “Is everything all right?”, or, “How is everything?” and lots of equivalent queries. But asking me about “my liking” is confusing for me. Do I like the dish? I can answer that easily. Yes, I do. Or, No, I don’t, and here’s the problem. Is “liking,” meant as a synonym for my “fondness” for the flavor balance, or the texture? Or do I think there’s too much eggplant purple and it’s overwhelming the red of the marinara? I don’t really know how to answer. Maybe “liking” is vaguely British, and I am so solidly American, that I miss the nuance. But next time you see me, at a table, with a server hovering, a question hanging in the air? Please come and clamp your hand over my mouth before I say something snarky.