Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The taste of dead animals

I worked late and decided to go for dinner at about 9:30 PM. It's raining and the streets are deserted. I don't fell unsafe but downtown Baltimore does not strike me as the best of neighborhood to just "hang out": I walk fast looking for a place open to have a quick dinner.
The Thai place seems ok except that it is completely deserted. I am the only one in the restaurant. I enter and joke that I don't have a reservation and hope that this is not a problem. The waiter smiles shyly and I realize that his English is not very good. I order tea, soup and Pad Thai and enjoy the atmosphere of an empty restaurant. While I am sipping the hot tea and waiting for the soup, a couple enters. They are wearing identical blue large pants from the nearby hospital. They are both young but look exhausted. The guy orders very quickly for both of them and gets up to wash his hands. When he comes back the woman says "I feel sorry for Jeffrey". The guy nods and they both stay silent starring at each other for what seems like an eternity. The waiter is bringing me my soup.
One spoonful was enough. The taste of a dead animal in the broth. I should have smelled it. I call the waiter. "There is chicken in this soup". He bows smiling "Yes. Very good. Chicken." I'm a vegetarian and I asked you before ordering if the broth was vegetarian." He bows again. "I'm very sorry". All is spoken smiling. My appetite is gone. I don't want to touch the Pad-Thai. I ask for the check but I am not in the least upset and I am surprised at that lack of reaction on my part. The waiter takes the soup away and then comes back with it saying that it is ok, there is no chicken in it. I smile. Meat eaters don't always realize how overpowering the taste of flesh is. Sure, I could be tricked into eating meat but one will have to disguise it much more carefully than in a broth. "That's ok. I just don't want it. I'll pay for it if this is a problem. Just bring me the check." He comes back with the Pad Thai. This is becoming funny. "No, I don't want to Pad Thai. I'm just not hungry anymore." This is rule number one of restaurant complaining. If you are going to make a fuss in a restaurant, don't eat anything else after you made your complaint. It's just common sense. I learned this in Paris but it's probably true all over the world. The manager comes to see what's happening. I reassure him that all is well, I just don't want to eat the Pad Thai and want to pay and leave. He comes back with the check. They've taken out both the soup and the Pad Thai. I leave a large tip to cover the cost of the soup.
The couple is still silent. They're eating. Maybe they talked when I was making a fuss about the soup...


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