The Customer is Always Right. Not! Part 1
I like to eat out, but on my terms. And my terms are more complicated than the Donald’s prenups.
Since I’m a vegan who also rejects hot spices, gluten and sugar (or should I say that they reject me), I’m
infuriating.. .impossible…challenging to cater to for most chefs. But I’m willing to try if they are.
Phil and I have a Thai restaurant we go to nearly every time the urge to eat out nibbles at us. Their menu has one or two items I can order as printed (which is as rare as proper grammar in a text message) and their staff is generally willing to make changes to other items so I can eat them. The key word in that last sentence is generally.
A few weeks ago, we went there for dinner and I ordered “drunken noodles” (don’t worry, only the noodles have fallen off the wagon, I’m still sober as, well, a very sober person). The way the dish comes is spicy and in a meat-based brown sauce. I ordered it like this: “I’ll have the drunken noodles, very mild, no spices, with your vegetarian sauce, and extra broccoli please.” I had ordered this dish this way before with delicious results, so I knew it could be done. The nice Thai woman who I think is part owner of the place nodded and looked as if she was writing everything down. Phil, who will eat anything, ordered something off the menu just as it was listed. He’s so easy.
Not five minutes later, both of our dishes were in front of us. Mine was conspicuously absent of broccoli and looked darker than I remembered. I took a bite and my tongue lit up like a forest fire. Upon closer examination, I noticed red flecks that could only be pepper flakes. This was the original, not Lorna, version of “drunken noodles.” I was skeptical about the sauce, so I had Phil try it. He agreed it was very spicy and probably not vegetarian.
Madam Thai was busy with the three other customers in the restaurant and didn’t check on how we liked our meals, so Phil took matters, and my plate, into his own hands. He walked into the kitchen and asked them to remake the dish without spices and with a vegetarian sauce. Madam Thai went into the kitchen to see why this big decidedly non-Thai man was in her kitchen. She heard his request and said, “You want no spice, you have to ask no spice.” He didn’t argue with her, and said, “I understand. Could you just fix this?” She curtly nodded.
Phil came back to the table and told me what happened. I asked him, “Did you happen to mention the extra broccoli?”
“No. I forgot.”
I tried not to look too disappointed since he just did such a gallant thing for me, but I guess I wasn’t too successful hiding my drunken noodle feelings. Up he went back to the kitchen, leaned in and shouted, “And put extra broccoli on that, would you?”
Madam Thai shot us both a wicked stink eye. I had visions of her with a blonde voodoo doll, some needles, and maybe some matches. I think she was intimidated by Phil’s 6’3″ 250 lb. former Marine-ness, so she took all her indignation out on my 5’6″ 140 lb. Highly Sensitive blonde-ness.
I saw her come out of the kitchen carrying a dish and a scowl that would scare off a momma grizzly bear, cubs be damned. She plopped the plate on the table, slid it in front of me then turned away, as if looking at me would ruin the curse she sealed when she spit on my food before bringing it to me. Phil and I looked at each other.
“I feel like I’m in trouble,” I told him.
“I think you are,” he said, only half-joking. We both remembered what it was like being little kids in trouble.
“Great. The one restaurant in this town that has food I can eat, and now I’m probably black-listed from it,” I said as I sampled my lighter-colored drunken noodles with a few pieces of broccoli scattered around the plate. It was delicious except for the poverty of broccoli.
Madam Thai ignored me but was kind enough to replenish Phil’s water. When she handed us the bill, she said, “Hope you enjoy meal.” Her thin smile was glued beneath eyes that could have been staring at the person who poisoned her pet snake.
I told Phil as we left the restaurant, “I think we might have to find other places to eat for a while–at least until she cools down.”
“Really? I don’t know…” Phil was skeptical that this one little Thai woman could scare us both away.
“How about Chinese? I haven’t had Chinese food in eons.”
“Sure. Chinese is good.” Phil is easy-going and has this motto that I really like: “If Lorna wants it, I’ll make it happen.” Isn’t that a great motto?
“Okay, let’s try that next time.” I said as we scurried out of the restaurant before Madam Thai could throw any more curses on me.
There’s a very good reason why I gave up Chinese food years ago. It only took one trip to a Chinese restaurant to remind me. And what a trip that was…