You know those restaurant gatherings where you are in a group of people, you know most of them, but there’s always a bunch that you don’t. And when it’s time to order, someone always gets the brilliant idea: To Share The Food.
I hardly had a good experience with sharing food with people I barely know. I even had some bad experiences with sharing food with people I know very well, i.e. family and friends.
Many years ago, I was just fresh of the boat here in Christchurch, I joined a group of fellow fresh of the boaters and they organized outing and meetings and info evenings to get you settled into your new country. I went to one of these outings which happened to be in a restaurant. What better way to get to know people by eating food with them. It was a Thai restaurant and the main dishes were “made to share with friends”. I was a vegetarian at that time, and I didn’t think anything of this Sharing Phenomenon that was about to break loose.
I sat at the end of the long table, a gentleman called Lad sat to the left and my friend G sat to the right. There was a couple opposite of us and the rest of the table was filled with mostly people I met before. No biggie, I was here to make friends and influence people.
I ordered a vegetarian noodle dish and all the other people ordered their dishes. Why the emphasis on “vegetarian”, you ask? You’re about to find out.
The ordering was done. People chilled, had drinks, talked about lighthearted subjects until the dishes started to come out. Mine came out as one of the first dishes. The waiter called it and I politely raised my hand. Before the plate touched the table in front of me, Lad to the left grabbed it, rubbed his hands together and yelled out: “Man! This looks great! I am STARVING”. He started to scoop large amounts of MY noodle dish onto his plate. The couple opposite me thought this was the go ahead sign and ladled at least half of what was left on their plates. Meanwhile, more food was put on the table.
Then, to my horror, they looked to their left side and went “Hey Garry, do you want some as well?” Obviously, Garry wasn’t going to say no to this. And he scraped the last noodle onto his plate.
I looked at all the food that was on the table. All non-vegetarian.
As the horror of the possibility of me going hungry in a restaurant slowly started to set in, I looked around the table. When I made eye contact with people, they kindly offered to share their dishes, but I had to decline, vegetarian, you see.
I was doomed to eat the dry white rice that came in abundance that night.
One good thing came from this outing, I met my best friend G that night.
One other occasion was also many years ago but instead of unknown people, this was with my friends and family. It was a newly opened tapas restaurant and that meant Share The Dishes. Luckily there were more vegetarian people in this setting, so the fear of going hungry was completely unjustified.
You’d think this sharing food experience was going to be great. If it was, I would not be writing about it.
For those who don’t know, tapas is tiny dishes and made to share, the more you order, the more you can share. I learned from the first experience and ordered at least 3 vegetarian dishes and since I am a fat fuck who is knowledgeble on food, I knew what I was ordering, so no surprises like squid tentacles, or equal will be served.
Unfortunately, a few of my friends had never had tapas, let alone foreign food before and ordering off the menu was like solving the equation that calculated the gravity inside a black hole. BUT, finally, with the help of Google Translate and some assumptions, they figured out what they wanted and ordered.
After ordering, the phase of chitchat and drinks started.
Not long after that, the tapas started to come out. I must state that it is common etiquette in The Netherlands that everyone waits for all the food to come out so everyone can start devouring food at the same time. It’s polite.
I had my 3 dishes set up next to me and before I could shovel my patatas brava into my mouth, one of my friends cried “I don’t like this, can I have some of yours?” I looked at her thought: “WHY?!? You spent an hour online to figure out what to order, even asked the waiter, agreed and NOW you say you don’t like it??”
I reluctantly pushed one of my dishes in her direction.
Literally 3 seconds after that I heard someone else whisper they didn’t know they ordered battered and deep fried tentacles and without asking, I saw her claw reaching for my second dish.
You guessed it, I ended up eating half of one of my three ordered dishes. Most of what other people ordered sat on the table, almost untouched.
I remember paying and one we were outside, someone suggested to go to McDonalds, because they were starving. I declined, because I had reached my limit of sharing food for a day.