Friday, 28 October 2005

Why Are Things Crap?

Let's face it, this could be an ongoing series.

I like food. I like it a lot. I'm not snobbish about food, I'll eat anything. Anything as long as it is actually food, is prepared properly and has never been mentioned even in passing by Anthony Squirrel Pompom. Is it too much to ask?

The Husband and I had a particularly bad run of Food Related Incidents on holiday. On our first night in Some Town we excitedly ran to the Indian Restaurant on the main street. Mmm, Indian food yummy. Distressingly, the temperature inside the restaurant seemed to be many degrees higher than the boiling heat outside. We paused in the doorway, wavering. It was a tough choice. Would we go for lovely curry, with the possibility of an embarrassing falling-over from heat exhaustion, or would it be fried chicken on another premises which had a bit more air? Curry won out.

The Husband paused again on the cracked lino, causing me to bump into him and almost suffocate. "Um, is this right?" He found the round brown lady sitting in the plastic box upsetting.
"Yes!" I said, marching him in. I have experience of people sitting in plastic boxes.

There appeared to be a sort of takeaway section at the front, which was milling with people, but a sign for the restaurant pointed towards the back. A waitress ambled over and we were waved through an entanglement of candy coloured plastic strips dangling from a doorway. It didn't take long to realise that we were the only people in there. I beckoned to the waitress and asked her what the difference was between the front of this place and the back, as it suddenly seemed rather lonely in the 'restaurant' and more fun in the takeaway section.

"Here is for executives."

The Husband began sniggering into his menu. I tried to kick him under the table, but on placing my feet beneath my chair they had immediately glued themselves to some sticky mass on the lino.

"Thank you. We just need a minute to look at the menus."

We ordered some poppadums to begin with. You can't go wrong with a poppadum, right? Huh, wrong.

Now, I've eaten in a lot of Indian restaurants. But chewy poppadums seem to be an Indo-Zambian specialty. Cooked in 500 year old recycled oil, they clag to your teeth and the roof of your mouth, rendering your facial movements akin to those of a 99-year old care home resident with ill-fitting dentures. The 'dums don't come with chutneys or raita either. Oh no. To accompany the chewy 'dums we get.....ketchup. Ketchup which is weeping crustily out of a filthy plastic bottle. A bottle whose rim is a bug graveyard. It is very much highly unpleasant.

We start to play a game called 'What Would Gordon Ramsay Say?' but quickly have to abandon it as soon as it becomes evident that Gordo would probably have to resort to immolation.

I have ordered a butter chicken dish and a pea-based vegetable curry for my main course, but after the poppadums I am nervous about my decision. My skittishness is not helped by the 27 ½ fans on the go in the room, which are doing nothing to assuage the heat, and everything to reinforce my decapitation nightmares.

Seasons come and go as we wait for the waitress to return; dehydration begins to set in. At least the sweat puddle which has formed underneath me has loosened my feet from their gluey grave.

The closest wall-mounted fan to me begins to make a frightening racket. I shuffle around to the other side of the table. The waitress immediately appears and is confused because I am not sitting where I was. I understand her dilemma. After all, it is very hard to do your job properly when ALL TWO of your customers insist on switching places.

We order more drinks and mildly enquire as to when the main courses might appear? The waitress looks puzzled, and stares at her pad. I lean over to look at it. She hasn't written down our full order. They are not right this minute cooking our food in the kitchen, oh no. A glance at our watches indicates that it is past the witching hour and therefore too late to try another venue. We are trapped. I repeat our order and watch her write it down.

I smell my chicken dish long before I see it, and I try not to gag into the one tiny see-through paper napkin at my disposal. A bowl of oil with bits bobbing in it is plonked down before me in a precarious manner. At first I wonder if it is a dish of floating candles, but no, I am expected to eat it. The thing is though, Butter Chicken is supposed to be cooked in butter, not boiled to death in the cheapest and most rancid margarine you can scam on the black market. The dish containing the alleged pea-based curry is also placed in front of me. I can count three round green things, no less, no more. I am very sad, and think to myself, Why are things crap? I would probably be cross but I am incapacitated by the heat. They are very clever, these restaurant people.

In comparison to the vomfest which is residing on my plates, The Husband's biriyani is Not Too Bad Considering, so I pick at that. Quickly.

On the way out we pass our cash to the round brown lady in the plastic box. I bet she eats real butter.