Sprout fest-a Christmas Rant

I managed to get myself into a long and protracted conversation argument this week with a complainer.
Christmas parties seem to be a bit of a thing of the past(mainly lack of corporate budgets)but fear not we still get our fair share of large groups out for a bit of a festive knees up.Usually friends or work colleagues who've decided to stump up the cash and pay for their own festive bash.
In keeping with the season we've had sprouts on the menu.
Sprouts seem to be one of those things that can inspire abject love or vehement hatred with no middle ground.Personally I'm in the positive camp.I encountered both camps the other night.
Early doors I was taking an order from a couple of Texans on a historical tour of Northumberland   their main object of desire being Hadrian's Wall. 'gee every thing's sooo cute'
I was in a bit of a hurry due to further tables arriving and wanting to get all orders in to the kitchen prior to the big party arriving.
Despite the blazing fire they were wrapped up as if a visit to the North Pole was on the cards.
'Are you ready to order?' (politely)
'Well ma'am I have a little question'
'Fire away' (ho ho)
'Well I'm interested in the hake dish but ma'am i see it comes with sprouts,now let me tell you that sprouts could be a deal breaker, yes ma'am sprouts don't do it for me...At all..'
There then followed a detailed account of a meal he'd eaten three years ago at a pub in the Cotswolds and how he'd tried sprouts as he'd never had them before and how they'd had a strange and unwelcome effect on him and how he didn't want to repeat that experience again.
No Ma'am.
I've abbreviated here but the story went on for at least ten minutes during which time he hardly came up for air and there was NO opportunity to interrupt and cut him short.
By the end of it I was having difficulty concentrating on what he was saying due to the mental list of all the other jobs that I had neatly lined up in my mind and increasing by the minute.
Its worth pointing out at this stage that we all have our own rock collection but before you get yours out and show it to someone its probably a good idea to check first of all that they want to see it...
Finally a chance presented itself and I jumped in quickly
'We can do the hake without the sprouts for you if you like'
Thank God we got that one sorted.
The sprout issue raised its head again at the next table I cleared.
As I enquired to the enjoyment of the meal a lady on a table of six who happened also to have the hake dish responded in the affirmative but with the comment that the dish would be vastly improved with the addition of sprouts.I looked a bit confused as the dish was in fact served with sprouts as advertised ( albeit creamed sprouts) so I alluded to this and was told that delicious though it was,a couple of additional WHOLE sprouts would have lifted the dish even more.
As I gathered up the last of the plates and was having a bit of banter but not really listening with any great interest the sprout lover dropped the bombshell that she'd eaten 82 sprouts last Christmas.
I laughed and replied 'Oh over the course of Christmas week?'
'No all on Christmas Day..'
This momentarily stopped me in my tracks.I had no relevant response.Im not sure if it was more extraordinary that she'd eaten such a vast quantity of sprouts and had survived or that she'd actually counted them.
I had no other comeback than a feeble
'Yes I had 16 guests for dinner and had catered sprouts for all and as it happened none of them liked them so we had a bit of a laugh about what if sprouts were currency and I ended up trading all my other veg for sprouts.'
Bloody Hell.
I wasn't sure if it was a wind up(see what I did there?) but her husband was sitting with raised eyebrows and confirmed the whole story to be true.
I avoided the obvious question about side effects but on recounting the episode later to the kitchen Chef was quick to quip 'remind me to steer well clear of their house next Christmas Day I don't want to get caught in the fall out'
Farts are funny, but farts can also in fact be fatal,which of course led on to the story of the man who was done for manslaughter after inadvertently bumping off his wife in a Dutch Oven. Apparently he'd cooked and eaten a cauliflower curry before retiring to bed and when the inevitable happened and he pulled the covers over his wife's head(for a laugh) she was killed instantly in the fug. Ironically being an ex nurse with medical training she had been the perpetrator of her own downfall as had made the bed up hospital style and it had formed an air tight cover.
This story has done the rounds of the kitchen so many times I have no idea if any part of it is rooted in truth.It is always received with great mirth.Every time.
There is no doubt about it there's nowt as funny as a fart.

The raucous laughter emanating from the kitchen was drowned out by the arrival of the large group. The trouble with large groups is that they always contain one or two for whom going out to eat is  a once a year occasion so they're not used to it,don't particularly enjoy it and as a result often end up behaving badly.
I recognised a few of them as regular diners so wasn't anticipating any problems.The meal passed off uneventfully,plates were cleared and plenty of drinks consumed so when a certain individual waved me over I made a quick inuitive grab for a check pad before heading in her direction,foolishly thinking they all wanted a top up.
How wrong I was.
The rest of the party were chatting loudly..enjoying themselves.She began to speak but couldn't make herself heard over the din so gestured me over to the bar.
'I just wanted to tell you that my meal was very dry,very dry indeed'
Now at this stage in the game its pretty pointless bringing up the deficiencies in an already cleared meal especially when puddings have already been served.
Unless you're wanting a reduction.
'Oh I'm really sorry about that,I wish you had mentioned earlier then I could have given you an alternative'
Stock answer.
'Yes it was very, very dry indeed.As if it had been sitting around on the bench all day waiting for us to arrive'
Erm not getting away with that Missus.
'Well, Im very sorry you didn't enjoy it but I can assure you that everything is cooked to order,your meal was plated up in front of me just prior to it being served'
*Further beam*
'Well that meal was very, very dry'
(Yes I get the picture the meal was dry.)
'In fact it was so dry the plate was 'rimmed' at the edge '
Eh? What does rimmed mean?
'Im really sorry you didn't enjoy it but it was all freshly cooked,if i'd known at the time I could have exchanged the meal or brought more sauce for you'
'And the sprouts were like bullets..'
Good God,she likes soggy sprouts.
A sniper firing sprout bullets was a sudden and wildly appealing mental picture especially if he was a good enough shot to take this particular individual out..
I apologised again hoping the conversation had now reached a close.
'Yes that meal was very very dry indeed,when I cook it at home...'
This is the phrase which always pushes me over the edge,and the one which always solicits this response from chef :
'Well if they want it the way they cook it a home why don't they effing stay at home and cook it themselves'
Instead I conceded defeat,I could see a backlog of drinks orders out of the corner of my eye so I decided to cut my losses the conversation was going absolutely nowhere:
'Ill take your meal off the bill for you'

At this point bearing in mind all the extra grief one encounters over the Christmas period lets just take time out to appreciate fully this generous gratuity left by a table x 6 

So that was that for the rest of the evening until they did that other hugely frustrating thing thats normally restricted to walking groups only.
This is annoying on several fronts.
1.Invariably they form a queue which is unpleasant for other diners as it snakes past their tables
2.It takes one member of staff out of the team and clogs them up at the till for ages whilst each person hunts around for the correct money
3.It uses up all your precious change
4.Nobody tips
Lastly and most importantly:
5.There are always items outstanding at the end which nobody claims to have consumed nor want to pay for which always causes a rumpus and leaves a sour taste in the mouths of all parties.

Anyway,I'd taken the trouble to point out the aforementioned complainant with all members of staff as the last thing I wanted was a further heated exchange after I'd promised her a freebie.I was within earshot at the coffee machine as she approached the till to pay.As directed she was informed that her meal was complimentary so only pudding and drinks to pay for.
I have no idea of the motivation in her reaction..maybe because her friends had overheard she wasn't being charged.. who knows.
She steamed over to me minding my own business at the coffee machine and demanded to pay....repeatedly.
'I didn't want a free meal I was only pointing out that the meal was dry to HELP YOU in case you served it someone else'
She made the complaint to HELP ME.This is a new one.
'Look as I said earlier I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it and thats why Ive given you your meal free of charge'
'But I didn't want it free..I wanted to pay...I was only trying to help you in case you served it to someone else'
WT actual F?
'But we did serve it to someone else,in fact we served it to all of your party,all of whom have eaten it,many have complimented us on how nice it was,but I've taken on board your comments and thats why I've given you yours complimentary'
'But the meal was very, very dry indeed'
Back to square one again.
'Yes thats why yours is no charge'
Simple language might be the way forward.
'But i want to pay i was only pointing out to you it was very very dry'
Deep breath.
'There is no charge for your meal'
'But thats not fair on everyone else if they have to pay and I don't'
'Yes it is fair because they haven't complained, because they enjoyed it..there is no charge for yours'
I walked away from the till.

But reader,that wasn't the end of it.
After paying the amount required I observed her again heading in my direction.
Please brace yourselves for the next instalment:
'I feel really bad for not paying,can I buy you a drink please?'
Perhaps this is a consideration which should have surely been made earlier in the game..
Reader,do you really think I got where I am today by letting people such as this off the hook with an easy Get out of Gaol Free card?
Erm no...
'Thankyou but no,I don't drink whilst I'm working'
I had to have a quick glance in the shiny stainless steel of the coffee machine which id been furiously polishing just to check my nose was still the same size after that one..

Usual nose size



Alicia Foodycat said…
I've often thought that the people who behave the worst in restaurants are the ones who don't go very often... and I have one friend who I stand over at bill-paying time because she always "forgets" the service charge, second cocktail and portion of sweet potato chips she ordered.
Expat mum said…
You are a saint. Pure and simple. Hilarious.
Gigi said…
Yes, you are a saint...there is no way I would have handled that as nicely as you did.

Dropping by on Expat Mum's recommendation...off to see what else you have to say!
Liz said…
I absolutely LOVE your Blog and it helps me to know I'm not alone - You absolutely write what happens in my life sometimes with customers, and many other landlords and landladies as well!!!

Thank you for making me laugh and I hope you and yours have a fantastic Christmas and an amazing 2016!!

Much love

Liz H
J Mark Dodds said…
I spend a lot of time in Belford. And have friends in Matfen. I want to visit your fine Establishment to pay homage to you and the Day Carer... Would that be possible?
J Mark Dodds said…
I spend a lot of time in Belford. And have friends in Matfen. I want to visit your fine Establishment to pay homage to you and the Day Carer... Would that be possible?

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