Cartoon by Donna Barstow
Recently we wrote about waiters butting into our spoken stream of consciousness at the table to ask us if everything is all right. Obviously it was all right and we were scintillating until he rudely broke in. (However, since this is the Philippines, we would be considered the rude ones. Argh.) Here is Christopher Hitchens’s piece on that subject. It’s included in his new essay compilation Arguably, which we need immediately. (Thanks to Jackie O for the alert.)
Notes on Etiquette from From Leonardo da Vinci’s Kitchen Notebooks
The other night, I was having dinner with some friends in a fairly decent restaurant and was at the very peak of my form as a wit and raconteur. But just as, with infinite and exquisite tantalizations, I was approaching my punch line, the most incredible thing happened. A waiter appeared from nowhere, leaned right over my shoulder and into the middle of the conversation, seized my knife and fork, and started to cut up my food for me. Not content with this bizarre behavior, and without so much as a by-your-leave, he proceeded to distribute pieces of my entree onto the plates of the other diners.
No, he didn’t, actually. What he did instead was to interrupt the feast of reason and flow of soul that was our chat, lean across me, pick up the bottle of wine that was in the middle of the table, and pour it into everyone’s glass. And what I want to know is this: How did such a barbaric custom get itself established, and why on earth do we put up with it?
Leonardo: Top Chef, Old Master in Lapham’s Quarterly
There are two main ways in which a restaurant can inflict bad service on a customer. The first is to keep you hanging about and make it hard to catch the eye of the staff. (“Why are they called waiters?” inquired my son when he was about 5. “It’s we who are doing all the waiting.”) The second way is to be too intrusive, with overlong recitations of the “specials” and too many oversolicitous inquiries. . .
Read Wine drinkers of the world, unite in Slate.