I have more than a few food and beverage pet peeves. Get comfy.
As you know from my previous post, I loved my grandfather dearly. But he did have one habit that really annoyed me. My grandfather would ask, “What would you like for dinner?” during breakfast. Now I don’t want to over-exaggerate; this wasn’t a trauma that has haunted me my entire life. But during my three-week stay with him in 2009 when my mother passed away, it became like nails on a chalk board for me.
“I don’t know, Grandpa,” I’d respond. “I haven’t even had my first sip of coffee.” (Remember, in my inaugural post, I likened my first sip of coffee to a race gunshot that gets me going, so first thing in the morning isn’t a good time to ask me anything.)
“Well, let me know when you decide.”
Aye, aye, Captain.
You know who else does this to me? My best friend, to whom I’m so close that I consider her a sister. We’ll call her Chef since she is one. She also happens to be my business partner and roommate, so you get the idea—she’s important to me. Chef is great! She’s smart, fun, and she feeds me. She has been there for some serious highs and lows. But when she asks me what I want for dinner at breakfast, I want to punch her…lovingly, of course.
My father also exercises this annoying behavior at times. I don’t want to punch him because that’s disrespectful but it’s still nails on a chalkboard, people. Nails. On. A. Chalkboard.
Why does this bother me so much, you ask? BECAUSE HOW THE HELL DO I KNOW WHAT I WANT FOR DINNER AT BREAKFAST? I’M NOT HUNGRY FOR DINNER AT BREAKFAST. I HAVEN’T PLANNED THAT FAR AHEAD TO KNOW WHAT I WANT FOR DINNER AT BREAKFAST. (Have I mentioned my commitment issues yet?)
My second pet peeve: When the Front Of House Staff Person (TFOHSP)—could be the host(ess), server, buser, bartender, food runner, or manager—makes your meal and experience about him/her.
This can happen in any restaurant of any caliber. I think it’s lovely when TFOHSP has personality, is social and polite, witty and charming. I love witty and charming! Knowledgeable is always appreciated, especially when s/he is able to make smart referrals on food and beverage pairings or suggestions for some really yummy food. However, there’s a line on the plate, and when TFOHSP crosses it, you may as well just give up and start drinking heavily.
Have you seen the movie Office Space? TFOHSP uses every bit of verbal flare she has up her sleeve to make conversation with your dinner mates, the enjoyment of your meal, and much deserved relaxation impossible. She may walk you slowly to your table, ask you a barrage of questions about why you’re dining out that evening, hold on to one tiny kernel of information you shared, and run a 5K on how she’s from New York and loves it in Southern California, too, and oh my gosh, don’t you just love the weather? And she hates the snow and will never move back east even though her boyfriend really wants her to come home and he’s working X undesirable job but has just applied to school in hopes of becoming Y and do you know anyone who does that? It’s really fascinating and you should look it up online and…
Shit. Where are my bubbles?
Or, how about TFOHSP who starts talking at you as he approaches the table, not when he arrives, rudely interrupting your conversation, not asking politely if he may have your attention for a moment. He then proceeds to run a military-like inquiry about your drink selections, choice of appetizers, entrees, and dessert preference. He hates his job, he hates working with people, and Q.E.D. he hates you.
It’s enough to give me an anxiety attack about dinner. Where’s my Xanax?
I’m ridiculously nice (80% of the time) to those in the service industry because I’m one of them and my mama raised me right. However, annoying behavior is annoying behavior. At least at Lips, you’re warned that your attention during your meal should be solely on Cher or Madonna, your entertainer/server/busser, and all these duties are performed in stilettos, which makes it even more forgivable (although not any less irritating).
But wait…I have even more pet peeves that I know you want to know about (or you don’t, but I love to make lists, so just indulge me here):
- The “glug” sound made by any liquid being poured (except champagne or sparkling wine, in which case I’ll jump up and down, clap my hands, and say “Hercules! Hercules!”).
- Wilted lettuce as garnish. Why?
- Pot lucks, especially when children are present. (No, I don’t have any…potlucks or children.)
- The existence of margarine.
- Dirty kitchens.
- Chomping on gum (I was trained at a young age by my mother to not tolerate this as it reminded her of her uncle’s dentures clacking at nightly dinner).
- Chewing with one’s mouth open.
- Imitation whatever. Please don’t imitate. Just don’t eat turkey, crab, etc.
Every time I’m faced with one of my culinary pet peeves, I find myself questioning my sanity. Am I the only one who finds this annoying or uncomfortable? To make myself feel better, I checked in with others via Twitter and Facebook on their own gripes. Here’s what gets under other people’s skin:
- “Arranging ground meat in the meat case at a market to resemble the animal that the meat came from originally.”
- “Not turning the pot handles so they are out of harm’s way.”
- “Undercooked beans. It’s a dish killer.”
- Chomping on gum (‘cause I know my mother would chime in with that one).
- “Mushy veggies.”
- “Starch/Veg/Protein entrees. Get creative…”
- “People not knowing what they want for dinner at breakfast. How am I supposed to get my mental mise en place together?” (Guess who submitted that one?)
- “The word ‘brunch.’” (Chef submitted that one as well.)
- “Multiple diet restrictions by choice, not necessity. I just don’t want to entertain if that’s the case.”
- “Soggy bread! Mushy anything really. I’m a texture junky.”
- “Over salting.”
- “Green food on St. Patrick’s Day. If it’s not supposed to be green, don’t make it green.”
- “When my food touches on my plate.”
- “All You Can Eat buffets.”
- “Luke warm food and bad service.”
(Couldn’t agree more with that last one.)
I believe that knowing someone’s food pet peeves is like knowing what s/he has in her/his medicine cabinet. It’s personal, could be embarrassing, and isn’t good first date conversation.
But there’s something fascinating about examining pet peeves. It marks a person’s history equally as much as a person’s passions. For as much as we may grow and change as we age, it’s still a nod to the past, keeping us grounded.