Last weekend, I had brunch in a relatively new café in The Hague. I’d been there
a number of times before and so thought I knew what to expect. We were served by
a friendly woman who took down our order of soup, a breakfast menu and a chicken
roll. In the mean time, we read the paper and relaxed. We didn’t have to wait too
long before the food came and so we tucked in. I started on my soup and left the
chicken roll for last. With the soup devoured, I finally took a bite of my roll;
the words bland and uninspired sprang to mind. I didn’t think much of it as I thought
that the flavor might improve with my next bite, in the same way the first sip of
a freshly opened bottle of wine can taste very different to the second. Unfortunately,
the flavour did not improve, to the point that I decided not to eat any more of it.
This for me was a big deal as I usually enjoy most foods that I eat; I am what you
would call a fully-fledged foodie. The chicken was nondescript; I may just as well
have been eating a piece of cardboard. The accompanying bits of tomato and green
blobs looking like the contents of a baby’s nappy after a spinach supper, did not
marry well with that gut-churningly, oddly textured specimen of a chicken. A blind
kangaroo could have made a better job of that sandwich.
Anyway, I am normally not someone who makes a big fuss about these things so I had
not planned on making a complaint. However, when the waitress came to remove our
dishes, she saw my uneaten sandwich and asked if everything had been to our satisfaction.
Well, even I, a happy hippy, did not see a way out of telling the truth as it stood.
And so I did. I admitted that the roll did not taste very good. The waitress looked
as though I had dropped a bombshell. She emphatically enquired why. What could I
say? Because the chef didn’t seem to have a clue how to make a chicken sandwich edible.
No, I just said, the chicken tasted strange and that the flavours didn’t work together.
I should actually have said that there was no flavour to speak of. The waitress was
stupefied. She acted as though the crime of the century had taken place. How dare
I insult their chicken roll? She persisted in wanting to know all the whys and wherefores
of my disdain. I kept repeating myself in the hope that she would finally accept
the criticism I was carefully dishing out. At long last she left, heading for the
kitchen and the chef. I imagined him hearing the grave news and committing suicide
in true Monty Python style. The shame would be too much to bear. I was hoping that
this would be it, only to find another waiter beside our table. Bad news travels
fast it seemed. He too began to interrogate me. I was beginning to feel harassed
and embarrassed as I felt faces staring. Surely, this was no way to deal with such
a problem? What were we talking about anyway? A bloody chicken sandwich. The world
would still exist, night would still become day and the sun would still shine (some
of the time in Holland)! So, I just said it was fine and that it was no big deal.
After all, I wasn’t about to collapse from malnutrition, being a well-fed foodie.
I was secretly hoping though that they would deduct the price of exhibit A from the
final total. That would go some way to making up for their unprofessionalism. I went
up to pay and held my breath. Would they or wouldn’t they? The waiter went through
the separate items on the receipt and finally came to the chicken roll, to which
I promptly replied, ‘the one that wasn’t eaten’! He just agreed with me and in a
furtive manner proceeded to announce the total, without a reduction. ‘What a f******
liberty’! I thought. That underhandedness was going to cost them. A boycott should