Friday night was “date night.”
Don’t ask me why, after all these years married and with a thoroughly empty nest, we still feel the need to term it as such, but there you have it. Date night. Hubby and I went to The Chequers in Hedsor – a favorite pub, not least because they do amazing rib eye steaks served on an oblong cutting board with a side salad buried in Parmesan, grilled cherry tomatoes, potato wedges to die for, home made onion rings and a gorgeous peppercorn sauce. We love the open fire, ancient beams, scrubbed oak tables and bags of atmosphere. It is a great night out.
However, with both Hubby and I trying to cut down on carbs, we have recently been avoiding the potato wedges and onion rings wherever possible. So last night, I requested that oddest of all things, a “to go” box.
Now you must understand: Brits do not believe in “to go” boxes. Takeaway is what you do at a Chinese or Indian restaurant. Nobody “takes away” their leftovers in a pub. It is just is not done.
Still, as I have a load of very spoiled chickens and am morally averse to unnecessary waste, I request them everywhere. I play the broad American accent to the hilt and pray they understand the peculiarity of foreigners. I have mixed success. The wait-staff generally roll their eyes almost imperceptibly, heave a sigh, and go off in search of some shallow foam coffin in which to deposit my leftovers.
I fail to see the problem. The more of us that take our leftovers away from a restaurant, the less they have to pile into the dumpster at the end of the evening. Why is that such a problem? Isn’t this what we would call a win/win situation?
But then again, there is this thing in England we must be ever aware of. It is called “snob value.”
Snob value is no joke. It is why there are no proper coupons here (OH how I miss dumpster diving for my American coupons!!!!). It would seem the English cannot cope with the embarrassment of NOT paying full price for anything. It is why some will pay £10 for a £5 box of nappies (diapers) simply to be able to state they were able to purchase the more expensive box. It is why anyone would spend £3 on an avocado at Harrods.
It is also the only reason anyone would buy underpants at Marks and Spencer. Sure, they are sturdy. The cotton is so rich it is bullet proof. When it comes to sex appeal, M&S undies might as well have a picture of your mother screenprinted across your privates, but hey, they are expensive, so why WOULDN’T you buy them? (This might also contribute to the low birth rate among the English middle class… it ain’t all about stress, careers and low sperm counts, people. I’m pretty sure sturdy underpants have played their part here.)
This is England.
So, to request a “to go” box in Britain is basically to announce to the world you are either a.) DESPERATE, b.) BROKE or c.) TIGHT. Neither description is particularly flattering, I have to admit.
But hey, I’m American. I’ll play the Yank card if necessary.
So, Friday I pasted on my cheekiest smile and cajoled our waitress, “I know this sounds ABSOLUTELY MAD, but…” I paused for emphasis and levelled our now apprehensive waitress with a look I hoped would pass for absolute sincerity. “I have chickens, you see?” I batted my eyelashes and smiled apologetically.
“Chickens.” she aped, obviously completely at sea as to where this was all going.
“Yes,” I assured her. ” I have chickens… they are very spoiled chickens, you see?”
Her look told me she certainly did NOT see.
“Please, if it is not too much trouble, can you have the kitchen just tip all these leftovers into a bag or some foil or a box so I can take it home for them?” I smiled as sweetly as I was able after a pint of lager. It might have looked more like a leer, I’m never entirely sure. But it FELT sincere. “Please don’t hate us,” I added. “We’re really very nice people…”
She didn’t look entirely convinced, yet off she went while Hubby and I finished chatting and paid the bill.
About 5 minutes later, our waitress returned. She herself was wearing a cheeky smile. With a flourish, she presented a gift from the kitchen staff. It was an enormous swan fashioned out of aluminum foil, complete with wings, tail and a gracefully curving neck. Our leftovers were carried in the belly of the winged beast.
Oh, we had our leftovers, all right… bless their sarcastic little souls.
God, I love the English…
feature photo: Shutterstock
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