Friday, 4 February 2011
Food sharing anxiety
I have long harboured a realisation which I’ve felt too ashamed about admitting for years, but now I’m going to come out into the open with it. In a nutshell, I absolutely HATE sharing small plates of food with other people – ie tapas style dishes. It really drives me round the bend and ruins many an eating out experience. It just won’t do for me!
I think it probably stems from university days. I would be minding my own business eating my beans on toast, or tuna and cheese toastie, and then from out of nowhere my annoying housemate C’s fork would plunge into my plate from across the table as she cheerfully helped herself to my dinner. I would cry out ‘Oi what the hell are you doing’ and she’d retort with ‘Oh stop being so uptight’ while plunging her fork in for a second time with complete impunity. I would feel almost murderous rage at what she’d done – she had violated my dinner. It amounted to a complete lack of respect for my personal space and annoyed the crap out of me.
Then began my first forays into Spanish-style tapas eating. I would find the whole process unbearable – people umm-ing and ahh-ing about how many plates of food to order: did we have too much, did we have too little? Then I’d find that the plates that I’d ordered would be placed at the opposite end of the table to where I was sitting, and by the time I’d get it passed to me, someone else would have polished off most of it. There would never be enough tapas for everyone, but no-one would really speak up and order more. I would find the whole thing an ordeal and leave feeling disgruntled and still hungry, cheated out of a proper dinner. I still can’t get the memory of an unbearable tapas meal I experienced in Bloomsbury out of my head – there were at least 20 people around the table, and tapas is only bearable for two people at most, perhaps a maximum of four, but 20 is sheer insanity. How I hated the ridiculous dance of forks around the last morsel of chorizo or mushroom, and the fact that a lot of the food came in portions that were impossible to divide among more than two people. Spanish tortilla, I rest my case.
I have two good friends who have a habit of always ordering two separate dishes when we eat out and dividing them down the middle to share them with each other. I find the whole thing incomprehensible – imagine if you are really enjoying your plate of food to know that halfway through you have to surrender it and swap over to something that you might not like as much? It's like they don't want to commit to anything. I’m clearly far too impatient and greedy. I like nothing more than to have my plate of food in front of me, safe in the knowledge that I’ll get to enjoy the whole thing, without someone’s fork plunging rudely into it for a taste. Unless I give them permission first…
The only real exception to my dislike of sharing food is in Asian cuisine, where you traditionally order a lot of plates between you and share. It just isn’t really the done thing to order one dish for yourself. For some reason this experience is really satisfying as the portions tend to be larger, and you get to try a lot of different things. (Actually I've just thought of one annoying thing: there are four of you dining, but three spring rolls arrive on the plate. Trying to carve them in half with chopsticks is SO annoying!) But I’m afraid tapas, and all those small trendy plates of food that seem to be cropping up everywhere in gastropubs and Soho Italian tapas restaurants just make me feel on edge and perpetually irked. How on earth are you meant to share a soft boiled duck egg and soldiers between four hungry diners? Gah!
Are you as intolerant as I am, or do you think I should just mellow out? I’d love to hear from some similarly picky diners…