My Chinese-American husband and I live in Los Angeles. Since my husband is an excellent cook, we don’t go out that often. But when we do go out? There’s always a new Japanese, Indian, or farm-to-table restaurant to try. Andy’s up for anything, which is nice. Most of my white girlfriends won’t even consider sushi. And my friend JM will only go to one restaurant — the Corner Bakery.
When my in-laws visited, my husband and I cooked for them for weeks. Near the end of their visit, Sunny announced that they would take us out to dinner.
I cheered. “Yay! What kind of food would you guys like? A new bistro opened in the Village, or you could try our favorite sushiya in San Pedro.”
I sighed. “Of course.”
The Olive Garden was packed. We had to wait to be seated, but our waiter immediately offered us a free sample of white wine. I declined, as did Andy and his father Jay.
Sunny took a sip and grimaced. “Too sweet!”
Mr. Waiter apologized, offering to get her another sample. Sunny graciously accepted. As soon as he ran off, Sunny downed the remainder in her glass, saying, “It’s not so bad.”
Mr. Waiter arrived with red wine. Another horrendous Sunny face led to an offer of a different sample. Poor Mr. Waiter went through this ritual three more time times. I used up my yearly allotment of cringing, because I have a mental block about even using coupons to get free stuff.
Every time Mr. Waiter departed to procure a different vintage, Sunny pressed the leftover samples on us: “It’s free! Drink some!”
Eventually, Sunny deemed the Shiraz acceptable. She declined to actually purchase a glass, however, giggling that there was no need to buy any wine now – she was already drunk!
As soon as we ordered appetizers, Mr. Waiter told us he’d had to pass our table off to Waiter #2, because his shift was over.
I spotted Mr. Waiter later, serving wine on the other side of the restaurant. He spotted me. Hard to say which of us was more mortified. We looked away and pretended it never happened.
The main course almost passed without incident. Almost.
Andy and I were still eating when Jay began hailing every passing busboy, manager, and waiter that passed by our table. He insisted on the check, ignoring our insistence on dessert. When Waiter #2 hurried over with the check, I explained that we wanted to split the tiramisu. As soon as Waiter #2 departed with our order, the harried manager arrived – also with the check. Amidst this confusion, Sunny complained (and not quietly). The manager apologized profusely. I hid my face behind my hand as the manager offered to remove the dessert from our bill.
When beleaguered Waiter #2 arrived with the tiramisu that Jay had declined, my father-in-law took the plate.
AND BEGAN EATING IT ALL BY HIMSELF.
But no one takes my dessert.
I reached across the table, snatching the tiramisu away. Jay’s mouth opened into an “O” of shock.
I ate a bite. And another.
Then Jay stood up, brandished his fork, and went after the tiramisu.
I moved it to the edge of the table and took another bite. Around that mouthful, I said, “YOU said you didn’t want any, Jay! YOU said you wanted the check!”
I offered a bite to Andy. He was busy burying his laughter into his napkin and waved it off. As did Sunny. So I ate that bite, too.
“Aiyah!” Outraged, Jay stabbed at the tiramisu again. Other diners turned to stare.
I didn’t care. I stood, holding the plate out of Jay’s reach. There are advantages to an Amazonian physique. (Also to knowing you were too embarrassed to ever return to a particular restaurant.)
“Sit down, sit down,” Sunny scolded Jay. “We can get another one. Maybe also for free!”
My little white soul cringed one last time at the thought of more “free food!” shenanigans. I caved and handed Jay the plate.
There was only one bite left, anyway.
After my in-laws finally flew home, my friend JM insisted on taking me to dinner. As I climbed in her car, she squealed, “Yay! I haven’t seen you in ages! I can’t wait to hear about your in-law’s visit!”
“I dunno if I wanna talk about it. I’m trying to forget.”
“Huh. Sounds like you need a drink.”
“You know I’m not a drinker and also they don’t serve alcohol at the Corner Bakery.”
“To celebrate your freedom, we’re gonna go somewhere different!”
“Yeah! To a place with alcohol in case you change your mind!”
She took me to the Olive Garden.