How to make an entire restaurant kitchen laugh at you… the inaugural Food Fail Friday

A couple of years ago, I completed a 10 week beginners course in Positive Psychology offered online by the University of Pennsylvania. I have the memory of a goldfish so I don’t remember much of it, except that I’m supposed to be meditating, running and doing yoga to become happier…I think? Like I said, I forget. Luckily I kept a file full of notes and journal articles. Must make a note to revisit them someday.

However there was one piece of advice, often repeated by the delightful lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar, which stuck with me. It was “Learn to Fail, or Fail to Learn.” So simple, yet so true. It occurred to me that when it comes to my kitchen adventures, failing is something I do extraordinarily well. Although failing is frustrating (see I hate macarons as evidence) I learn from every mistake and rarely make the same one twice. I believe trying something new and failing will eventually make you a better cook than if you only stick to safe tried and true recipes. When you fail in anything, you usually come back wiser and better off for it.

In the spirit of sharing and fun, I thought I’d dedicate one post per week to food fails. I’m calling it Food Fail Friday. Some posts will be failed recipes, either my own or people I know, and others will be amusing food related stories. The first one I’ll share is an oldie but a goodie.

The year was 2001. On one of our very first dates, my boyfriend (now husband) took me on a date to a restaurant buffet. These days, buffets both excite and terrify me. I love to eat so I am excited by the possibility of limitless food, but depending on whether it’s the kind of venue that kids frequent (I’m looking at you Sizzler), the hygiene factor can be concerning. Back then though, I had no such opinions on buffets and was just happy to be on a date with a cute boy.

We did that awkward buffet thing where you’ve just been seated by your waitress but you realise there’s no point sitting so you automatically jump up again to get your first plate. I thought I’d be very grown up and start with soup while the boy went to stock up on shellfish.

I sat back down with my bowl of mushroom soup and my date began peeling his prawns. Once I started eating my soup, I knew something was very wrong. It was disgustingly salty and I literally spat it back into my bowl. Super classy way to start the date if I do say so myself.

After taking a second teensy sip of soup to ensure it was really that bad, I furiously beckoned the waitress over to our table. Angry and indignant (but acting very cool as though I hailed waitresses over all the time to complain about bad food), I said “Ummm, there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with your mushroom soup, it tastes like a bowl of salt!!!”. At first she looked worried, then confused. She peered down into my bowl very closely and said with an absolutely straight face, “Miss, we don’t have mushroom soup on the buffet. You’re eating a bowl of gravy.”

It was one of those moments that you wish the earth would just open up and swallow you whole. My boyfriend looked incredibly embarrassed and I was as pink as his prawns. I apologised to the waitress who left our table and headed straight into the nearby kitchen.

Hoping to put the shameful experience behind me and move onto a slightly tastier dish, we heard raucous laughter coming from the kitchen. The door swung open at that moment and we saw our waitress, surrounded by the kitchen staff, most of them doubled over in laughter.

We left around that time.

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