There’s enough drama till the dessert arrives. After all, eating out is more about savouring the experience than the spread

I love to eat out. I mean, who doesn’t? A chequered tablecloth is perfect for a multitude of private and social dos. Ice-breaker, interview, proposal, break-up, family outing, anniversary, birthday, pastime and every little non-event in between, you’re in a restaurant sniffing air-conditioned aromas. Somehow though, the food tastes different every time and the bill stretches and contracts like a rubber band.

Let’s try something, dear reader, you and me together. I’ll take you to a virtual restaurant, three times. You’re on an experiment and there’s going to be role play involved. Also, in the interests of psychological enlightenment, you will be expected to foot the bill every time. So if you’re finicky about that sort of thing, be a sport, it’s all virtual. And you tell me if the occasion flavours your food.

Advisory: Do remember that while a restaurant is about food, drink and money, your going to one certainly isn’t.

Act – 1

You’re one half of a couple in love. Or engaged, or newly wed. Now, you’re ushered in, taken to a nice, candle-lit corner. You fidget a little, whisper some inanities, finally settle down and look into each other’s eyes. What happens next? A bit of a blur, isn’t it? I’ll tell you what happened.

Your order went something like “The second dish…the other thing…beautiful eyes…no soup…lots of it…dessert, whatever.” You spent close to three hours and nearly starved. The waiter brought you your food only when he heard your stomach growling. You had to sign the cheque twice because you’d doodled the first time. Safe to say you neither noticed the food, nor the bill.

Act – 2

Now you’re part of a fairly large, noisy, family. You enter the restaurant like a herd of wildebeest at a river crossing. The staff spring into action, come at you from three directions, spot the head of the family (you), ask how many you are, and quickly drag tables across the hall and join them. A high-chair is brought in the vain hope that the infant can be tied down in it. Then the chaotic ordering begins.

Amidst the undecided, the impatient and the experimental, you grab the waiter and growl, “What can you get me very, very quickly?” Well, on the whole, the outing’s a success, the eating certainly isn’t. You sigh at the doggy bag which could feed an entire kennel. You do pay close attention to the bill, though, which reminds you of Kate Middleton’s bridal train.

Act – 3

The final act is a double date. You and your spouse, with friends who you feel knew you from before you were born. You look at the restaurant and you’re glad you know the place. Everyone’s friendly, everything’s familiar. You browse the menu together, discussing the merits of this dish, the dependability of that, the risk in the other. You place a tall order, wait patiently to be served.

You savour the meal; every sip, every bite, each aroma. As the meal ends, the atmosphere crackles; it’s a contest now. Who makes the quickest grasp for the bill? But you’re an old hand at this. You’d slipped your card to the waiter even before dessert. You know exactly what the meal cost. But the look on your friend’s face as he flips open the leather booklet to find a feedback form and nothing else…priceless.

Take a bow, dear reader. You did well.

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Anand VenkateswaranJune 19, 2012