l’attente

by jemma margaret

English is confusing.

Case in point, what is a waiter waiting for?

French, for once, makes more sense. A serveur serves (I guess we also call them servers in English).

In last night’s French conversation atelier the loud American woman was discussing the serveurs impolis (although she had the word order wrong) in Parisian cafés.

No, no, I wanted to protest, it is you who are impolie! However, not wanting to cause a row, I kept my mouth shut (I could not keep my mouth shut when the facilitator thought that Italian radicchio was a French radis. It is like a salad and a cabbage, I explained. Yes, it is also red and white, but not under the ground. I love to explain food vocabulary confusions. The other day, I had a rollicking good time trying to finesse the different between light roasted coffee and weak coffee.).

On the other side of the pond, there was a recent fluff piece in the New York Times satirizing the over-the-top New York/Bay Area food scene. The waiter asking many many questions about diet and provenance and water preferences. Frankly, it wasn’t at all funny. Some of the commentators (I’ve developed a bad habit of reading most of the comments) were genuinely offended by the cruel portrayal of restaurant staff. One man advocated that everyone should have to serve in the armed forces, volunteer for the community, and work in the service industry upon graduating from high school. I suppose to gain empathy. Alternatively, one could just read memoirs and novels by or about people who DO do those things. That’s almost equivalent, right? (The other day, I realized that when I said “I know people who” what I meant was “I’ve read fiction about people who”…oops!)

Apparently, you can’t win.

Too much attention gets you skewered in the newspaper and too little attention earns you a bad rep in the French for foreigners class. On the other hand, is it only Americans who are complaining? Do other nationalities have so many unreasonable expectations when it comes to the restaurant experience?

I would quote Woody Allen here, but it’s rather inappropriate.

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