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Danny Wallace on making a stand against snobbish waiters


I have no idea what the Steak Sinatra is and so I ask the waiter.

“It’s steak,” he says. “With a sauce with peppers.”

“OK!” I reply. “And is that how Sinatra liked it?”

The waiter just shrugs.

“So do you want the Steak Sinatra?”

I do. And then he thinks about whether or not to suggest something, and takes the plunge.

“Can I actually recommend you just have the steak?” he says.

“Really?” I say. “What’s wrong with the Sinatra?”

“The steak is so good,” he says. “Why ruin it with sauce?”

It almost sounds like a convincing but terrible slogan.

“All right!” I say. “Just a steak! But can I have it towards well done?”

I always say “towards well done” instead of “well done” even though I want it “well done” because saying “towards well done” is not as offensive to chefs. To be honest,
I don’t know what everyone’s problem is with well-done food. Why are chefs such babies? Boo hoo someone wants their steak cooked. I mean, look at the phrase. Well done. Very positive in and of itself. And yet it always leads to a predictable and dismissive conversation. Once I was just told “no”. What absolute babies.

“Towards well done?” says the waiter, frowning, and here we go. “Well you might as well have the sauce, then.”

Geez. This guy’s a big baby too! So if I order it well done, I might as well further ruin it with sauce? Their sauce? Frank Sinatra’s sauce?

The waiter walks away and I turn to my wife.

“I’m sick of this controversy about well-done food,” I say. “It’s followed me my whole life. If someone came round our house and I didn’t cook something through, they’d assume it was a mistake. Why do these clowns think I should applaud them for not quite cooking something? ‘Oh good work, you stopped cooking something before it was finished, what a skill.’”

“Why do you say ‘towards’ well done?” says my wife.

“It softens the blow,” I say. “These people are often very delicate.”

Then I realise we haven’t ordered any drinks.

I catch the waiter’s eye and he starts to walk back.

“Can we order a couple of glasses of wine?” I say.

“What would you like?” he says, and I can see it in his eyes: he is not expecting much from me. It is enough to throw me.

“One glass of sauvignon blanc?” I say, looking at my wife for her approval. “And… a glass of house red.”

Wait a second. Just wait a bloody second.

“Very good,” he says.

Wait a second.

I’ve ordered red wine! I don’t drink red wine! I mean, I’m physically able to, but I don’t, because it makes me overly emotional and then I seek out ballads. And yet I just ordered one.

“I just ordered a glass of house red because I’m having a steak!” I tell my wife, stunned at my own behaviour. “I did it to please the waiter!”

I obviously crave his approval. But why shouldn’t I have a glass of white wine with a steak? Why does it have to be red? Who actually cares?

But oh my God, I just know if I’d ordered a steak well done and had a glass of white wine, those big babies in the back would have completely lost their minds. They would have started crying and throwing things and they’d all have ended up on the naughty step.

“Why do I care what they think?” I say to my wife, appalled. “Why am I protecting their precious childish feelings? It’s me that has to eat it! It’s me that has to drink it!”

It’s all the worse when you consider my upcoming sauce. What would Frank Sinatra have said about my behaviour? Now there was a man who liked to do it his way. He did things his way so much they named this steak after him. He was always doing it his way! But me? When I do it my way I get sneered at and then I end up doing it their way.

“I am a weak man,” I say, sadly.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew.

But that wasn’t because the meat was well done.

The waiter returns with our wine. He places the glasses in front of us.

And then my wife does something fantastic.

“Thank you,” she says, picking up the glass of red.

She slides the white wine towards me.

White wine! With a well-done steak!

We both look up at the waiter. Something behind his eyes explodes.

But this is a revolution! A revolution against stupid rules and petty snobbery!

He runs off, probably to tell on us.

“Thank you,” I say, looking at my wife. “They’re going to spit on my steak now.”

“Maybe they’ll just spit towards it,” she says, and we clink glasses.

In other news

down low

Regular correspondent Brian Yim Lim was walking past an Italian estate agents, and either something got confused on Google Translate or it’s a lot more open about who it does secret negotiations with than it should be.

keep still

Steve Adams was wandering around in Bridport, and although ‘Twist and Shout’ might sound like a clever name for an osteopaths, in reality it is not a name that inspires much confidence.



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