Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Food & books: would you have it again?

Have you ever been out for dinner with someone, and you ask, "Is that good?" and they respond, "Yes!"

Yet you notice they are picking the meal apart, cutting it into tiny bites, and trying to hide it under the garnish at the side of the plate so it looks like they've eaten more than they actually have.

Has anyone else noticed this?  Is it just a Canadian thing to never say anything bad in a restaurant?

I'm really picky about food. I have no problem modifying my order until it's nearly unrecognizable from what's listed in the menu, or sending the food back if it's not cooked properly or if it's wrong. I figure, if I'm paying for it, they should serve what I asked for. Note: I'm not rude about it, or at least I try not to be, because I know the waiter/waitress isn't the one who overcooked my fish until it's turned into a piece of shale, or undercooked the chicken breast so it's a sickly, pink in the centre.

But let's talk about when it's not a matter of being poorly prepared. What about when something is over salted, or the mixture of flavours isn't to your taste? When it's a matter of like/dislike.

Do you tell the truth when someone asks you if it's good?

I'm notoriously honest/blunt, and I still have a problem answering "no" to that question, even if I hate what's on the plate in front of me.

So I've stopped asking.

Instead of the ripe-for-a-white-lie question, "Is it good?", I ask, "Would you have that again?"

And people are more likely to answer with a real opinion rather than a dismissive "yes".

Asking if the food is good is the same as bumping into someone you haven't seen in ages and asking how they're doing. Almost always, people respond with an off-hand, throw-away phrase, or a single word answer, then move on. It's a question that is asked out of habit/politeness, and rarely answered honestly.

With food, whether it's "good" or not is almost irrelevant. It's such a vague word that it's practically meaningless, but asking if they would pay to have the same meal served to them again...? That's specific and relevant to the person you're asking.

I've been thinking of this in terms of books/authors because I recently lent a couple books to a friend of mine. We have never exchanged books before, but she asked me to give her a couple of my favourites so she could see what I liked. I also recently cleaned out my book shelves and donated about half the books to the Salvation Army.

That's a very clear division between, "I would have that/read that/pay for it again," and, "No."

Since I'm also trying to catch up on my reading while taking a writing sabbatical over the holidays, I'm also thinking a lot about this question. Specifically, because I've read so many first, or first + second books in a series/trilogy... and am deciding whether to buy/read the rest or not.

So far, the first one I've bought (book 3 in a trilogy, I'm 2/3 of the way through) is so dishearteningly disappointing that I'm leaning more towards reading stand-alone books.

If anyone has any good suggestions, please leave a comment. I like weird, dark, and complex. YA, specifically, please. Someone mentioned "The Raven Boys" as a good one, so that might be next on my to-read-list.

...and when my friend brings my books back, I'm not going to ask her if she liked them.

Instead, I'm going to ask, "Would you like to borrow another book?"

Essentially it's the same question, but the way you ask it will usually result in a completely different answer.

...but then again, maybe I'm thinking too much about "spin"...? It wouldn't be the first time my over-analytical brain went flying off on a tangent :)


  1. I love it when people borrow books from me :) It makes me feel kind of weirdly powerful. Like I'm a knowledgeable book-wizard.

    Weird, dark and complex YA, you say? As it works out, I just finished reading such a book. It just came out a few days ago, but I'd been eagerly anticipating the release from blog-lurking on the author. It's called Obscura Burning, and it's sort of like Donnie Darko/Butterfly Effect + gay teens + northern New Mexico. One of the most interesting things I've read this year.

    Here's the link:

    1. Sounds really interesting! I will definitely have to check that title out :) do you feel weirdly powerful? ;)

  2. this a great analogy and I need to apply in my life as well. 'Good' is a pretty broad term. And definitely check out The Raven Boys, very good. If you like something a bit darker I really like Brenna Yovanoff's stuff.

    1. I got 'Raven Boys' from your suggestion/blog ;)

      ohhh... love the dark gothic covers of Brenna Yovanoff's books... any one I should start with?

  3. The film Five easy pieces has a funny scene in a restaurant - no substitutions – this has become a joke because we do the same as you, switch things around. No one I’ve been with has said something is good if it isn’t. Though it may be a Canadian thing not to “complain” in a restaurant . Yeah I tell the truth if I don’t like something. Most restaurants will fix it. But then that’s me. You’re honest, not blunt. Nothing wrong with that. Especially if paying for a meal. The new trend with wait people is to ask “is everything all right so far?” so Bernie usually says - yes but is it going to change - since so far it’s fine... I’m babbling away here and have sooo much to do...

    On books - we have tons and do give them away sometimes. And some books never leave the house. However, I just read a bunch of short stories by someone I don’t know and the book was recommended on a blog. Let’s just say I’ll never trust that person’s opinion again. I haven’t read such badly written bunch in a very long time. Nah you’re not overthinking they’re good points.

    1. I think it's hard to find someone with the exact same taste in books/movie/clothes/music/whatever, but then again, I also think it's good to occasionally step outside my own personal tastes and try something I normally wouldn't.

      Oddly, with food, I'm usually attracted to the strangest thing on the menu... and only a few times have I been pleasantly surprised, but I don't truly regret most of those trials :)

  4. I'm one of those people who don't complain when something on their plate isn't what it's suppose to be. (because I'm afraid of stupid things like this).

    But if I borrow a book and it's a dissapointment, I will talk about it (I never ever finish a book that doesn't grap me after 50-100 pages or so).
    Good thing I never borrow books from waiters, that would make it a bit more complicated..

    1. There's only ever been one book I haven't finished. If I hate a book, I'll take a very long time to read it, but still finish it.

      'The Twelve Chairs' by Ilf & Petrov, took me three years to read, and killed all motivation to read any other Russian classics...

  5. Awesome analogy. I am extremely straightforward when it comes to things I pay for, so it frustrates me when my friends are afraid to "make a scene." I have no problem informing the wait staff that there's been a mistake, or that my dish isn't hot enough, or that I asked for extra lettuce. Same with books and authors for me. Life's too short not to be honest!

    1. Heh, asking for soup to be taken back and heated up is one of my most common requests. :)

      I agree completely... life it too short ;)


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