Make new friends but keep the old

One of the trickiest problems of spending time with others is deciding how much of your personality you reveal. Some people think of friendship developing through the gradual sharing of more esoteric views and behaviours – letting their guard down, whilst others see friendships needing to be preserved through extensive damage limitation and clamping down on extreme quirks.

A short anecdote about a ‘friend’.

This man walks to the restaurant. He possesses a reservation. He arrives at the restaurant and he’s pretty certain that he has thinks he has a reservation. He has an email that says he does. He enters the restaurant. He doesn’t have a reservation.

It’s ok because they find him a table and this was the restaurant’s first week. He sits down and then he stands up again, as the staff rearrange the layout and shift his table across a bit. This is good: no one sat behind him. This is also a little bad, because he now can’t see the specials board. They are hidden behind a column. This is no problem because he has friends coming and they can look round the column. It’s also not really a problem because he can’t read Italian and one of the specials board is in Italian so he would need the waiter anyway. A small menu is placed in front of him, along with a bread basket. His friends arrive and they chat. They chat about only having one menu between the three of them. Then, it happens.

There lying atop the basket is a bundle of grissini. Novelty size grissini, perhaps 18 inches long. Drawn out by hand, they bulge at the ends and taper in the middle. The man takes a grissini and the words come.

‘El-li-ot…El-li-ot.’ But it doesn’t stop. ‘E.T. phone home’. Yes the man has started reliving childhood films aided by breadsticks as his elongated bread finger taps his dining companions.

Waiters come and waiters go, two additional menus arrive. A sommelier explains indigenous grapes and volcanic terroir. A wine is chosen, but it doesn’t come, because it’s not there and now the sommelier is here again. Another wine is chosen and it does come. It’s cold, it’s drinkable and it’s not too pricy. It costs £24.

The waiter arrives. The man asks about the Fried Roman Specialities. Something about a stuffed ball of rice in breadcrumbs and deep fried. ‘Like an arancino?’ The man asks.

‘No’ says the waiter and he stands there.

An awkward silence. A bit like a first date.

The man asks him to return in a few minutes. Not like a first date. He returns in a few minutes later. Like a second date.

One of the man’s companions whose back is to the specials board that list the Fried Roman Specialities asks for a recap on the ‘fried things’, not being sure what the label on the specials board is, because there’s a pillar and a language barrier between her and the board. The waiter explains that they are fried balls of rice – somewhat like an arancino.

The man wonders if this is his strong northern accent at work; like every time he used to receive a banana milkshake at McDonalds when he asked for vanilla. The man’s wife says its about diction and vowels.

They order their food. The man orders pie. The man’s wife orders salmon and prawn off the specials board and the dining companion orders some scallops and a fried thing.

They discuss art, literature and data taxonomy.

The food arrives.

‘This is not a pie’ the man thinks to himself. Pies have hats. Proper pies have hats and coats and crusty bottoms.

The man’s face also says ‘this is not a pie’.

The man wonders if this is his northern upbringing at work. The man thinks that stews with hats should be banned. He also thinks that pies without hats or bottoms shouldn’t be called pies.

However, it is nice. It is tasty, but it is £15 for a small portion of a potato and cabbage dauphinoise.

The man’s wife enjoys half her salmon. She enjoys the sauce and the potato and one prawn. She doesn’t like the other prawn because it’s grey and ugly. The other prawn is pink, lovely and cooked.

The grey prawn thought it was getting a raw deal. The wife thinks the same. She paid £18.

The companion receives a white bowl. Sat on its own is what looks like an arancino. She dissects it. it looks like an arancino. It costs her £4. She could have had three for £10.

The man feels a little smug. His pie didn’t have a hat, or a bottom, but it had garnish. He thinks a Fried Roman thing looks unloved.

The companion also receives a plate with some scallops. These look nice and dressed real purdy. They even have a physalis. The man wonders what Italian for cape goosebery is. He also wonders if it fell off a dessert, but it looks pretty. The scallops cost £8.50.

They finish their mains and the waiter asks if everything is ok. The man points out the raw prawn. His wife apologises and says she doesn’t know which bits of the salmon should be cooked, but that the sauce was very nice. The waiter offers her another main course. She says no thank you very much, as she doesn’t like making the man wait for his pudding.

They order desserts. The man and the companion had bignè. The wife had tiramisu. They were nice and cost £5-£5.50. The man thought the bignès should be called profiteroles.

Their bill for two courses for three people and one bottle of wine came to £89 and with service £100.13.
They paid the bill and left. They walked round the corner to an old friend where they ate a basket of bread and a cheeseboard. The man thought that old friends were reliable, and that new friends sometimes took getting used to. They might keep trying to make it work with the new friend, but a comfy leather sofa at Victualler was the only friend they wanted.

The man went home and found out that the Italian for cape goosebery is called alkekengi. He thought that was a silly name.

THIS IS NOT A PIE!

Candlelight, beer and cheese

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