Likes and Dislikes

“Pardon me, madam, would you like a little dextrose with maltodextrin for your coffee? We also have a lovely saccharin, cream of tarter, and calcium silicate combination if you prefer. Sugar? You prefer sugar? What about dipotassium phosphate, mono and diglycerides topped off with and natural and artificial flavors and colors? You’d rather have milk? Mmm. Real milk?”

Dear readers, you now know one of my pet restaurant peeves - fake stuff for real coffee or tea. If this only happened at small, out of the way restaurants where refrigeration was not available it wouldn’t be so offensive. But a genuine non-dairy coffee creamer as it’s called is often the only thing available in some of our better establishments. I have a friend who carries a small box of milk in her purse when we go out to dinner, a strong indication that I’m not the only person in town who objects to fake food.

So allow me to tell you about some of my least favorite things, and tell me about yours. You can reach me at Chiangmai Mail, either by post or by emailing the editor at [email protected] And don’t despair, we’ll talk about our very favorite things in another column.

Have you recently found yourself stuck to a plastic tablecloth? Literally, I mean. Do not under any circumstances rest your arm upon this, or even let it drape into your lap. You will be stuck to plastic in the most uncomfortable way. My mother, an advocate of “take your elbows off the table” would have approved in principal of this behavior modification technique but never of the plastic tablecloth. Ugh. Don’t think I don’t understand the reasoning – all of those sloppy diners, Gina included, who drizzle soup or sauce all over the tablecloth. But, please, there are other solutions. Top your table with glass, for instance, and it will live and protect the tablecloth forever or until some unruly person drops a bottle on it. Or use placemats. Chiang Mai offers cloth, bamboo, glass, and ultra sophisticated designer versions of this utility table cover. But, please, don’t drape plastic over my knees.

Waiters/waitresses who interrupt your conversation to be sure that everything is all right are probably trained at an upscale restaurant chain in the United States, right? I can accept that, reluctantly and with embarrassment. I really don’t care if Jake is my waiter tonight, or whether he came from Tallahassee or Yonkers. What I would like is polite and pleasant, discrete service, my water glass filled when empty, and the check ready when I ask for it. Waiters and waitresses who can’t seem to understand that you are going to wait for your entire party to arrive before ordering were probably trained in Thailand. Oh, yes. I understand the Thai way, but at restaurants serving western food, please allow me to sit quietly or chat with fellow waiting diners without an expectant and breathless person, pencil in hand, perched over my shoulder. No problem with the water or check here, though. But is there a way to have all of the diners served at the same time? Oh, I see, that’s a kitchen problem.

I despise salads made with iceberg lettuce. I’m sorry, and I know I should be more tolerant, but I don’t view lettuce as simply a carrier for salad dressings. And iceberg lettuce has no taste. So, if a restaurant advertises a Caesar salad, then please don’t serve something to me with iceberg lettuce in it. A five star hotel in Bangkok did that just a year ago. It was a transgression that warranted a letter to the general manager. I would prefer to never see iceberg lettuce again, but can tolerate the crisp, tasteless stuff on a sandwich or ‘burger. But never, ever in a salad. Never, ever. There is no excuse for it in Chiang Mai. Even the open markets have great lettuces. And those at the Royal Projects are superb.

So where are we? No plastic (that applies to people and relationships, too), no faux food (hmmm, same comment), good service and get with it in the lettuce department. Shall we talk about fresh? It takes no effort at all to find fresh anything in Chiang Mai. I rest my case.