Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fee for Foo


I'll tell you about bad tea. First there's the "tea" you get in Chinese restaurants. It's so weak you can't, of course, taste tea. You can barely see a tint in the water! And it smells sort of like flowers. Jasmine. If I wanted jasmine water, I would ask for jasmine water. But I asked for tea.
And since I live in the South, I can barely find a good glass of iced tea. Well, that's not strictly true. There's good unsweetened tea available. Usually they want to push a sort of syrup at you, that might actually be good on pancakes. But, I was raised in Florida where tea is strong, and sugar is added later. If it won't dissolve, you are simply trying to put more sugar in it than God intended. It's just that more than half the time the server races by and refills my glass with the syrup variety.

And then there's the matter of lemon. Sweet googly moogly! The restaurant business is full of people who just don't get it. People put lemon in their tea because they want the tartness and taste of discernable lemon juice in it. I mean, it is an established custom. It's sort of well known. In theory but not in practice, apparently. Nowadays the practice is to achieve "cost control." This means try to get about 50 slices of lemon out of each one. The result of this insanity is twofold: all the lemon juice ends up on the cutting board and is discarded, and the resulting microtomed slice is impossible to grasp by the diner and extract the few milligrams of lemon juice remaining.

And lately I've been eating at the Indian restaurant. Now I thought surely these folks understand tea: British Empire and all. And in the first year, all was well. I would order "strong, plain tea" and a pot would arrive shortly! This I would drink with a bit of milk. With the strong Indian food, it was perfect. In gratitude, I would tip 30%. But then things changed. Now the tea is getting weaker, and weaker, and tasting less like tea and more like... cardamom. Which I can assure you, does not taste good with milk. And today I was told "plain tea is not available." So I switched back to iced tea, which also is approaching total transparency and also tastes like cardamom. And comes with a piece of lemon exactly one millimeter thick.

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