I went to a restaurant in Richmond-Upon-Thames not so long ago and was disappointed to find ZERO vegetarian options on the menu (not even bacon), so I was forced to be a pescatarian. I ordered the sea bream.
I was not excited about it. In fact, I dreaded eating it for the entire 30 minutes it took to prepare it and put it in front of me. It arrived looking like a pale, limp piece of leather with some herby bits on top.
My dining companions (a friend, a step-mother, a dad, a husband) started in on their meals and tried to turn the discussion to neo-Classicism, which is what the Brits do. I stared down at the “fingerling” potatoes and wilty spinach next to the seabream.
I flaked off some fish and forked it into my mouth. It tasted like salt water and camping. I let the fish dissolve in my mouth (I couldn’t bear to chew) and took a big gulp of white wine. Something remained: a bone.
I reached into my mouth (which is rude apparently, but sometimes very necessary) and pulled the bone out. I then held it up to show my dining companions (which is also very rude, apparently).
“Is this supposed to have so many bones?” I asked, but I knew. Fish are boney little buggers.
My dining companions looked horrified. I wasn’t sure if it was because I pulled something out of my mouth and showed them, or because of the bone, which could have killed me!
At that moment, our waiter passed by and saw either the bone, or the look on my face. He put his hand on my shoulder to show his concern for my concern.
“I found a bone,” I said. But it was pretty obvious, as I was holding up a bone.
“I’m so sorry,” he sing-songed the words as he reached for my plate. “I’ll have the chef prepare you another sea bream, with no bones.” He turned to go.
“Sir,” I called. “I think I’m finished with fish, forever. Because… “ (everyone in the small restaurant was listening now) “…once you have felt death knock at your door, you can never go back to eating fish in the cavalier way that you once did!”
I waited for the slow clap. It never came.
“I’ll just eat the fingerling potatoes and wilty spinach.”
“You sure?” The sing-song quality of his voice was annoying me now.
As the waiter pushed the seabream onto a side plate, he said: “We’ll go ahead and take that off your bill, okay?” I nodded.
My husband then gave me “the look”, which implies that I conducted this whole charade in order to get a free vegetarian entrée at a restaurant that thoughtlessly left one off the menu.
And maybe I did.