Does this ever happen to you?
You’re at restaurant with your spouse or significant other, anticipating an exciting and enjoyable dining experience. You make your selection from the menu, say a nice piece of fish. Your beloved spouse/significant other makes her selection and orders a different dish, say chicken. Both dishes arrive at the table and are placed in front of the two of you. Before you even taste your fish, your delightful dining companion asks you if you’d like to share half of your fish with her. As a deal sweetener, she asks offers to give you half of her chicken in exchange for half of your fish.
It goes without saying, of course, that if you’d wanted the chicken instead of the fish, you could have ordered it just as your spouse did. But you didn’t. You ordered the fish. The fact that the chicken you didn’t order is now seated on a plate across the table from you in front of your spouse doesn’t necessarily make it any more desirable to you than it was when it appeared on the menu. and you didn’t order it even though you could have. On the other hand, you have your entire fish order sitting in front of that you did order and probably would like very much to eat.
If you give in and agree to give your dining companion half of your fish, you’ll be hungry from acute fish deprivation and also bear some subconscious resentment for having had to part with half of your fish, which you really wanted, for half of a chicken that you didn’t want in the first place and didn’t order in the second. If you refuse to accept half of your dining companion’s probably ordinary chicken in exchange for half of your excellent fish, you’ll hurt her feelings, and she won’t enjoy her half of your fish nearly as much as she would if you took half her chicken.
This situation is known in the world of fine dining as the Great Fish and Fowl Conundrum. It is a common enough situation, but one fraught with relationship peril. To avoid becoming trapped in the Conundrum and its swirling vortex of uncertainty, guilt and frustration, I often fall back on the tried and true defensive maneuver of ordering something from the menu that I know my darling spouse doesn’t like, such as a fried tripe sandwich on a hoagie roll, or pigs’ feet casserole with toe clipping salad.
The only problem with that strategy is that I don’t like fried tripe sandwiches or pigs’ feet casseroles either, and I won’t eat them if they are placed before me even if they come with aioli dressing and steak fries. Not eating the meal I order just to avoid having to share it with my beloved wife is not an ideal dining arrangement, but at least when I don’t enjoy my meal, I can not enjoy with the satisfaction of knowing that it’s all mine not to enjoy, and that I won’t be asked to share the meal I am not going to be eating with anyone else at the table.
On a positive note, by not eating the disgusting dinner that I ordered in order not to have to share it with my lovely spouse, I usually have lots of room for dessert. On such occasions, I make it a point to order whichever item on the dessert menu promises to provide the largest volume of sugar for the dollar, opting for quantity over quality whenever sweets are concerned. Meanwhile, my dear spouse, who was not clever enough to order a meal she didn’t want like I did, and has instead foolishly ordered something she actually liked and has therefore eaten all of, is usually too full for dessert.
When my dessert arrives at the table, however, my sweet wife always asks if she could just sample the tiniest of small bites from a corner of my dessert. She asks this question in the presence of the team of wait persons who have hauled the thing to our table, knowing full well that I can’t say no to her without revealing myself to be a selfish glutton. The wait staff then brings a second spoon to our table, and I end up conceding half of my dessert to my adorable wife, usually the half that includes everything from the frosting, whipped cream and chocolate filling food groups.
No wonder we don’t eat out much.
Tom Tyner writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper. This is from his “Classics File.”