Adventures in dining

Bait on plate kills appetite

"What is THAT?" I asked the waitress at a Cajun restaurant as she sat a plate in front of me that contained blackened salmon, a baked potato and a humongous red insect.

"That's your crayfish," she explained with a smile.

Before I could protest that I hadn't ordered a crayfish, husband Ray blurted, "That's a crawdad! We used them for bait when we fished!"

Oh, good. It could have been worse. She might have served me a nightcrawler. Ray explained that, although he'd never tried one, he had heard that crawdads taste like lobster. He deftly peeled both his and mine to get to the edible tail portions. As he ate his miniature lobster with gusto, I tentatively took a small bite of mine.

Ugh! I quickly swallowed it, grateful that stomachs don't have taste buds, and offered the rest of my portion to Ray. He took a bite, threw good manners to the wind and spit it back onto his plate. "That's rotten," he exclaimed. "Why did you eat it?"

"I thought that's how it was supposed to taste."

An experience like that could turn a smarter woman into a cook. But, for me, it's just one more misadventure in dining out. Take the time I was having lunch with friends in the cafe of a swanky department store.

Conscious of our weight and health, all four of us had ordered salads.

Midway through lunch, Erma casually put down her fork and stopped eating.

When Gertrude, Rosemarie and I finished our salads and the waiter appeared to take our plates, Erma pushed back a lettuce leaf to reveal the biggest defunct cockroach I ever saw. The cafe didn't charge Erma for her salad and gave all of us free gourmet cookies, but it's hard to enjoy cookies when you feel more like tossing them than eating them.

I'll never forget the evening Ray and I were having dinner with friends Don and Darlene at a nice restaurant where we were served green beans in small individual bowls. "Marsha, look," said Don who was seated to my right. He pushed something brown to the rim of his bowl, and it took a second for me to realize that it was a drowned spider that would have rivaled Erma's cockroach in size if its legs hadn't been crumpled under its poor waterlogged carcass.

When the spider was brought to the waitress's attention, she threw her hands into the air and shrieked. We never saw her again. The restaurant manager served us the remainder of our meals, and we presumed that our waitress suffered from a phobia of arachnids and was either having hysterics in the kitchen or had quit on the spot.

Don wasn't charged for his meal and because he had previously received a free dinner at another restaurant when he found glass in his food, I accused him of smuggling in the spider. I doubt he did though because, had he been so inclined, glass would have been easier (and a lot less creepy) to smuggle than a spider.

Late last summer, Ray and I toured a historic old castle in Colorado Springs. The castle contained a tea room and  although it wasn't easy to get my meat-and-potatoes guy into such a fussy little establishment  I persuaded him to eat there because the likelihood was slim that he would encounter anyone he knew.

I don't recall what Ray ordered, but I chose the chicken salad on croissant roll, which was delivered to me heavily bedecked with red and yellow nasturtium blossoms. I was totally charmed. About halfway through my sandwich, I told Ray that it was not only beautiful, but also had a distinctively delicious flavor. I still don't know what made me turn it over and I regret that I did because the bottom of the croissant was covered with dark blue mold. Yuk!

I turned down the server's offer not to charge for my meal and prudently declined a second sandwich  but both Ray and I accepted a free dessert. I no longer remember what delightful concoction I selected, but I'm confident that I thoroughly checked it for fungus before consuming it.

Thanks to my mother, who taught me to behave like a lady, I am satisfied that I have always met with grace and poise those disgusting culinary surprises that came my way. So if you happen to hear about the woman who screamed when the waitress placed the plate containing a crawdad in front of her  that wasn't me.




 Marsha Henry Goff is a free-lance writer in Lawrence. Her e-mail address is mhgink@idir.net.

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