Every time I get taken out to lunch these days I run into a new kind of snobbery that has been on the increase in Canada ever since this country came of age.
We go to some exotic restaurant that specializes in foreign food. My host picks up the menu and, without batting an eye, asks me how I’d like to start off with some octopus cups with cheese balls, or brandied tripe and bamboo shoots, or skimmed liver with bay leaves and coach-house eggs, as if I’ve heard of all these things before.
I sit there smiling at the menu, feeling the blood drain from my face and trying not to give away the fact that they all sound like things 1 used to have to catch for my King’s Scout badge but I didn’t know' that people ate them.
"How would you like to start with some candied carp tails in palmetto oil?” this guy says, making enthusiastic washing motions with his hands and beating out a hungry little tattoo on the floor with his toes.
I pull in my stomach which is beginning to jerk.
"1 had some last night,” 1 say. “As a matter of fact, they weren’t very good.”
This throws a slight doubt into the guy’s mind. I mean, he didn’t know that these things weren’t always good.
“Well, how about some steamed oyster drops in mustard?”
“Are they the really hot ones?" 1 ask.
He obviously doesn’t know, and quickly changes the attack.
“How about some dried squabs’ hearts in dandelion sauce?” He looks me right in the eye, indicating that he’s long since got over being squeamish about these things. “We could get some of those wonderful little salted bean biscuits with them.”
“1 don’t think so today,” I say thoughtfully. “Not without a good Bavarian wine.”
“They have some good mushrooms in addled wren’s eggs,” he says.
I give a knowing chuckle. “Not unless I know' the chef.”
By this time he thinks my tastes are so jaded by rich, cosmopolitan living that I can afford to be straightforward and naïve and order a couple of pork chops with French fried potatoes, and some apple pie.
He makes one last try. “Would you like to start that off with a good pork zeigenhurst soup with almonds?” he asks.
"Not in September.” 1 say, folding the menu, and closing the subject for good, 1 hope.
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