I am uncomfortable around chandeliers.
The first time I encountered one, it was 2008 and I had been invited to a restaurant where I fell up the marble steps and out of a pair of ill-fitting heels that I had owned since my high school prom. On my best days, I walk with a gait not dissimilar from a penguin - back straight, head up, arms sticking out at my sides, feet frantically pinwheeling, desperately trying to keep traction.
In heels, a rough comparison could be made to an ostrich on moon-shoes - two things that should really never be put together, but if they were, the result would be both hilarious and deadly.
The inside of the restaurant had vaulted ceilings and glittering crystal - I was instantly disturbed. Like a goldfish fresh from the store, I needed to be eased into the temperature of my new environment, floating across it in protective plastic until such time as I wouldn't die from the shock of exposure - but I had been thrown in, and the new tank contained doilies.
Stumbling to the table, I was faced with a selection of too many utensils and it was even less funny than when it happens in sitcoms - food came in artfully arranged courses that I didn't know how to navigate, made worse by the fact I couldn't read Romanian. In my head was a hysterical repetition: Why am I here? I do not belong here. What is this fork for?
By the time I fell back down the staircase late that same evening, all I wanted was to crawl to the nearest small, dark place - preferably littered with peanut shells and occupied partially by a damaged pool table - with copious quantities of unexceptional beer. I wanted to hear Journey on repeat.
In 2011, on our first anniversary, my partner treated us to dinner at a local place called the Blue Mermaid
, for which I had gotten a new dress - I had always wanted a green dress because of a Barenaked Ladies
song. I wore platform sandals I had owned since before tripping up a marble staircase in Romania and the ankle strap on one of them was nearly frayed through. I made it up the steps without falling. Men in suits showed us to our table. I was shaking because it was the longest I had been in a relationship and I was sure I wouldn't be able to read the menu again. I ordered something with fish while my partner gave me alternately loving and worried looks. I had several beers and discovered that there is something mystical about wait-staff and how they seem to politely apparate at your elbow.
At one restaurant I nearly overturned our table. Twice. I had no idea what confit
, or thornloe
was, and I still don't. I made a mental note to google the menu of any restaurant we went to and pinpoint problematic words. I still didn't.
Most recently was a restaurant called Liv
, terrifyingly located inside the no-man's land of a White Oaks
, an extremely high-end spa. The decor was minimalist in a way that implied they had put as little there in the most expensive way possible, and my sanity cracked the moment we sat down and tiny cubes were placed beside us at around knee-height.
I puzzled over these for several minutes.
"What are these?"
"They're for our purses." partner said. Her purse was already on one and she was fondling the drapes, "Do you think they would notice if I stole these?"
"They have seats for purses here? Jesus." I was distracted. I put my purse down on its designated seating area. I looked for a seat belt light while partner continued to consider drapery theft. Maybe they had bags designated for theft, too.
I picked up the menu. I put it down again. I had not done my research. I did not know what charcuterie
, or duxelle
was. I still didn't know confit
from last time, and there it was again. I could feel my brow begin to fold in stress.
On the menu was something labelled The Experiment
. It sounded dastardly, so I considered it.
I ordered salad, the safest bet on the appetizers. Partner had soup. Afterwards, the waiter approached with two small plates, on which there was an over-sized spoon with wee snowballs on them. My forehead was a sea of flesh waves.
Never backing down, I bit directly into it. I looked up to see my partner delicately chipping at hers with another spoon; we both froze, staring at each other. I realized my mistake when the brain-freeze hit, all of my features gathering towards the centre of my face, the entirety of my being was lemon-flavoured.
"You're supposed to eat it with a spoon." Partner gestured with hers.
"But it's on a spoon."
"That's a tasting spoon."
"So I should be able to taste things with it." It was difficult to argue my point when I felt like I was about to drool.
"It's more for presentation."
"That's what plates are for," I said, and the citrus abyss had reluctantly stopped staring back, "This is a spoon. I don't want to spoon things off a spoon, with a spoon."Too many spoon
, I wanted to say, but I had been making efforts to be more articulate. I looked glumly down at my bitten sorbet.
"They're going to see this and notice bite marks. They could frame me for a crime with this."
It was true. There was a perfect imprint of my teeth on the top of it.
"You might want to - smooth that out." she said.
I brought the tasting spoon to my mouth. I licked the sorbet.
"It's smooth now."
She gave me a look of loving long-suffering.
The waiter apparated with towels. Neither of us noticed him until there were tongs in our faces, and Partner let out a nervous giggle that the waiter returned; she was leaning far away.
"Hot towel." he explained.
We took the towels. Partner enjoyed the heat. I mimed washing my underarms with them. My sanity had left with the useless giant spoons. Dessert came as a pot of melted chocolate surrounded by various sweets.
"Do you -" I asked, raising an eyebrow, lifting a marshmallow, "- fondue?"