Never take a friend to a restaurant you like. This is a Law of Nature, or, at least, it should be. Your favorite restaurant, you know the one where the waiter softens your path to the table with a carpet of rose petals, where the hostess purrs "So nice to see you again. Your favorite table is ready and we are warming up your seat." That restaurant.
They're jealous of you. That's the truth. If you bring a friend you are diluting yourself in their eyes. You are cutting your single malt presence with river water. And they will get even. Hell hath no fury like a restaurant scorned.
So, years ago I had a favorite Thai restaurant. I knew the staff by heart. Fawn, the hostess. Guiseppe, the waiter. Ishmael, the cook and Simon, the busboy. Family owned. From Bangkok, I think.
My favorite dish, aside from Fawn, was tom yom soup, a tart, hot broth accented with lemon grass, mushrooms, lime juice, chili pepper, onions and cilantro. Variations added shrimp, fish or squid.
Of my favorite dish, tom yom, squid was my favorite tom yom. Bits of delicate squid, nicely chopped up and cooked to perfection. Ishmael knew his squid.
One sunny day I felt like violating a Law of Nature by taking a friend of mine to the Thai restaurant for a bowl of squid tom yom. Immediately, it began to rain but I failed to pick up on this subtle sign that the gods were displeased. We arrived a little damp but our spirits brightened with some hot tea and we entered into some lively conversation while picking rose petals off the soles of our shoes.
"You must try the squid tom yom", I offered eagerly.
"I dunno." (a tepid reply) "I'm not a big fan of squid. Tentacles and eyeballs sort of freak me out."
"Tisk", I countered," Ishmael is a master squid chef. You'll get all the flavor and none of the horror. Trust me."
At that precise moment a flash of lightning crossed the sky and thunder rattled the restaurant. The lights flickered and swayed.
"Simon, my good man, squid tom yom for my friend here."
Simon melted into the kitchen. We heard muttering and low laughs.
Soon, Simon returned and with a flourish presented my friend with a steaming bowl of squid tom yom.
My friend leant over the bowl and drew in its fragrant vapours. Mmmmm, smells great! Indeed, it was the best looking bowl of squid tom yom I had ever seen.
Tentatively dipping a spoon into the golden broth and ever so carefully sipping the tiniest amount, my friend looked up with great delight and satisfaction.
"This is fantastic!" and with that picked up the entire bowl as if to drink its contents in one gastronomic gulp.
Suddenly, out of no where, an orchastra screeched Psycho music! Reeek. Reeekk! REEEEKKKK!!
Large tentacles reached out from the bowl, suckers latching to the cheeks of my friend! The eyes! The eyes! I'll never forget the bulging, angry eyes of the giant squid as it pulled my kicking and screaming friend into the bowl. My friend despately clawed the sides of the bowl in a futile attempt to gain purchase, but the strength of the squid was too much, and relentless. With a mighty tug the squid broke my friend's grasp and my final image was that of rose petal covered soles slipping beneath the surface of the broth. A few bubbles popped at the surface. And that was that.
The orchastra departed. The storm abated and the sun came out. Somewhere a bird chirped. I looked around helplessly then did the only thing that I could think to do in a situation like this.