Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

The Diner Experience


My brother had a Spanish girlfriend who, on her first visit to the US, freaked the hell out when he took her to a diner. It was way too much for her. She’d never seen a menu with so many pages listing countless options of things and then, when she actually ordered, there were so many other choices to make that she hadn’t anticipated. And then the portions were so big and numerous that she was totally overwhelmed.

If you’ve been to a decent diner, none of this will come as a surprise to you because this is just how diners operate, but she’d never experienced such a thing.

For the first time since I left the States in 2005, being in a diner reminded me of her, not because the story was funny, but because I totally empathized with her position. The menu in diners *is* way too long. Several pages of small print listing hundreds of combinations, covering all possible meals, usually supplemented by a “daily specials” list is more than one person can handle. New Yorkers think the rent’s too damn high? Their menus are too damn long.

Anyway, I thought of this story when I went to a diner for my last dinner in New York and had a mini-breakdown while ordering something totally simple off the chalkboard so that I wouldn’t have to open the opus of edibles on offer.

Me: I’ll have the roast turkey special with a seltzer please.
Waiter: What kind of soup? Matzo, chicken noodle, vegetable, onion —
Me: Matzo!

1. Diner matzo ball soup
Waiter: What kind of dressing? Italian, thousand island, French —
Me: Ranch!

[I didn’t take a picture of the salad because it wasn’t in any way exciting.]

Waiter: Two vegetables; mashed potato, French fries, green beans, corn —
Me: Ah! Mashed and beans!

Canned beans haricots verts.

Canned beans ≠ haricots verts.

At this point in my head I was thinking, “Christ, please go away because I can’t make any more choices and you’re totally stressing me out,” but then he asked if we wanted bread and an extra bowl of gravy and I just yelled, “Yes! Yes!” and he ran away because I looked crazy.

The meal was good and totally worth the trouble, but I can tell you that I am very happy to be back in a place where you get two, maybe three, options for each course and that’s it. Too much choice is paralyzing.

2. Diner turkey dinner

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

6 thoughts on “The Diner Experience

  1. Totally understand how you feel…I get totally paralysed by very long menu…The conversation with the waiter is so typical that it made me smile…Great story! (Suzanne)

  2. LOL! Poor waiter. It’s not his fault. He just has to ask all this, it’s his bloody job! :-))) But very nice post, made me laugh. :-)

  3. Because I am really picky about my eggs, I tend to stick to my favorite, non-f-uppable meal: the lox and bagel platter, often served with a cup of matzoh soup. And cutting out eggs cuts out a good 25%-33% of the menu, so that helps!

    • Oh man, I almost never order eggs for the same reason but there are about 1,000 different ways to ask for them done/have things added into them. In Spain, they give them to you barely fried and that’s the only option. When I made sunny side ups at home one day, my roommates’ eyes got enormous because they’d never had anything but super runny ones. I changed many lives….

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