Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Minimalist food and maximum

expense - or so it seemed to us.
My father and I do not eat out very often. It is not something we can afford to do but, even if we could, we would object to paying for (almost) nothing.
We went out with friends yesterday. They had discovered another small "French" restaurant in a nearby suburb and they wanted us to try it.
We had doubts from the time the invitation was made. Our friends spend a great deal more on entertaining themselves than we do. My father however does not like to disappoint people so he agreed (and then told me) and we were duly collected and whisked off to the "wonderful" place.
We recognised the name when we arrived. They were once in a shopping centre some distance down the road.
The place is small - it seats about two dozen people. The owners definitely come from France. French was being spoken in the kitchen. Someone was being scolded. Madame D came out to welcome us and take us to our table. Thankfully she used English and her accent, after years in Australia, was not so strong that my father could not understand her. His hearing loss makes it harder to understand accents these days.
Menus were passed out. My father and I looked at one another. Yes, an expensive place for a "light" lunch.
And it was light too. I asked for the "cheese and spinach quiche with salad". My father had a similar dish. The salad consisted of three lettuce leaves, two wafer thin slices of tasteless tomato and a teaspoon of alfalfa sprouts. The quiche was an individual one and would have fitted into my hand with room to spare. It was almost cocktail size.
Yes, the plate looked attractive enough but this was the bare minimum of food they could have got away with.
I remembered with some sadness the other wonderful and even smaller French establishment our friends had taken us to. It had been half the size. One woman did everything. Her food was magnificent. The portions were a good size but not so large you could not clear the plate. The salad was salad. The last time we went there were seven different salad items. She made use of what was in season. She explained the choices available to her customers. Running her tiny establishment was not merely a business for her. She wanted to display the best of simple French cuisine and she did so with pride. It never made a lot of money but it kept her and her schizophrenic son until, exhausted, she retired.
I know that, for the sake of being sociable, it is necessary to eat out occasionally. I also know the food industry is a large part of the economy. It is necessary and many people enjoy it.
My limited experience however suggests that "cheap and cheerful" can sometimes also provide better food. I object to paying large sums of money to go hungry. I would rather use a little of it to cook my own and donate the rest to those in need - or find another tiny restaurant which is run for the love of sharing food with others.


Sheep Rustler said...

Meanness in food serves is one of my pet annoyances (though I would like to see places offer half-serves of proper food for half-price, but that is another story!) And what you described in NOT a salad, it is an excuse for a salad!!

Anonymous said...

I know the place you mean Cat - been there once and will not go back. Yes it was clean and the quiche I had was quite nice but you are right and there was not much of it. My DH could have eaten three main courses and still felt hungry! Ros

JO said...

Oh yes - we've all been to places like that. (Once I went with people who thought it was cool to be seen there, and made themselves cheese on toast when they got home! Not friends now!)

But - in these cash-strapped times I think some of these restaurants are going to the wall. If people splash out on a meal, they do want to eat real food and not an example, how ever inviting it might be made to look.

catdownunder said...

Oh so glad you agree Sheep Rustler and I like the idea of half serves (Dad and I will go for entree size if it is there). I was beginning to wonder whether it was us but I see Ros and Jo agree too