You know the moment. You’re at a restaurant. The food has been delivered. It looks fine. You take a bite, and truth be told, it’s really not that great.
Is it rancid? No.
Will it make you sick? No.
Can you eat it in polite company without making a face? Sure.
Then the server comes over and asks about your meal. And you say succinctly and without a smile, “It’s good.” Which isn’t entirely a lie.
I hate this moment. But last night, when asked, I told the waitress at a pizza place that the pizza was good when it was absolutely undercooked. So, why did I do this? And why will I continue to do this? Probably for the same reasons as many of you.
Good can mean a lot of things. Food is good on its face, since it satisfies a hunger and keeps us going. Good doesn’t mean great. It doesn’t have to mean that your food has been expertly prepared.
Of course the answer implies that it was at least satisfactory.
But in some ways, I view this service ritual of checking up on the table similarly to the wine ritual. When the som presents you with the cork, and you take a sip of your wine, the object is to taste if the wine is drinkable. Has it turned to vinegar? Has the cork been tainted? It’s not to assess the quality of the wine or determine after the fact, if an Oregonian Pinot Noir is what you want to drink.
Did the food delivered, at least on some level, fulfill the contractual obligations of the restaurant? Sure. I asked for a pizza, and they delivered a pizza. It had crust, sauce, and cheese.
However, the pizza also had a thick gum line. That’s less than fully cooked dough running through the crust. And at a place that bills it’s pies as being well done, and speckled with char, that was underwhelming.
What I didn’t want was for them to throw this food away and wait for a replacement. That seemed wasteful, and frankly, I didn’t have the time. Nor did I want to get into a disagreement about what constitutes a well done pie.
And anyhow, I assumed the restaurant delivered a pie it thought was satisfactory. The cook had a chance to look and feel the crust when taking it out of the oven. The waiter saw the pies when bringing them to the table. And once our first slices were removed, the gum line was clearly visible in the pie to everyone who came to the table and asked us about the pizza.
I know that restaurants would rather have the chance to address problems like this on the spot. But really, from my perspective, there was no winning.
So, I told her, “It’s good.”
Will I return? Maybe. But certainly not soon. However, if I do, I’ll make sure to ask for my pizza well done. And if they tell me their pizzas are already well done, perhaps I’ll explain that last time my pie was undercooked and ask for it extra well done. Which may be the only way to order pizza in these parts. Because it’s entirely possible that in this case, the restaurant shouldn’t bear the full burden of the undercooked pie. As we have learned, Albanians demand bad pizza.