À la manger, en Francais (To eat, in French)

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

The four of us (my sister and her son, Husband and moi) were on our own for five days in Paris. We learned a lot about food and about eating as the French do one evening at Le Petit Baigneur just a short walk from “our flat”.

We discovered that we should not first have a snack at home. We didn’t realize that ordering from the menu would consist of a (fixed price) a three course meal: a starter (which they call the Entrée); a main course with vegetable; a cheese and/or dessert course(s); and café – a small cup of espresso. And wine, of course. And bread – I learned that the French bread brought to the table is so good it does not require, or come with, butter.

 A glass of wine, and chocolate

That was a lot of food. There is, to my knowledge, no such thing as taking food home with you in a “to go” container. The idea is to order something marvelous (no problem), and then take two or three hours to eat, drink, talk, and ENJOY it. You have to shift gears, especially if you’re an American usually in a rush.

No wonder breakfast is usually a light “continental” affair – i.e. croissants and jam, a beverage, and that’s about it. We could walk around the corner from our flat and find pastries from a patisserie (dessert bakery), baguettes from a boulangerie (bread bakery), or crepes and quiches from a crèperie.

Luckily, our Paris eateries often had someone who spoke some English, so we pretty much knew what we were getting. Our waiter at Petit Baigneur brought us an English version of the menu, and my tiny bit of French helped at times. But there are other differences to negotiate – there are more manners in France – “merci” and “s’il vous plait” are expected. We heard about a brasserie (bistro) where the following was part of the price list, aimed no doubt at unthinking tourists:

  • Une bière ou vin – €2
    (One beer or wine – 2 Euros)
  •  Une bière ou vin avec “s’il vous plait”  – €1.5
    (One beer or wine with “if you please” – 1.5 Euros)

When have you mis-communicated with your server in a restaurant?

130 thoughts on “À la manger, en Francais (To eat, in French)”

  1. A friend and I went to to a really nice (expensive) restaurant in San Francisco. We ordered a bottle of wine, and she thought i had checked the price of the bottle and I thought she had, and we ended up buying a $60 bottle of some lovely red wine from Carneros, and both of us were too embarrassed to tell the waiter about our error so we drank it and it was really good.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Last summer at Taco Bell, I ordered two milks to go with my bean burrito and got some kind of pizza looking thing. Very unusual. Being a vegetarian for decades, I am usually uber-clear about what I want or else I get things I can’t eat.

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  3. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Italy has interesting communication problems–many people there speak excellent English. But several places did not or would not admit it. It became evident that they just did not care. For example, after our pockets were cleanly picked by Roma, the polizei abruptly spoke no English at all. Happens all the time. There is nothing to be done about it. No one cared about our picked pockets.

    I tried to make a reservation at a Rome restaurant that was highly rated and difficult to locate. I called on the phone to make a reservation–I thought I made a reservation, but the answerer spoke limited English interspersed with rapid and joyous Italian. We arrived at the supposed time (7pm) to discover that the restaurant was not open until 8pm. A thunder and lightening storm opened up overhead as we huddled under inadequate umbrellas outside the door. They finally took mercy on our wet party and fed us bread and wine at an empty table until they really opened the doors.

    Pay attention to Barb’s comment about Americans eating rapidly and impatiently. Dolce Vita is the phrase. Slow down and enjoy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s too bad about the Roma pickpocket…helps perpetuate a stereotype.
      When my sis and I were standing in line at a crepe stand, there were four young (12-13 yrs.) boys who decided to wedge themselves in front of us. One was eyeing my pocketbook (which didn’t have much in it but, still..) Something came over me and I pointed emphatically to the back of the line and said loudly “Out… out!” I surprised all of us, and they obeyed me.

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        1. if you are irish youa re a drunk, if youre from connecituct you do finance. if you are a polack you do labor if you are a jew you do sales if you are roma you pick pockets and dance. whats wrong with a little familybusiness

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        2. i caught the pick pocket with his hand in my pocket and squeezed him so hard he got earl scared. he fought like hell and knew enough to time it so he could jump off the train as the doors shut. i held him long enough he had to put his foot in the door because it was closing and he was stuck with me holding on to his hand in my pocket and i wouldnt let hoim go. he had an expression of terror in his eyes. i suspect he had been caught before. he got away with me yelling yelling ugly american explatives at hinm as the door opened to let him out and snapped shty behind him as he ran like the wind to get a way down the corridor of the train station. i think it was italy but it may have been germany all those foreigners steal in the same language. had my pocket picked a couple times in china too. i really hate when that happens

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  4. There is a fast food chain where, if you want the small order of fries, you have to say “value-sized fries”. If you ask for a small order of fries, you get the medium. I don’t go to the fast food chains all that often, so I never remember which one it is, and this always trips me up. It’s not as expensive an error as Renee’s wine, though.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. i always order large and make them work to figure out what to fgive me. but im drinking tea so i ask is there more tea or are you charging to add 4 oz of hot water? if its two te bags im ok sort of with the extra 50 cents but if its only more water i take the small and come back for more water after i am half done.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. The naming of sizes is silly and hard to sort out. I love my local coffee shop where everything is what it says it is, like small medium and large.
      And could we agree on one kind of credit card reader, or that all readers will bypass the pin number in the same way.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hallelujah! Any time I come across a credit card reader that has a note taped to it saying “Green for Credit” or “Credit Card = Blue”, I actually thank the cashier. At any place without a note, I say “Gosh it would be helpful if there was a note on this machine.” Hopefully someday someone will get the message!!!!

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    2. The other coffee shop thing that kinda gets on my nerves is “Do you want room for cream?” I suppose this question is really another way of saying “I’ll put less coffee in your cup if you want, but please don’t go over to the condiments table and slosh coffee into the wastebasket because it makes taking out the garbage a real mess.” I would never do that, anyway. I do know without being told that wastebaskets are not for liquids. But I guess we all have to hear that every time we order.

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        1. A lot of servers really don’t pay attention. More often than not when I’ve ordered coffee I’ve been asked if I take cream. I tell them no, but eight out of ten times they’ll bring it anyway. Why bother asking?

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      1. oooohhhhh
        my pet peeve is going to leave sams and costco and having to wait in line to be checked ot by the reciept police to be sure you didnt steal anything between the cash register and the door.
        …… really?
        and they act so important and official and all the people go along with it. i push right through the door and make them come after me avbout half the time. it drives them crazy…. its a jail break with toilet paper and frozen chicken breasts

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Oh, I forgot about that.
          Haven’t had a Sams membership for 10 years and haven’t done Costco yet either.

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        2. i consider it my job to make them aware the extra step involved in getting out the door is not appreciated, if there was a manager ther eoi would tell them every time. but they are not there

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        3. Making the job difficult for the person lowest on the totem pole doesn’t seem like and effective or reasonable strategy for changing company policy.

          Liked by 1 person

    3. I have discovered that Dairy Queen (or at least the one I have stopped at with Daughter after day camp this week) has added a “mini” size for some things. They have mini sundaes, mini cones and I think a mini peanut buster parfait. The mini sundae is just enough sweet and ice cream to satisfy the sweet tooth.

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      1. they have room for a mini. i think a blizzard is 5 bucks… for a cup of ice cream. come on. i dont want stock in the company just an ice cream.

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  5. I wasn’t used to the menu, which had bottles of wine with numbers along side the names that could have been bin numbers or something. There weren’t prices in any other part of the food menu, so how were we to know. At least it wasn’t a $200 bottle of Barolo or something like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve noticed that in upscale places, they don’t do anything so crass as to include dollar signs to tip you off either. Just an unadorned, no decimal place couple of digits.

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        1. Oh I am fine with full dollar prices, it just takes a little thought to realize:

          Chateau Thames Embankment 25

          Means a bottle of the swill will cost you $25.00 + tax.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. i love hells kitchen
          that is where i last got served meat however. they didnt have ears o when i ordered so they comped the meal but still ate sausage or something.
          great huevos ranchero with quac and hot sauce,

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    2. i bought art that way one time.right next ot the piee was the number 25 31 55 88 and i bought 3 or 4 hundrend dolars worth of stuff. when it came toime to check out each items was 5 or 6 hundred bucks. i hate it when that happens too

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Double comment:
    1) I’ve studied French. My boy has studied French. Seeing your title made me somehow think this was about Christmas, because it somehow has never before occurred to me that every Christmas we are actually singing Away in a Feedtrough.

    2)In the South, it seems all tea is Sweet Tea
    In New England (or at least Maine), a “regular” coffee is heavily laced with cream snd sugar. Both nasty shocks if you’re not expecting it and take a nice big swig.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I’ll have a sweet tea no sugar” is how you order in the south. Make sense to them. Like “Give me a sprite coke” makes sense in Boston.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought a sprite (or root beer or anything) Coke was also Southern (except they are likely to pronounce it “cake”- I was the confused waitress on the receiving end of that one).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I found that in some parts of the South, not all parts. First ran into in Boston. I ordered a Coke. Waiter asked what kind of Coke, which threw me at first.

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      1. Nope, just me reading fast before coffee and for the first time in my life realizing hey it’s called a manger (good old English-never too proud to mug other languages for words that the get mispronounced).

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  7. Greetings! I just don’t go out to eat much — wish I could, but usually can’t afford it. If I do, I am very clear about what I am ordering. For Mother’s Day, we went to Good Earth in Roseville and I was confused because I couldn’t figure out what the prices were. There were just 2 digits floating around the menu descriptions. Oh, but I do love their food, the house tea and the different breads they serve with hummus. Have a great day!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Once I went out to lunch with a friend who can’t tolerate spicy foods, and she ordered a veggie dish of some sort and specified “No peppers”. When the dish came, it had green chilies in it. The server’s response to her complaint was, “Oh, those aren’t peppers. They’re chilies.”

    I think when I order at a restaurant I use the word “Please” liberally and pretty automatically. I can understand, though, that if you’re ordering from a server whose language you don’t speak, it would be easy to accidentally leave that out.

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    1. Americans aren’t alone in this. In fact, I remember a trip to Hawaii more than 20 years ago; the client and I were at a really nice restaurant. At a nearby table was a young Japanese couple and when their entrees arrived, they stopped and took pictures of both plates before they began to eat. Client and I were both non-plussed but today it’s so common I wouldn’t even bat an eye!

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      1. Some places, Fika for instance, are so artistic in their presentation it seems imperative to photograph your meal before you deconstruct it though consumption.

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      1. Some people like to write reviews on Yelp and other sites, especially if they have been particularly pleased or displeased with their food and/or service and will sometimes post pictures of their plate. Helps give you an idea of what to expect if you have never been to that particular restaurant before.

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  9. I spent 15 years as a business traveler. 98% of service was what I want, efficient and inobtrusive.. I think every miscommunication, and there were several, a few in part my error, was corrected without argument, even at fast food restuarants. Twice a server amended my credit card charge, which my assistant caught and fixed, as well as calling the restaurants. She is one of the ex-servers who told me to ask for a new server if there was an issue.
    I have on occasion asked to have a server replaced, usually because he/she wore a scent, but a couple times because they were not paying attention. I have had more than one server or ex-server, tell me that I should not accept poor service.
    Sandy will not make any wave of any size anywhere. She now orders food “on the side” to quote Harry, because of her diet. If it does not come right, I have it fixed, which makes her uncomfortable, but it has always been fixed graciously.
    We go to Bakers Square too often, not that often, but for me once is too often. I dislike how you get asked 6-8 times during a meal if everything is all right, including by roaming managers, Maybe they only do it during the old fart eating hour, which is when we go, when we are the youngsters in the crowd. Recently my b-i-l make a complete jerk of himself there. He ordered cherry pie a la mode. It came with the pie heated. He went off the deep end, instead of just asking to have it fixed. Then she brought back cold pie, sans a la mode. So she brought ice cream in a dish, which again upset him. The server, for all of her repeated question about if everything was all right, had not been trained on how to address a problem (she did not seem very new). She sent the manager over. He chattered away about how everyone likes their pie heated. Somehow he too did not seem to know to just apologize.

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        1. From WikiP:
          Reiner’s most enduring film role was in 1989’s When Harry Met Sally…, in which director Rob Reiner cast his mother as a customer in a scene with stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan at Katz’s Delicatessen, in which Ryan fakes what was described as “a very public (and very persuasive) orgasm”. Approached by a waitress after Ryan finishes, Reiner deadpans “I’ll have what she’s having”. The line was ranked 33rd on the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 movie quotations, just behind Casablanca’s “Round up the usual suspects”.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. That was an answer on yesterday’s Jeopardy. Famous five word line of Rob Reiner’s mother in When Harry Met Sally.

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        3. Rob Reiner says it was Billy Crystal who came up with the line during rehearsals. Reiner liked the line so much he brought in his mother to deliver it.

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  10. I have more than enough Midwestern gemutlichkeit and humility to get along with servers. My biggest issue with them is cheese. When I say “no cheese” they hear “not as much cheese as usual.” (Why do so many restaurants think they can improve any dish by dumping cheese on it???) I now study my servers, trying to predict which ones are clever enough to understand that “no means no.” Molly wants me to tell them I have a cheese allergy, calling up visions of me dying face down in my vomit after eating a salad polluted with cheese. If the server seems a wee bit dense, I usually make eye contact and gravely tell them “in my religion, you know, we are strictly forbidden to consume cheese.” It works.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ll have to admit that a couple of times in Asia, I’ve used the “can’t eat meat due to my religion” card. Amazing that religious stricture holds so much more weight than life choice!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. i have been asked why i dont eat meat often in china and i tell them it is a choice about killing animals and they say oh like a religion. i say yes… they treat that with respect.

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    2. Kosher laws forbid combining meat and cheese in the same meal, so if you are ordering something with meat in it, the server ought to be able to comprehend “No cheese”. Fewer people keep kosher these days, but some still do.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I now often tell the server my wife is a diabetic and we need to have some questions answered or have things served “on the side.” It works most of the time. It is the kitchen staff I think that is not paying attention, not the server. But it is always foxed. “Leave off the bread” seems to confuse the kitchen.
      I think servers 20 years ago would have been flustered or bothered by such questions or complaints. Now there are so many diabetics in the aging population, that they are mostly used to it.

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      1. I have recovering friends to ask if any of the food is prepared with alcohol and change their orders accordingly if that is the case.

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        1. if there is alcohol it is cooked out with theprep process. the flavor left form wine is better than without and it is absolutely wine without alcohol

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  11. Wonderful post, BiB. Is there still meat on the bone? I just submitted Spring Went Sproing, Part III (last part) hoping it will go up next week. We have AZ company in over the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. When my partner and I started traveling, usually together, in 1992, we would find local restaurants and ask for the local special food and a local beer. The first request was always easily answered, if you were not in some chain, The second request could not be addressed. When I quit traveling in 2009, the opposite was true, and there were few local restaurants in larger cities. Rural towns still answered with fried chicken and Bud Lite.

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    1. johnson creek wisconsin wisconsin over between madison and milwaukee was the home of the gobbler . all purple plush and a giant concrete dome over the restraunt that felt like you were eating in a whore house. i stayed there in the hotel one time when i was so tired i couldnt keep my eyes open and got into my room to find a round bed with mirrors on the ceiling and all the stuff i needed to realizee what a waste of the extra money i was making on a tired out self who was alone in sex land.
      the gbbler closed down and i took a sales manager through town and we stopped at the local bar and the canadian ordered a stinger and another guy with us ordered a rusty nail. well the bartender went berserk. if you guys want those fancy kind of drinks youll have to go back over to the gobbler. we dont serve that here .. what do you serve here i asked. a beer and a bump. give us all a blackberry brandy and a leinies . oh then we were ok and ya know hes right. you dont need nothin but a beer and a bump in this life.

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  13. I don’t remember any time when a server at an eating place was way out of line. Some have been very slow which is not good. On one occasion a waitress got our order wrong and wasn’t happy about correcting it. Her response to our request to get the item we wanted in place the wrong item that we didn’t want was ” okie, dokie, smokey, poke”. I think we gave her a fairly generous tip because we thought her snotty reply was rather humorous.

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  14. I learned in traveling to Norway and to Korea that at least managing a “please” and “thank you” went a long way with anyone in the service industries. My first night in Oslo, Husband (who was then Boyfriend-Not-Quite-Fiance) and I found a restaurant right on the Oslo fjord for dinner. Had a lovely meal with a view of the water front (including the “street theater” that was several wedding parties out for the equivalent of bachelor/bachelorette parties). Our server spoke excellent English, as do most Norwegians who have been through school since the 1950s when English was added as a standard part of the curriculum (part of their nation’s “thank you” to FDR and the US for their support during WWII as I recall) – and he was delighted when I eked out a “mange tusen takk for mat” at the end of the meal.

    Now, miscommunication…nothing disastrous that I recall, though I have had entirely the wrong meal brought to me more than once, most often when the person bringing you the food is not the one who took your order. This happened to Husband once at one of our regular haunts – the server was newish, it was a super busy night, and we were already on the wrong foot because somehow our table got ignored to even get an initial order in. At a restaurant where we can usually be Very American and be in and out in under an hour, it was close to an hour before we got our food. And then when we got it, Husband’s was not right. He is one that gets really cranky when his blood sugar is low…and he was really cranky. Like if he were a toddler, he would have been pitching a fit, lying on the floor pounding his fists and feet and shrieking, cranky. He ate part of the incorrect meal while they quick whipped up what he ordered. They comped the whole meal for us I think. Since it is one of Daughter’s favorite places to go, I didn’t want Husband to create such a scene that I would be embarrassed to go back…thankfully we walked him back from that cliff just in time. Phew.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I can think of only one truly bad dining experience, and it was in Minneapolis over thirty years ago. Sure we’ve had orders mixed up, disappointing food, and slow service, but those are usually minor bumps in the road. On one memorable occasion we were in a Chinese restaurant in St. Paul. There was only one other party there; a party of four adults and two kids. The two kids that were allowed to run around, screaming at the top of their lungs. Not unhappy screams, they were playing tag, but screams nevertheless. The adults seemed used to is, and did nothing to stop it until we complained to our server. Why are people so inconsiderate?

    As a former waitress I know how rude and demanding some diners can be, so I always make it a point to be polite and tip well. I used to belong to a group of women who would dine out once a month, but I dropped out because several of the women in the group were extremely rude to servers, some were lousy tippers, and dividing up the bill was always problematic; just didn’t want to be associated with them. I found it embarrassing and ruined the whole dining experience for me.

    At the other end of the spectrum, one of the finest dining we’ve had was at La Belle Vie while it was still in Stillwater. It was expensive, and not a place we can afford very often, but it was wonderful. Exquisite food, great unobtrusive service and not ostentatious in any way. It’s our favorite Twin Cities restaurant, and that’s saying something. There are so many wonderful restaurants to choose from here, and so many different cuisines. We love the small ethnic eateries where you can get a fine meal at an affordable price.

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    1. I’m also a good tipper, having been a waitress earlier in life. I used to say that waiting tables for a bit should be a “life pre-requisite”! My wasband’s father was SO CHEAP (probably why wasband was so cheap) and I routinely hung back after eating out with them to leave more money on the table for the waitstaff.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree, vs, that waiting on tables is a good life experience to have. It’s not an easy job to do well, but you can learn a lot about human behavior.

        Husband tends to be a less generous tipper than me. I tell him, if you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out, so I’m usually the one who leaves the tip. It used to be a bone of contention between us, but he has finally given up on trying to reform me and now accepts that’s just the way I am.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It should at least be a pre-requisite for anyone who plans to eat out. Teaches you quickly that there are already plenty of jerks in the world, you don’t need to be one too.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. ot.
          doctor john is a free but ticket must be reserved concert sat june 25th? at the new st paul baseball field at 3 in the afternoon to celebrate jazz in the city or whatever they call it. ..
          i will take responsibility to count yes votes if folks want to go.

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        2. Let me clarify. The address is 510 Groveland but the restaurant that is there now is called La Belle Vie. The restaurant 510 Groveland no longer exists. I’ll add that even though 510 Groveland was a very nice restaurant, La Belle Vie is far better.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Probably OT. When you knock on farmer’s doors to ask for permission to hunt birds, you end up having fascinating conversations with strangers. I remember sitting in a kitchen in South Dakota hearing about how the family ancestors fled Europe. The farm wife kept mentioning how much she missed her daughter. I asked about that. She uttered the astonishing line I’ll never forget, “Oh, she moved to Minneapolis. She is now slinging hash at a place called 510.”

          Liked by 2 people

        4. It’s still 510 Groveland, but 510 Restaurant (or just “The 510”) is no longer there. I ate at 510 once in my poor-as-a-churchmouse days. I knew the son of the owners and his mom knew I was a huge Clint Eastwood fan (before he got truly weird about politics). He was going to be in town for a screening of “White Hunter, Black Heart” – a character study about the director of “African Queen” (as I recall). He had reservations at 510 before the screening at the Walker. So friend’s mom, being a doll, slid me into a table for two that was empty until something like 7:30. She found an hors d’oeuvre that was affordable – and then comped me a glass of wine along with the hors d’oeuvre but wanted me to feel like I could have paid I think – and let me sit there and observe. I did not talk to him at all, but gosh it was cool to be in the same space as him.

          Liked by 3 people

  16. All of these stories reminds me of my first job as a waitress at the old Sambo’s restaurants in Green Bay (sort of like Denny’s). I was a horrible waitress. I got flustered easily, couldn’t add up the prices correctly, forgot items, and was usually shaking when I poured coffee. Thankfully, the manager liked me (a lot — I vaguely resembled his wife), so he made me hostess instead. Luckily I was a far better hostess and did fine after that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. i could not believe sambos. there was one on 66th and peen in 1970 for a year.
      the theme was the little black boy who ran around the tree until he turned into butter.
      the last of the politically racist restaurants i remember

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      1. I think it was the tigers who turned into butter. The racist overtones in that story are unfortunate given that the story also portrays and loving family life.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I remember it as the tigers turning into butter as well. And I think there was branch on Hennepin that was also an Embers for a while. I remember liking the murals and knowing that the story was a good one, though racist (though I don’t know at that young age I would have known to call it racist – I have memory of thinking that it was based on generalities that couldn’t possibly be fair or right).

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say NO. We live on St. Paul’s West Side where there are any number of very good authentic Mexican restaurants. Still my beloved goes to Taco Bell. Can’t figure out what the hell his problem is.

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  17. Completey OT. Does any of the Twin Cities contingent have a house-sitter that they trust? Who is good with multiple dogs?

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  18. ive got a daughter and her husband who are booked for another 2 weeks with 5 dogs and a cat
    they are good
    i think you tell the young adult you had thought you would just have whoever she lined up take care of yours too

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  19. Today’s post has been an inspiration. I have a baguette, a salmon filet, some fresh asparagus, and a nice bottle of carmenere. I can probably slip a little cheese in there too. Audio accompaniment is the Twins game, which is not very French, but we do what we can.

    Liked by 3 people

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