A dinner date is always a pressure test for the man. Will I be getting into her pants tonight? It might look like I’m deeply interested in her story about spending a summer teaching Telugu to a bunch of homeless, dyslexic Chinese kids in Guatemala, but all I’m actually doing is wondering if I’ll be getting into her pants. And what heightens the pressure is that only she knows the answer to that question even before the date begins.
What makes the dinner date even more difficult is if the woman across the table was born with cutlery for arms, someone who can descale, devein and debone hilsa with a butter knife. And you, on the other hand, are the dining equivalent of a monkey trying to type out Macbeth*, someone who finds it difficult to digest any form of dining etiquette.
Pressure of being deft with cutlery added to the conventional date stress.
There is too much tension.
If you do not know a salad fork from a pitchfork and are trying hard to get it on with Edwardina Forkhands, you will only end up biting off more (foil) than you can chew. True story.
Really, why do chefs wrap the foot of a Tandoori Chicken in aluminium foil? Are they being humane by wanting to bandage, albeit in shiny foil, the amputated chicken leg? Really, why?
There is too much pretension.
Last night I was served verbose literature for dinner at Punjab Grill. The level of pomposity and pretension in the menu made the Bible look like a marginally long Aesop fable.
What in God’s name is “Free Range” Chicken?
“Sir, we set the chickens free to run about in a farm and be merry,” said the server.
But still, magically, stripped of her freedom, she ends up on my plate, dead.
“You’re absolutely right, sir!”
The management has clearly taken it upon itself to educate its patrons on trivial snippets of historical and geographical trifle. I’m finicky when I have to decide on an order, but thanks to the Cook Swap Treaty signed immediately after the Treaty of Mangalore I am no longer undecided. For now I have a piece of history on my side (plate?). After all who can resist a meal where one does not even have to so much as chew?
My travel agent once misunderstood my request for a ticket to Chandigarh. I had lazily abbreviated it as CDG and was almost booked on a flight to Paris (Charles de Gaulle). I hope she never dines in this restaurant. I do not want to be flown to Lahore because she learnt that it’s the Paris of the East and not the Abottabad of the South as I had taught her.
Even if I let the onion misspelling pass, I am neither comfortable with the usage of 'kid' in my meal nor with the suggestion that I must consider sharing my meal with a certain 'Ratanjot'.
When the main course arrives, I have no idea which dish is which. All the dishes seem to be engaged in a competition of towering verticality. They've been arranged like they’re sections of a ridiculous architecture exhibition diorama. The lamb-chop is delicately balanced on end, ready to take a swan dive into its broth which I’m told originated on a dangerous hunting expedition involving Maharaja Ranjit Singh and some herbs. I am sure.
My date for the night thinks that perhaps Punjabi Cuisine is moving towards minimalism – which is apparently meant to explain the lone towering structure in an otherwise vacant plate. “Just like the iPhone,” she says, “where less is more. It’s minimal and functional.” Just like your brain. Strange.
The kitschiness had diseased my dessert as well. The kulfi was suggestively erect, swimming in a pool of corn flour ‘noodles’ and flecked with microscopic dollops of something pink. “Just like a piece of installation art that surprises you by being complex and simple at the same time.”
I have a headache.