Monday, November 21, 2016

Cracked Pepper

They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I'm not sure who says it, but I suppose I could "google it", and come up with a reasonable answer. The problem comes when imitation is done in poor taste. Like a bandwagon of novelists writing about young wizards, cover bands who actually have the talent to create their own music, and right wing fascists pretending to be caring politicians.

Anyway, as most readers of this blog will know, the things I love most in this world are chess and coffee. (of course I love the beautiful people that surround my world the most, but I don't really like describing my friends as "things"). The chess world is pretty exciting at the moment with a host of top level events seeing out 2016, headed by the World Championship currently being played in New York. For me, though, the chess world has been a poor imitation of what is was 12 months previously as I have had a year of illnesses which have prevented me from playing much chess. While I enjoy watching and studying the game, nothing beats playing and competing. I have entered a tournament in a couple of weeks, and will see how I go because I've been in quite a bit of discomfort recently, and had brain fogs, but if I can play ok then I'll be happy.

Coffee is my other passion. I love sitting at a cafe, reading a novel, and drinking a long black. I've been asked why I don't buy a coffee machine. Well, the simple answer is I like sitting at cafes, reading a novel with a long black! I have been to hundreds of cafes around Melbourne and the quality of the coffee, service and food varies, but I don't mind, I keep going back to my regular favourites.

One thing I have noticed, however, is how some cafes seem to be trying to imitate their classier, chic rivals. I like the fact that you don't have to be in central Melbourne to get a decent coffee, but I sometimes cringe at some of the food options and service quality of places. My pet annoyance at the moment is cracked pepper. I'm happy to dine in an Italian restaurant in Lygon Street and have a waiter come to me when my meal is in front of me and ask if I would like cracked pepper on it. Sometimes I'll say yes, sometimes no, but the whole thing seems appropriate there. I've started noticing that more and more places have waiting staff hanging around with pepper grinders, ready to pounce on customers with their request to serve you cracked pepper. I've even had cracked pepper ground on to my food before I could stop the overeager waitress. I've seen looks of disappointment on the faces of waiters at cafes when I'm sat with a bowl of porridge for breakfast, and I've even had a young waiter edging towards me as if he was wondering whether I would actually like cracked pepper on my porridge. I kind of feel sorry for that young man who will probably never know whether I wanted cracked pepper on my porridge or not. Did he lose his establishment a customer by not offering cracked pepper as an option?

I'm not the only critic of cracked pepper offerings (Huffpost)

To be honest, the cracked pepper thing is beginning to die down. Just as well really, as it seems a bit of a contradiction to walk into a greasy spoon, order eggs on toast, and be offered cracked pepper and ketchup. There needs to be a sense of appropriateness, and I don't think any less of a cafe because it might not be as classy as those in the next suburb. As long as the coffee is drinkable, the food is ok, and the staff are friendly, there isn't much more you need. Except maybe some cracked pepper on your breakfast Muesli....

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