Getting three people on board to leave the office at a certain time to go to lunch takes more planning than D-Day, and more debate than the Missouri Compromise. 

After the trio has assembled — each of them having taken three laps of the office in search of the other two — and been seated at a table another ritual begins: deconstructing the menu as a sign of their entitlement.

Here’s what I mean. In the 1980s, when winged dinosaurs still ruled the skies, three people having lunch together could easily order their meals:

Jen: “I’ll have the fish and the house white.”

Tom: “Make mine the same.”

Sam: “I’m allergic to nuts. Are there nuts with the salmon Caesar?”

Waiter: “No, there are no nuts.”

Sam: “I’ll have that and water.”

In this vignette of fewer than 40 words, three people have efficiently ordered meals and allayed Sam’s legitimate concern about nuts. They can get back to the serious business of trashing other co-workers.

Today, the discussion would be an exercise in one-upmanship:

Jen (after reading the ingredients in each menu item): “I’ll have the ‘fettuccine with clams, basil, garlic, pine nuts and white wine,’ but will have rigatoni instead of the fettuccine.”

Waiter: “Yes, we can do that.”

Jen: “And I prefer mussels to clams. And lightly toast the pine nuts, but not too long, and be sure the garlic has been sauteed before it’s added.”

Waiter: “I’ll ask our ...”

Jen: “And I’ll have a glass of the ’17 Trefethen sauvignon blanc, if it’s not chilled below 40 degrees. But if it is, I’ll have the ’18 Gloria Ferrer vionta.”

Waiter: “Let me check on that for you. In the meantime, may I take your order, sir?”

Tom: “Is the duck free-range? What comes with it?”

Waiter: “Our duck comes with fingerling potatoes and spinach as sides. The ducks are farmed, but not caged, and have the full run of a 10-acre fenced field with a pond.”

Tom: “I don’t like duck anyway. How about the braised short ribs? Where were the cattle raised?”

Waiter: “Do you like beef?”

Tom: “No, just asking. I have to say that nothing on this menu entices me, but if you put together a plate of five chilled Quilcene oysters, a side of mesquite-grilled, bacon-wrapped chicken livers and some steamed broccoli with hollandaise, I’ll eat that.”

Waiter: “I’ll ask the kitchen whether we have those ingredients and be right back.”

Sam: “Hey, don’t leave yet! Don’t I get to order?”

Waiter: “Of course, sir. I wasn’t forgetting you. It’s just that my notepad is out of paper now and …”

Sam: “I’ll make it easy. I’ll have the fried chicken and the house white.”

Waiter: “Thank you, sir. I think I can remember that.”

Sam: “Oh, and a side of quail eggs poached in truffle oil. But no nuts. I’m allergic.”

louie@hmbreview.com will have the fish.

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