Anyone for a Vindaloo?

How can I describe the delights of going out to dinner to all you lovely folk? I expect you do it quite a lot. Or maybe, you have that even greater pleasure of ordering take away pizza. Oh, what a gastronomic delight that must be. For me it is similar to telling a child they can now open their Christmas presents. I am overcome with excitement. This may have something to do with the fact that I seem to be permanently on a diet. That is not strictly true, I don’t seem to be permanently on a diet, I am permanently on a diet. The day Andrew could actually see I had a waistline, he decided it was there to stay and so was Diet Chef. So, you can imagine my controlled excitement when Andrew’s son, James, came to visit recently from Australia.
‘We must go for an Indian,’ were his first words. Ok, not his first words but you know what I mean. Later he mentioned we ought to go out and have a Chinese meal.
Oh, music to my ears. However, after Sunday’s debacle I doubt it will have such an appeal again. I really feel I am doing Michael Winner an injustice by writing about it myself. I really should let him have that honour as he does it so well for The Sunday Times.
I should tell you also, should you not know him, that my husband is a very decent chap. In fact my other name for him is Mr diplomacy. But, even I know, Mr diplomacy if only pushed a short way can become Mr firm in one move.
So, here we are, picture us if you can, entering the restaurant. There are six of us, Andrew and me, his eldest son and wife Anna and also his youngest son Tim and of course little baby Matthew. It is important to count numbers here as numbers become of paramount importance much later on. It is empty. We have chosen to have lunch and then wander around town later. We do a lot of that stuff that must drive waiters mad; you know the kind of thing.
‘Do you want to sit with him?’
‘No, let Anna go at the end, it is easier for her to get to the baby.’
‘Do you think this table is too near the door?’
‘Did anyone notice where the loos were?’
Then follows the ‘What does everyone want to drink?’
Finally, drinks ordered, baby settled and menus in front of us we begin the wonderful business of choosing our food. A whole discussion on whether we want Pappadam’s follows. James asks how many do we get per portion, and the waiter tells us nine. We all look a bit stunned. £1.95 per portion and we get nine. Well, this has to be right doesn’t it? Maths is my worst subject but even I know five into nine would give us 1.8 of a Pappadam and if it were 2 per person then we were being diddled out of a bit of Pappadam somewhere. Come on, you have to agree? Anyway, best to veer away from the Pappadam’s for the moment.
We begin to have an enjoyable time, as you do. I started taking loads of photos and we all discussed what we would eat. Having been to this restaurant previously, Andrew chose to have Goan curry and his youngest son, Tim, followed suit. The rest of us chose Chicken or Lamb. I am sure you are finding this as riveting as watching paint dry. Well, why are you still reading? You want to know what happens don’t you? We all chose starters too but I am sensing your yawns so I wont even go there, except to say they were very nice.
Then came our main meal. Oh, the pleasure of so much food. I truly feel I have been starving but my constant mantra of ‘Nothing tastes as good as being slim feels’ was not reaching its high tones on this day. Then, I saw Tim grimace and poke at his fish.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. Oh, if I could eat those words! Eat those words, god I am good, you must admit.
‘It’s raw and it’s not even hot.’
‘Send it back,’ advises Andrew and we all nod in agreement and my diplomatic husband calls over the waiter.
What follows is the truth so help me god.
Tim: This is not quite cooked; I wonder could you just cook it a bit more?
Waiter: That is how the Sea Bass is. It supposed to be like that.
Andrew then looks at his, which is the same but better cooked.
Tim: I had this before when we came here and it was different, this is like…raw and cold.
Anna: Can you just cook it some more please?
Waiter: I ask the chef.
We all stare at each other.
‘Why is he asking the chef?’ I ask. ‘We are the customer, we can have it char grilled if we want.”
Andrew starts to look cross.
‘This is the first time I have argued with a waiter about food in a restaurant.’
Waiter returns: That is how it cooked the chef can’t change it.
Tim: I just would like it cooked a little more.
Anna: Can you not just cook it a bit more?
I am wondering which word he does not understand. Cook, more, raw, or maybe he doesn’t understand any of them.
Tim continues to negotiate while Andrew silently gets up and makes his way to the kitchen.
This is not good. The waiter seemingly unaware that Andrew is heading towards the Chef continues to debate with my stepson. Andrew comes back and informs us that the Chef has said the fish is bad and Andrew again looks at his own fish, which was the same Sea Bass. Anna then says hers does not taste quite right but thinks it is okay. Mine is fine. Choices are provided and Tim decides on another fish dish. I feel the irritation as it whiffs across from my normally, very laid back husband.
‘I cannot believe we had to argue like that,’ he snaps, ‘If the fish was bad why did they dish it up in the first place?’
Tim has chosen a cod dish and we all breathe a sigh of relief. Meanwhile I offer him some of mine while it is being cooked. Finally his dish arrives and we all begin to laugh about it.
About forty-five minutes later and with no apology from the chef or the waiter, we decide to go somewhere else for ice cream and ask for the bill.
It is placed in front of Andrew and I feel him tense.
‘Oh, come on!’
‘What is it?’ asks James.
‘I’m not paying this, they have charged us almost £10 for the ‘Pappadam’s.’
I did warn you the Pappadam’s would rear their ugly head again didn’t I?
‘But we asked how many were given for one portion.’ argues James.
‘I didn’t really want any,’ says Tim.
‘I didn’t have much either, it was only because they were there,’ I chime in.
‘I didn’t really want any either,’ adds Anna
‘That isn’t the point, we didn’t order them, and so I am not paying for them.’
I am becoming so grateful the place is empty. He calls the waiter over queries the bill and is told that is what we ordered. Andrew disagrees and demands to see the menu.
After two seconds of studying it he states bluntly.
‘I am paying the bill but not for the ‘Pappadam’s, do you understand? We clearly queried the number for one portion and you said nine.’
The waiter starts to argue but Andrew interrupts him.
‘I am not paying for them, understand.’
He stands up and follows the waiter to the till. We all watch as the waiter begins to make a phone call.
Anna starts to buckle the baby into his buggy.
‘Ooh, I think I had better get chubbs buckled in quick,’ she says.
‘I want to know where he got nine from anyway,’ says James.
Andrew suddenly storms towards us.
‘Right, if the manager is not here in a few seconds we are leaving.’
Anna is frantically buckling in the baby now while trying to grab an after eight mint or two.
The few seconds pass and Andrew heads for the door followed by James. I know this is a tactic to get something done but Tim looks dumbstruck.
‘We can’t not pay.’ he says.
Anna finally has baby buckled in and I grab another after eight for her, after all she is breast-feeding and eating for two.
The manager arrives and I call Andrew to come back in. The following takes place.
Manager: Can you count one to nine?

Outside the restaurant

Andrew puts his hand up in irritation and heads for the door.
Manager: How many did you eat?
Andrew: It is irrelevant how many we ate. I did not order them. I will pay for one portion.
Manager: Can you count one to nine
Andrew: Fine, let’s go
We all walk to the door.
Manager: Ok, you not pay for them. Our mistake okay, I take them off.
Andrew: I will pay for one. Do you understand, I am not happy about any of this’
Manager: No you not pay for them.
Andrew: Whatever

We pay as everyone is looking on from outside. We leave and I grab another after eight for Anna.

Anyone for a Vindaloo?

Supporting Palestine

Why I support Palestine

On a cold, wet night, in February 1994 I entered the home of Rabbi Laurence. He was the first Rabbi I had encountered. My upbringing had been devoid of religion, unless you count the odd Sunday school visit, my small leather-bound bible and a few odd, colourful texts of Jesus that I had collected along the way.
My relationship with God came to an abrupt end at the age of thirteen when our local vicar had damned me to hell for not attending school. I had been suffering from school refusal, – a condition more understood now- and my parents had thought a visit to the local vicar might help, it didn’t. Now, almost twenty years later I was considering religion again, although this time I felt as though God had sent this to me. The man I was about to marry was Jewish. I had read a great deal about the Jewish faith and I felt it was calling to me. My father talked often of the grandmother he had never known and of whom he understood had been Jewish. My future husband had no interest in his faith at all. In fact he was disgustingly ignorant of his heritage. This did not deter me. I asked him about conversion and he admitted that this thought had entered his mind, as he knew his family were not happy about him being seen with a Shiksa (non- Jewish woman). A phrase I would later come to view as very derogatory to myself and all other non-Jewish women. That evening, however, I learnt it would not be that easy to convert. Non-Jews were not encouraged to embrace Judaism and if they did, they had to prove themselves worthy. So, began my introduction to regular Shabbat services, as well as High Holy Day services and festivals such as Pesach (Passover). I became very emotional about my conversion. My partner could not help me with my essays or my Hebrew studies and his family refused to assist. I attended every class and wrote twenty-six essays, learnt fluent Hebrew and later went on to teach Jewish studies and head a small private Jewish school. I married my then fiancée and made sure he followed all holiday and Shabbat practices. I became involved in Synagogue affairs and found myself on many committees. I went to Israel and spent a lot of time there. I viewed Israel as I might my own child, in that it could do no wrong. This was a small country, surrounded by aggressive Arabs who constantly threatened Israel’s very existence. These Arabs were no more than dirty interlopers. They had started wars, lost parts of their land and now wanted Israel to pay. Already, I had been brainwashed. The Jews had suffered the horrors of the Holocaust, how could anyone resent them having a small piece of land. When my husband and I accidentally found ourselves in an Arab quarter when leaving the wrong gate out of Jerusalem, I was terrified, such was my fear of these people at this time. As time went on, I spent more and more of my time defending Israel every time they were condemned. How could people criticise such a small defenceless country. Why were these Arabs complaining so much? There were other Arab countries where they could live. The Jews only had Israel. I am ashamed and shocked how naive I was.
Some years later I divorced my husband. I still continued to practice Judaism but in a smaller way. I still admired Israel and continued to defend it. I met the man who was to become my husband and soul mate. I accepted he was an atheist but was not prepared for his feelings regarding Israel. He would make it clear he did not agree with me but never pushed his opinions upon me. Then I learnt his daughter was to marry an Egyptian. I really felt odd about this and kept asking my husband how he thought her fiancée would feel about me being Jewish. I did not relish meeting him or having an Arab under my roof. However, he came with a friend and I learnt my husband had agreed they could stay the night with us. I had no idea what to expect. But certainly what I encountered was far from any expectations I may have had. They were courteous well-mannered, pleasant, intelligent and accepting of my beliefs. I went to bed that night realising I had never been as accepting of them. I Finally agreed to go to Cairo for their engagement party. My views on Israel and Arabs were dramatically altered during that visit. I met people who treated me with the highest respect while maintaining their deep passion regarding Israel and the social injustice delivered to their fellow countrymen there. I was astonished when a friend of the family offered to show me the oldest synagogue in Cairo. Before we left he gave me gifts for my family. I was deeply touched. I am still in contact with him and consider him a good friend. However, I still continued defending Israel no matter how inexcusable their behaviour. I would argue with people, even when I knew my argument was somewhat flawed. Again, we were invited to Cairo. This time I discussed politics with the friend I had made and also with my future stepson in law. I began to look at the news with a different perspective. For the first time in my life I read the history of the Israeli and Palestine conflict. I began to read any book I could lay my hands on about the plight of the Palestinian and I became ashamed. I was Ashamed of my ignorance and ashamed of my arrogance. I am now reading so many books on the Israeli/Palestinian situation. I can finally see that Israel’s occupation of the West bank and the Gaza strip is illegal and violates the fourth Geneva conventions. Worse of all, Israel’s human rights violations since 2000 have left more than four times more Palestinian civilians dead than the total number of Israeli’s killed by Palestinians. I could go on and on. But there are numerous books to read and you only need to Google to check the facts.
‘Witness in Palestine’ By Anna Baltzer is only one of many books detailing all the facts. Another wonderful read is ‘Letters from Palestine’ by Kenneth Ring, a wonderful man with a Jewish background and a big heart. I am blessed to know you Kenneth. I am blessed to know many Palestinians.
I do not forget those whose lives were lost in The Holocaust. Both are anathema to me. However, it is important to remember one does not cancel out the other. Israel often quotes the Holocaust. If anyone criticises them they are automatically accused by Israel of being a Holocaust denier. The Holocaust does not give the Israeli’s the right to break UN resolutions, which they do, in fact more than any country in the history of its organization. Something a country cannot be proud of doing surely.
Palestinians are not victims and would not wish to be viewed as such but they do need our support and help in highlighting what is clearly a social injustice. I hope I am now doing that.