Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Parable of the Restaurant

The Word was a city restaurant. In a city, no-one knows their neighbours let alone people on the street. To be on the safe side, they assume most other people are loonies, up to no good, or not to be trusted for some other vague reason. This mild paranoia sits side by side with an equally unspecific tolerance. In a city there is room for all kinds of weirdos (as long as "they" don't bother "us", of course).

So when a group of like-minded people find one another, they appreciate it; banding together as a warm group of 'friends' in a potentially hostile world. The clientele who ate at The Word were such a group.

It was a good restaurant and the regulars particularly appreciated their bread and wine. Its history went back longer than anyone could remember. The proprietors were especially proud of The Menu. Passed down from generation to generation, this accumulated description of Good Food was (according to them) the last word in how to eat well. They were glad to have a 'faithful few', but sometimes wondered why hardly any new customers came back.


Our story begins with the proprietors overhauling their current selection. The Menu was so large and archaic, only the most dedicated customers wanted to read it all. Instead they presented a small list of the dishes they knew how to cook and had ingredients still available. Some dishes had lost popularity and the proprietors wanted to add something their customers had not been offered before.

"What's 'Duck'?" one asked as they were leafing through the Menu. Research revealed there was a 'season' for it, it was often served with orange sauce, had four letters in the name (being "The Word", spelling was important) and variations included Savoury Duck and Pekin Duck.

Their normal suppliers couldn't help them. "There's no demand for it these days", they said. But that didn't worry them. Their chef would produce an inspired dish, just like all the others.


A few days later the updated selection was ready and a sign appeared outside, declaring Duck as the new House Special. Not surprisingly, more than the usual number of regulars turned out to try it. Amongst them were a group of travellers. Their appearance brought forth a few comments. "Looks like they're from the Country", one said.

"Yes. I've heard they actually kill their own food there," another replied. "And they eat it. Yuck!"

After a short wait a table was found for them and they ordered the duck with some relish saying, "We're starving for real food".


The waiter was taken aback by the howls of derisive laughter their meals evoked. It was not good natured; the strangers were angry, frustrated, and feared a joke was being played on them. Then some of the regulars were on their feet, defensive of their proprietor friends. As one body, the affronted customers hurled the strangers out onto the street.

As the crowd made their way back to their tables, one of the proprietors overheard someone say, "I don't know what they were so upset about. My duck was really tasty, and filling, too. The way the chef swirled the wine sauce across the bread was particularly appealing."

His friend replied, "Yes. Mine had spirals over both the D and the K: every letter such exquisitely shaped, too. But can you believe those uncouth morons? Don't understand what's good, even when its presented to them on a plate."

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