By the third meal of the trip I noticed something VERY strange that happens when eating out in both Spain and Portugal.
I already knew they charged for water. In Spain we always asked for tap water, in Portugal we paid for fresh drinking water because tap water is a no-no. Most of the time the price of while-looking-at-the-menu-bread wasn’t listed, but we ordered it every time regardless. At least we knew what we were getting ourselves into. What I was very dumbfounded about was the plates of food which we definitely hasn’t asked for being placed next to said bread. Exhibit One – Seven are as follows (and are the only ones I got pics of):
Crunchy thin chips
Almond cracker with coffee
Plate of prosciutto and 2 blocks of unfamiliar cheese
Delicious garlic infused carrots, with olives, and tuna spread.
Those same carrots, with olive dip, tuna spread served on the same plate as the butter we did ask for (touche, Portugal) .
It’s really one of the most awkward things in a waiter-customer relationship to have to put perfectly good food to the side of the table to be ignored until it is picked back up by the waiter and taken back to the kitchen. The worst part of it all is the lack of communication. We never questioned their motives when they put the plates down in front of us, and they never questioned us when they came around to pick it up.
It worked in their favor most of the time though because 1) if my sister weren’t there I would have never even assumed they were charging us for it. “Oh, how nice of them. They must know we’re not from the country” is what I thought was happening most of the time. 2) when the food is right in front of you the immediate reaction is to say… oh, well if it’s already out why not just try it. And 3) It’s too embarrassing to ask how much the plate actually costs before deciding on wether we should eat it or not; which is what I did with the plate of prosciutto. I was distressed with embarrassment when I pushed it to side after finding out it was 18 euros. Euros!!
Most of my problem with it is caused by the fact that there are definitely other ways to go about it. Why not offer the plate of food to us, price included with the offer, before you put it down on the table. Definitely show it to us, make our mouths water, but don’t place it down if we’re not definitely going to eat it. It seems wasteful, unless we’re reusing this food which then makes the entire situation take a turn for the strange. I’m sure I’m just not used to the food culture, and I bet most people don’t have a problem, but for a girl that usually eats everything placed in front of her and hates bring wasteful it’s a very big predicament.