I Can’t Resist: Another Restaurant Ethics Tale

I’m sitting here in my office waiting for an important call from a potential client, so I don’t want to start a major post (as in “Trump’s Wiretapping Accusation”), so I’ll just note this strange episode from last night.

It was along day for ProEthics, so Grace and I decided to order out from a terrific Mediterranean place that delivers. We love their fattoosh, which is a salad that includes little pieces of dried pita bread. That was an item in the order.

When everything arrived, the fattoosh was missing the little pita bits. Now, this had happened once before, but I didn’t bother to make a big deal out of it. Still, fattoosh without the pita isn’t fattoosh. Now it had happened  again, making it 40% of the times we had ordered the dish that it was incomplete. I decided to call up and complain.

The owner said that I was right, but that the selection in the menu doesn’t specifically list the pita as an ingredient. Sometimes, he said, people don’t know what fattoosh is, and complain that is does have the pita bits.

Yes, I said, but fattoosh without the pita is just a salad.  To wit:

Fattoush (Arabic: فتوش‎‎, also fattush, fatush, fattoosh, and fattouche) is a Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread (khubz ‘arabi) combined with mixed greens and other vegetables, such as radishes and tomatoes.

“Right! Right!” he said, “But people who don’t know that complain. So sometimes we leave the pita out. Sometimes we put it in.”

“You do know that if the menu says fattoosh, and fattoosh means “salad with pieces of pita bread in it,” you don’t have to specify that the pita is included?” I queried.  ” The name says that it’s included. Are you telling me that if I want fattoosh, I have to make a point of saying that I really want fattoosh?”

That’s right, he said.

I could not make the man see that there was anything wrong with this.

17 thoughts on “I Can’t Resist: Another Restaurant Ethics Tale

  1. Maybe you should learn to make this easy salad yourself. It will probably taste better and cost less. Just Google it for some great recipes.

    • Duh. I have made the salad myself, of course. In this case, our pita bread went moldy, but even then: I did say that it had been a hard day at Proethics, right? And thus the idea was to give ourselves a break, which means NOT making dinner ourselves? So how is this comment germane? Yes, I know that I could cut up rasihes, except that we don’t generally have radishes, because we only would use them for fattoosh. And we don’t generally buy pita either, as we have literally never finished a package without having it mold. And, of course, making a salad is one of the more labor intensive, if mindless, aspects of cooking. See, that’s why we PAY someone else to make our dinner when we’re tired after a long day in an endless trail of days trying to get businesses to pay for an ethics service, when most people don’t know what the heck ethics is.

      “Oh, you wanted SAUCE on your pizza! Why didn’t you say so!”

    • Well, we’ve known for a long time that Jack Nicholson is really good at playing assholes. That was a very juvenile era for our generation. Kind of embarrassing, really. What a jerk that character is.

      • Speaking as someone who served many a customer in a diner-like restaurant, unless the place was very busy at the time (which it is not), most of the disassembly of the sandwich and plate could have been done by the waitress, quickly, in the first place — in fact, I can think of several other alternatives. It was her stonewalling, snotty attitude that set him off in the first place. And “Bobby” is far from an asshole. (The woman sitting next to him, by the way, used to be a waitress herself; now she is an exceedingly needy, wholly dependent girlfriend.) In this role Nicholson is arguably an exemplar of a particular 70s anomie and disaffiliation of a generation caught between Nixon and free-living hippie-dom, and this scene mirrors the inability of either side to see the other’s point of view. … Speaks to today a bit, no? It’s a complex and brilliant film you would do well to see if you can get over looking at it in such a black-and-white manner.

  2. If Jack ever goes “Michael Douglas in Falling Down” it’s not going to be the New York Times, or the Washington Post, or the Democrats or the Republicans; it’s going to be a small fast-food joint we’ve never heard of until it makes the 11 o’clock news.

    • I think there are more pranksters in the food service industry than most imagine.

      A friend with whom I occasionally dine is always meticulous and specific in describing how he would like his steaks to be prepared. On the other hand, I usually simply order ‘medium-rare’. The steak he receives is rarely the way he ordered it; my steak, on the other hand, is usually a perfect medium-rare.

      There was one time, however, that I remember receiving a steak that was not as I ordered. My theory is that someone let the bovine see a campfire from across the meadow before it was air-bolted and butchered… and that this viewing was supposed to be sufficient to prepare a medium-rare steak. I sent the steak back. On the second attempt, I think someone exposed the steak to the grill from across the kitchen. I ate it that time. I knew I would gain nothing in a third attempt other than the ire of a cook who probably would have added his own special ‘seasonings’ and ‘condiments’.

  3. According to Dan Abrams, words only mean what people or someone thinks they mean, so the owner is right, you’re wrong, Jack. The dictionary meaning of the dish is irrelevant.

    (Sorry Dan, I couldn’t resist.)

  4. I love this place. Fabulous food, quickly delivered. I think the answer is to NOT order online, but by phone. Then you can assure that you’re getting the real fattoush, not the Americanized version.

  5. That’s like ordering a garden salad and getting a bowl of chopped vegetables with no lettuce of any kind. You were right to complain.

    The point that blew completely over his head is that the customers that expect the salad to be what the name implies by having pita bread in it have absolutely no way of knowing that there will not be pita bread in it.

    The restaurant is switching back and forth between having the pita bread and not; that’s bad management! The restaurant needs to state in their menu what the Fattoush “salad” contains and stick to that description, period. People can read; they can ask to include or exclude what ever they want based on that description.

  6. Restaurant in my building serves shakshuka and described it as “poached” eggs in tomato sauce, etc. never had it. my partner ordered it (I was curious about it, but ordered something else). Eggs came out scrambled. I figured there may be a language issue. Looked it up and, yes, the eggs are supposed to be poached. So, I guess I will have to try to make it myself.
    True story.

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