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Just Say 'No Sharing'

It’s noontime, and I’m sitting with a party of six at a high top in Bar Cañete restaurant in old Barcelona, examining the menu and having a dialog with my stomach.  At the table next door, an American-based crew for Travel Channel is filming a story on fried foods from around the world, including Cañete’s fried lobster and fried eggplant salad.  Our group is toasting the launch of Freixenet Mia, a new line of lightly sweet and easy-drinking table wines. The joint is hopping.


“Stomach,” I ask, as I munch on a piece of that delicious, ubiquitous tomato bread that comes to most Barcelona tables as soon as the water does, “are you in the mood for the grilled artichokes with romesco – a favorite of yours, I know – or shall we try the oxtail stew in red wine with mashed potatoes?”


A moment of silence, then stomach says.  “It’s a chilly day – let’s do the comfort food. Definitely, the stew.”  Meanwhile, my colleagues are dissecting the menu with yelps of “this sounds good, that looks good,” then someone gives that dreaded and often-heard cry whenever a group of people sit down in any restaurant: “Let’s order several dishes for the table!”


But, as Nancy Reagan taught me, I just say no.  “What you guys do is fine with me,” I say, handing the waiter my menu, “but I’m ordering the oxtail stew with mash for myself.”


Looking bewildered, the guy opposite me, who has seen this act a couple of times earlier in the week, asks, “Why don’t you like to share?”


Actually, I tell him, I don’t mind at all sharing what I order. When my ox-tail stew comes, take a forkful.  Want a sip of my wine?  Let me pass the glass. I just don’t want to share what you order. 


Of course, as a traveling wine and food writer, I understand there are times it makes sense for everyone to share the same food.  I’ve had great family-style meals cooked in farmhouses on wine estates, and I realize that lunches on the run often have to be pre-planned.  And if I were reviewing restaurants – which I don’t – I would be asking everyone at the table to help me ravage the menu.


That said, I’ve never been a big fan of smorgasbords, brunches, salad bars or even tapas after the first night in country.  Dim sum? Count me out. 

I’ve come to believe there are two types of eaters: Foodies who want to taste as many things as they can from a menu and those of us who want to put together a two- to four-course meal that flows harmoniously from one dish to another, the way we try to pair the right wine with the right dish.  Neither side is right, but I am probably in the minority.  Either that or other people are afraid it will sound rude to opt out of a group-eat.


I promise one of these days I’m going to walk into a restaurant with a group of foodies, and, just after we’ve been handed the menus, say, “Let’s try something really different tonight. Why doesn’t each of us just order what we really want to eat?”


I may be forced to eat my own words – but how bad could that be?

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