Diaries Magazine

India Indian Food

By Blairbarnes

I work at an Indian restaurant that my family owns, in a small town
where not a lot of people are familiar with Indian food. We are only
about 15 minutes away from a bigger city though so we usually get
polar opposites of people: know nothing or think they know

I have to make clear first though that I am very clearly Indian and
was born in India but raised here in the States. These are the types
of questions I get from both types of customers that make me want to
smack them.

Know Nothing – Mostly Local Small Towner’s

1. Them: What kind of Indian food is this? Me: North Indian
sir/ma’am. Them: No, I mean from what tribe this food comes from.
Me: (Trying not to start cracking up) Sir we do not serve Native
American food. Our food is from India, the country. (I have to point
out that anyone either seeing the sign or walking into the restaurant
can tell that we serve India Indian food).

2. (Customers walk in looking slightly uncomfortable and quickly
glancing around and muttering among themselves) Our hostess (who is
Caucasian) seats them & get them water & tells them their waitress
“Preeti” will be right with them and glances at me. They look at me &
I can see the wheels turning. I walk up to them and smile & start to
open my mouth before I am interrupted by the leader of “pack”. Them:
Can we please have a waiter who speaks good English? Me: (Now remember
up to this point I have not uttered a word) Smile while I try not to
punch them and say, “Hi, how are you’ll doing tonight? Can I get you
started with any drinks?” Then turning to the leader I smile and say,
“I speak and understand English perfectly sir and am sorry you
telepathically heard me or the hostess say that I don’t.” (This
usually ends with the “leader” looking at me in confusion and his/her
companions looking embarrassed)

3. We serve all our entrees Mild, Medium or Hot & we ask you right as
you order. 99% of the time I get a “what? What do you mean?” Then I
explain to them about Indian food and the next thing out of their
mouths is either “I want it with no spice (& I have to explain to them
that Indian food can’t be made with no spice since the spiciness comes
from the spices they add in the food) or they said “I want it extra
hot because I love hot food (I try & warn them Indian food is a
different hot and that most people can’t handle it. They laugh at me
for saying this and tell me they can handle it). After I bring out
their orders a lot of the time the people who ordered it extra hot are
crying and sometimes try to send it back because its “too hot” which
doesn’t work since I warned them & they ordered it extra hot. The
others will either love the food or say that it is not spicy at all
and I go through the same explanation.

Think they know a lot – usually big city

1. They usually walk in looking super confident and are generally
really nice & polite. I seat them and get them their menu, waters and
paapad (our complimentary dish). Now if they are confident enough they
will try to correct me when I say “paapad” and will say “Actually miss
you’re wrong. That’s not paapad, that’s paapadum”. At this point, I
smile sweetly at them & say, “I am aware of that sir but we serve
North Indian cuisine where it’s made slightly differently and called
“paapad”. This does not really bother me since it is not a big deal
and is just usually entertaining.

2. Then there are those who will try to correct my pronunciation of
Indian dishes. This is the point where depending on if they’ve been a
good table or bad, I either ignore it or tell them “randomly” about my
childhood in India”

This rant might seem like all our customers are idiots and they are
not. Most of our customers are nice, smart and sane people who either
love Indian food or are being outgoing and trying something new. I
love it when we get new customers or a regular and give them the same
nice, polite, charming service. In addition, I happily answer any
questions people have about the food because that is my job. I just do
not like people who walk into a place with attitude or a preconceived

- Annoyed

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