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Distracted Dining: Who’s on the menu?

In this Distracted Dining, Nancy tells all — about others and where they fit on the menu

Going out for breakie, lunch or brunch. Those are the kinds of activities I like to see in my calendar. That is the best time to people watch — one of my all time favourite activities. I get immersed so much so that my table mates are either glad of the quiet and leave me to my eavesdropping or eloquently draw me back to our own table talk.

It’s fascinating to observe the goings on of others. I can pretty much make up entire life scenarios of strangers while sipping my coffee.

Recently, I was enjoying a morning out, when what to my wonder and delight, a small group of women started gathering at a nearby table. They were so close in the cozy little restaurant, I couldn’t help but be drawn to their table to watch, listen, learn, imagine their lives and fill in the blanks. As I shifted my focus away from my own thoughts, I allowed myself to be wholeheartedly distracted with the goings on beside me. I belonged right in the middle of the action, or so my over-active mind thought.

You gotta take in everything when you people watch — especially while dining.

There are specific things to watch for, including: 

  • arrival times
  • introductory remarks
  • clothing
  • body language
  • table talk
  • lots and lots of table talk.

The scene unfolded like a beautiful four course meal, complete with drinks. As the ladies arrived; sat down and began the ritual of table chit-chat it suddenly occurred to me, these women were each all so fascinatingly unique — like the myriad of menu items before me. Speaking of that, I quickly ordered as my own life was becoming a distraction to my morning.

It was a great morning. So much seemed to be happening in those ladies' lives during breakfast, er, I mean my life was so busy! Reflecting on the surroundings from my perspective, I began to label each attendee at the next table. They were becoming menu items with my own imaginative descriptions of each. Here’s how the menu progressed.page1image20584

First in - The Sandwich Wrap: She was on time, even early; found a good spot for the crew to assemble; ordered coffee and politely communicated with her cell phone while waiting for others to arrive. She seemed to be the organizer of the bunch and reminded me of a sandwich wrap — the usual crowd pleaser on any menu.

It’s a daunting challenge for restaurants to keep menu items interesting, yet approachable. Selections have to include tasty ingredients and be cost-effective. Wraps fulfill this need. Wraps are a type of sandwich that diners often view as a healthier, lighter option. They can be a specialty item and made with on-hand ingredients. Yes — she was definitely The Sandwich Wrap — a real crowd pleaser.

Enter the Clam Chowder - definitely New England: She was well put together, on time and greeted The Sandwich Wrap warmly. Clam sat on the opposite side of the table and brought with her a warm, comforting calm. Like the chowder, she was simply put together in a fabulous way. They chatted amicably and I just knew I’d like Clam. She was the perfect one-on-one conversationalist, leaning forward, quietly fully engaged in the conversation.

Hello! The rest of the gang arrived.

The Extra Everything (EE) and the Ploughman’s Lunch. This gathering just got serious! I actually heard Extra Everything before I saw her.
Guffawing, loudly talking and entering with a fanfare only she could pull off. Wait a second, I think I could pull it off too . . . as a matter of fact, I think I do, which at this moment did not make me proud. She was unfashionably late and made no apologies for it. Ploughman seemed to go with the flow.

Within 30 seconds, I gleaned from EE this was a gathering of moms who had just dropped their children off at a private school down the road. They were busy, they had things to discuss, people to gossip about and they needed coffee. When you’re an EE, you just can’t get enough of a good thing. This was turning out to be a most intriguing gathering — their table at least.

The Ploughman’s Lunch — ah yes — the excellent combination of all things good. This offering was initially used as a way to get people to eat meals in pubs. It’s flexible and includes the basic items of cheese, pickles and bread. It can be augmented with apple, boiled eggs, ham and pickled onions. It’s served cold and can be delivered in a matter of minutes. Flexible, affordable and efficient. Yes she was. The Ploughman spiritedly made her greetings and everyone was seated, ready to order.

Since Sandwich Wrap and Clam arrived early and the breakfast special was a great deal, they knew what they were ordering. Obviously Clam knew exactly what she was having, but might have difficulty being heard through the rest of the menu maids. EE ordered as if it was the most exciting experience of her day, oblivious to anything but dominating the moment. Not sure what Ploughman did, but I’m sure she ordered.

What a menu! It was varied; unique; intriguing and most satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed their meal.

Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at​​. Her column appears every other week.