Monday, November 23, 2009

Something Fishy 23/05/09

Friends who had the paella last night said it was too salty, that there were actually big agglomerations and clumps of it and the fish was too boney to eat in one piece. So I told the cuoco and he said he didn’t put any salt in it, and I said maybe the fish are very salty and he said they were not, and he kept insisting he didn’t put salt in and the aiuto cuoco like a Greek chorus repeated ‘no, he doesn’t put any salt in the paella’. Like a pantomime the two of them. So I wandered off mystified and perturbed at their compete negation of responsibility, quite a habit here as it turns out. But then it came to me: il brodo -the fish stock – he was supposed to make his own as he had said, but I had noticed a large tin of Star stock on the counter which I didn’t like the look of, the stocks here are very salty and often have too much monosodium glutemate in them.

So I went back and said, ‘I bet it was the brodo, you bought that already made stuff didn’t you?’ And the light went on in his eyes of recognition that he couldn’t get out of that one … so he said he had added the brodo to save him having to make it every time from scratch or something, but I I said make your own in future. We have to check every single thing that goes out of the kitchen.
Il cameriere shows up exhausted because he comes straight from work on a Friday. So I told him to take it easy and this had the wonderful opposite effect and he actually seemed to keep himself very busy. He seemed chuffed at my concern of course. I knew he had gone on somewhere else the night before after work when we closed at 2am so it was his own fault. Keeping his two girlfriends happy no doubt … the aiuto cuoco came to me all worried and self-righteous like a child, because the cameriere had been annoyed with him for not disposing of the kitchen rubbish the night before, but as the aiuto cuoco said the bar was jam-apcked and they couldn’t have got past with it at 1am when they were leaving. Sure I said, no point in that. Don’t worry. So that’s the cameriere’s little play with power. He is the waiter who does all for me (or pretends to anyway), but for the kitchen staff he is sharp and condescending!

Quite often when a large party comes in a sits down he’ll say, ‘me lo vedo io quel tavolo li’ , ie. I’ll take the order at that table, and I thought nothing of it, but then mi marito says, he just says that to make out he is bringing loads of people to Pachamama, but he doesn’t really know them. How funny. All these petty politics in operation.

It is interesting how the staff respond to me. The barman has difficulty if I ask him to do something. Like the day we opened he was behind the bar and said, ’Vediamo se possiamo pulire un po’ l’acqua qua’. Water at his feet. He wanted me to mop up!!! I looked him in the eye and said very firmly, ‘I’ll get you the mop.’ But he immediately realised his mistake and called upon someone else. What was that about? I’ll have none of your old-fashioned Sicilian ideas that women are there to clean up. You’re the barman. Clean it yourself. Yesterday I noticed lots of fingerprints on the counter (made of glass) around the till and told mi marito (since he was at the till and serving beers) to clean it and then said to il barman diplomatically (as I thought), ‘Look I have just told mi marito so I will tell you too, to keep the glass clean because the fingerprints show up and it looks dirty,’ and he made this whole song and dance about how if he is busy he won’t be able to but he can check it maybe if it isn’t busy but that the waiters should look after it. I said that the waiters have to clean all the other tables and the bar is his area and he still protested and I said, ‘Look, all the barmen in the world keep their bar area clean’.
But the next day he cleaned it without me having to say anything. I need to pay the men, then they will realize who is boss. They accept the authority from mi marito but not so much from me, because I am foreign? Female? Both?

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