Knowing what your cup of tea is

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Out on the town with one of my siblings many years ago, I asked a passerby about a nice place to sit down and have a cup of tea. The person kindly gave us directions to a Russian Tea House (which sadly, no longer exists). Through that chance encounter, I discovered an eaterie that always made it worthwhile to meet friends and relatives out and about for a bite.

I remember ordering blinis with smoked salmon and caviar, which was followed by a dessert of apple charlotte and ice cream, all washed down with a pot of Earl Grey tea. We didn’t even plan to have a proper meal on that occasion, but we succumbed to temptation and never looked back.

Not everyone has the instincts for making satisfying choices in cafes and restaurants. On another occasion, I was out with both of my siblings and we entered a well known patisserie, where we decided to have brunch. One of us was very fussy about choosing a meal, only to be disappointed by the food that arrived, which was exactly what was described in the menu.

On a seaside trip, a friend scoured through the menu in the cosy cafe that we both chose. He decided to go for a meal with an exotic sounding name that probably evoked ideas of haute cuisine in his mind. When the food arrived, he was not happy with the glorified chicken nuggets he asked for and he peered enviously at my generous slice of shepherd’s pie – it was cold and damp outside.

How can one describe the impulse that makes a person know that a meal is appropriate when looking through a menu? Back in the Russian Tea House, a friend persuaded me to step out of my comfort zone to order something less enticing. I took a chance on something different, but it just wasn’t right for me. Some things probably can’t be taught or copied from others.