Saturday, September 22, 2012

On biscotti and being right

Today I visited for the first time a new coffee shop that's popped up in my neighbourhood.

It's not like we were lacking coffee shops as it was. There are probably at least ten or fifteen in a 1km radius from my house, and that's not even counting any of the places that are more restaurants or cafés than coffee shops.

But, evidently, we needed one more.

Granted, this one is different from many of the others. A few selected chains have a definite majority of the market here, while this is an indie shop. Also, while many other coffee shops focus on offering plenty of seats for their customers, this one goes the other way around. They offer no one.

It's a take-away joint, exclusively.

As I'm sure a significant portion of the market is take-away I suppose this makes no huge difference for the income for this little shop - they would at any rate not be able to serve many sit-in customers in such a tiny venue.

Still, this poses a new challenge for us as customers. I'm used to now, from years of being a coffee drinker, to always specify whether I want my coffee to-go or not. In this case, though, such details are redundant, as the barista kindly informed me.

I say "kindly" because that's what it was, or at least, that was the intention. Clearly, the barista used this extra information I provided automatically (and I'm sure I'm not the first to do so) as an ice-breaker of sorts, a way of chatting friendlily (which really ought to be a word. "Friendlily" is vastly different from "friendly", just saying...) with the customers.

Well, we chatted. Friendlily. I put up a calm face, and I'm certain that the barista thought I was being sincere. All the while standing there, however, I felt a burning desire to quarrel. It wasn't so much that I'd been caught stating the obvious as it was a reaction to low blood sugar and a result of a certain irrationality I've always carried with me. I'm not proud of it. But there you go.

Anyway, what she told me, this barista, was that the reason there was no need to specify whether one wanted to go or not (or rather, paper or porcelain) was that for coffee shops here in Oslo there is a rule, apparently, that you cannot serve in stoneware if you don't have a customer bathroom (!).

We collectively shook our heads at these silly rules, and she even had me there for a moment, forgetting that I was irrational and quarrelsome, and instead making jokes about how the authorities seems to overstate the correlation between people's need to pee when drinking from mugs instead of paper cups.

At this point we had reached the pay-part of the transaction, and I pulled out my wallet. Just before she put the (paper) cup on the desk in front of me, however, I decided that I also wanted something to go with my coffee.

"I'll take one of those as well," I said, pointing at a big jar of biscotti which was conveniently placed next to the register.

"Oh," she said, "now you've done it."

Turns out there was a consensus among customers and employees alike that these were the world's tastiest biscotti, and that it was virtually impossible to have just one. Not being one to back out of a challenge, however, I remained fixed on the idea of buying one - 1 - biscotti. Thus I did, and then I left.

I'd only walked about a block when I realized that there is a coffee shop not 200 metres from the one I visited today which doesn't have a customer bathroom either. It does, however, serve its coffee in porcelain mugs if you ask for it. Slightly annoyed that I hadn't thought of this earlier, I considered briefly turning around and letting the barista know that she was wrong/I was right/she couldn't get away with such lies. However, the need to actually taste my coffee (I've always found that the problem with take-away coffee is that it is quite difficult to drink and walk at the same time, and it thus often turns into "take-somewhere-else-and-then-drink" coffee for me) prevailed. I returned home instead.

There I tasted the world's tastiest biscotti.

Turns out they weren't lying about this in the coffee shop. It really is the yummiest biscotti I've ever had, and I seriously doubt it's possible that anyone else, anywhere else in time or space has had any yummier.

Now I have two reasons to return to the coffee shop. First, the biscotti. Clearly, it is (near?) impossible to eat just one. I've been craving another for the two hours that's passed since I had the first. Secondly, I still have an urge to go back and tell the barista that there is another coffee shop in the vicinity that doesn't have a customer bathroom but does have mugs.

My problem is this: the two reasons to go back go poorly together. I worry that I might be denied the right to buy another biscotti if I am rude and explains how she was wrong. But if I go back to only buy the biscotti, and not make the remark about the other coffee shop, I fear that I will explode. So far, the only solution I can think of is denying myself both these pleasures - biscotti and being a bossy know-it-all - since I cannot have them together. I can only hope that with time the desire for either one will fade and I can return to other considerations in life.

Also, I need to find a proper translation for the Norwegian word "kverulant".


ViolaNut said...

My dictionary doesn't have that word. :-P I'm gonna play cognates and guess "quarrelsome"?

Jenny said...

Have you considered stepping inside the shop that does have the stoneware mugs yet no restroom and asking them if they were aware that they were breaking the rules? Then you could investigate that conundrum a little further whilst not endangering your being allowed more biscotti. :)

sue said...

It would be unfortunate indeed to alert the earlier coffee shop to their rule breaking status and have them henceforward be only allowed to serve coffee in cardboard. Allow them to break these foolish roules (I think we have them here as well) in peace, oblivious to the angst they've created.

And next visit, purchase many biscotti, secrete them about your person, and indulge your senses sneakily in another shop which allows leisurely table service. Just beware the tell-tale crumbs of an illicit biscotti appreciation session!

Cold As Heaven said...

No need for Starbucks. There are better options, such as Dromedar >:)

Cold As Heaven

Powdered Toast Man said...

My grandmother buys assorted chocolate biscotti at a bulk store and I end up eating half the giant container when I visit. I have never had bad biscotti come to think of it.

Next time you go in you should just pee in an empty paper coffee cup and leave it on the counter, that will show her

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