Sunday, May 31, 2009

Can Someone Please Define "Meatball" For Me?

I am not a picky eater. And I rarely complain about food in a restaurant. My philosophy is pretty much one of endorsement - if I like the place, I'll be back; if I don't, I won't.

When I do have a complaint, I am always very polite, don't ask to have a new meal brought to me, I don't expect to have anything taken off the tab or to get a free dessert out of it. I just tell them because, gee, I'd think they'd want to know there might be a problem. They might want to hear complaints as part of quality control.

My hubby and I went to lunch yesterday with a friend of mine and her family. They selected a chain restaurant that offers Italian food. Not fantastic Italian food, but it's cheap and plentiful.

My friend and I ended up ordering the same dish. The menu roughly described it as spaghetti with chicken, sausage, meatballs and mushrooms in a spicy red sauce. Okay, yeah, not part of my healthy eating plan, but it sounded good.

Food was served. After one or two bites, I looked over at my friend's plate and asked her whether she had any meatballs in her food. Mine didn't. There were a couple strips of chicken, several pieces of sausage sliced into coins, and sliced mushrooms. But no meatballs. She forked through her plate and noted that in fact, she did not see a meatball either.

Our chipper young waitress appeared and asked if everything tasted okay.

Me: Yes, it tastes fine, it's just that neither of us seem to have any meatballs in our sauce, as is described on the menu.

Waitress: Oh, we'll it's ground beef, the meat is in there, but it's a meat sauce, there aren't separate meatballs.

Me: Well, your menu is misleading. It says meatballs.

Waitress: Would you like me to bring you a side of meatballs?

Me: No.

Did she really think I wanted to pay for a side of something that the menu assured me I would already receive?

Shortly thereafter, a young whippersnapper in a shirt and tie came up to the table and introduced himself as an assistant manager (AM). He asked how everything was.

Me: Oh it's fine. It tastes very good.

AM: Was there a problem?

Me: It's just that the menu description says this dish includes meatballs (my friend at this point gratuitously reads the menu description out loud). There don't appear to be any meatballs.

AM: The meatballs are in there, they are not whole meatballs -

Me: So there is ground up meat in the sauce, but -

AM: No. It is not ground up meat -

Me: Oh, well your waitress said it was ground meat.

AM: No, they are meatballs. They are not whole meatballs, but they are in there.

Me: [ Grinning a bit sarcastically at this point] Come on. When you or I say the word "meatball" what image do you think of? You think that you are going to get a whole meatball. Not something ground up in the sauce. That's called "meat sauce." I mean, it's fine, the food is fine, it's just a bit misleading to have the menu say "meatballs" and then not include even one meatball. But really, it's fine.

He smiled as best he could. He mumbled something about making sure he let "them" know so that the menu something something something. Yeah, right. I'm thinking they are not going to re-send 200 menus for reprinting.

Whatever. I really didn't care. I didn't need a meatball and it really was tasty as it was. I just take issue with what I would call false advertising. Any normal person would read "meatball" and think they were going to get a solid ball of meat. The size and number might be in question, but not the actual presence of said ball of meat. In law we call it the "reasonable person standard" - meaning what would a person of reasonable intelligence and experience understand and expect.

Just as a an aside, there was no ground up meat in the sauce. Not one nobule of beef in that sauce to be found. Anywhere.

I told my friend that the next time we go there, we should order the same dish, but when ordering, one of us should say, "Oh, no meatballs please" and see what happens. Will they agree to "hold" the meatballs? Will the two dishes be the same anyway? Will one of us actually get a meatball? Or will they in fact redact the word meatball from the menu description?

My husband thinks it's time for me to go back to work.


IVF 40+ said...

oh it's catching. I asked a waitress what the difference between the hot salmon sandwich and the smoked was - on a diet so wanted overall ingredient info.
"one is hot and one is not"
gee really.
meatballs people!!!

Lorraine said...

I never thought "meatball" was some kind of idiomatic expression...

I guess if we can all still remember the "twinkie defense" the idea of a "meatball suit" may not be so crazy after all?

Sandra D. said...

That's too funny - I definitely think you should order like that next time! Or ask for them on the side - that might really throw them into a tizzy!

I also wanted to let you know that I've re-nominated you for a Sisterhood Award in my list. I always look forward to reading your blog and your comments. You're such an encouraging and supportive person, and I'm so glad that we've met :-)

cindyhoo2 said...


A small ball of ground meat variously seasoned and cooked.

Slang: A stupid, clumsy, or dull person.

I don't think you found one in your meal but you definitely DID encounter a meatball!

LOL- I love that you actually had to debate with the guy. Why didn't he just apologize and be done with it?

Anonymous said...

Hahaha! That story made my day - too funny. Poor guy trying to defend his meatless meatball sauce.

stillhopeful said...

That's so funny! And your husband's comment cracks me up, that's exactly what mine would say!

Anonymous said...

OMG! Ridiculous! I have no idea what I would have done in that situation, but they were all clearly smoking crack!!