This is a fun experience I had last year, and it still remains pretty vivid in my mind. Just a small incident, really, but it was such fun! I’ll share it.
It happened during a long-awaited "just-for-me" holiday in London. I landed at Heathrow Airport and was swept away to the InterContinental London Hotel, which is prominently located on Hyde Park Corner. My lovely room looked as beautiful as it had in the brochures that had prompted my decision.
I knew that this hotel is home to the renowned Le Soufflé Restaurant, and I meant to go there and give my taste-buds a dining treat the following evening. But I was all alone. Would there be other single diners in the dining room? I hoped so. Right at that moment, however, I was zonked with jet lag. I fell into bed. Tomorrow would be time enough to worry about that particular problem.
Next morning, rested and refreshed, I went down to breakfast, happily anticipating the pleasure of pouring thick English cream on a bowl of oatmeal (porridge in England). English cream! There is nothing in the world like it. Absolutely nothing.
While most customers in the dining room seemed to be ordering the full English breakfast – which, believe me is absolutely guaranteed to fill you up – I wanted a rather quick repast, so I decided to take a seat at the breakfast bar.
The steaming hot oatmeal-porridge came. The pitcher of cream was right at my fingertips; I poured it on lavishly and looked around for the brown sugar. One seat away a tall, good-looking man was devouring his full English breakfast.
"Excuse me," I said, pitching my voice a few octaves above a refined whisper. "Would you kindly pass me the brown sugar?"
"Certainly," he replied, pushing the container with individual packets toward me. I chose three, ripped them open, decorated my porridge, and pushed the container back to him.
I then proceeded to climb the pathway to heaven as I skimmed cream, brown sugar, and a wee bit of porridge into my mouth. When the top layer of cream and sugar were consumed I started all over again. "May I have some more brown sugar?" I requested politely. Again the container slid to my plate, and three packets later I sent it back. I skimmed cream, sugar, and a smitch of porridge, then, a minute later, it was time for more. As I started to request the sugar for the third time, my "friend" in the sugar business looked up, and our eyes locked.
Without saying a single word he got up and "scooted" (yes, scooted) to my side holding the container with the prized packets. Slowly and deliberately he opened packet one, packet two, packet three. Then, with a flourish, he adorned my cereal with the contents. Task completed he scooted back to his plate again taking, I might add, the sugar container with him. (I would have thought a proper Englishman would have left it near my porridge).
I’m rather hard to embarrass, but he managed to do it. I ate the rest of my breakfast with downcast eyes and a shy demeanor, paid my bill and left. So much for him.
That night I had a single ticket to see Evita, so I dressed in my best and took a Daimler taxi to the theater in style. Like the English, I would dine after the performance.
I enjoyed the stage play to the fullest. By then I was too ravenous to be bothered about dining solo. I returned to the InterContinental and entered the Le Soufflé Restaurant where my reserved table waited.
The waiter handed me the wine list with an elaborate bow. I pretended to scan it very thoughtfully as if I was accustomed to selecting a favorite wine from a properly chilled wine cellar instead of from the shelf at my local supermarket. I settled on a vintage wine that my waiter described as "full bodied, rich and fruity," then sat back to bask in the ambiance of this beautiful gourmet restaurant.
A few minutes later I spotted the wine steward carrying a silver tray and heading straight for me. Curiously, there was no bottle on the tray. Instead there was a silver bowl. Surely they wouldn’t bring me peanuts first, or would they?
He stopped by my side, and with a ceremonious dip at the waist presented me with a bowl of, guess what?
You are absolutely right . . . brown sugar.
Surprised, really surprised, I looked up to see, four tables away, my breakfast "partner," – my brown sugar man – raising his wineglass to me and inclining his head in a playful salute.
Of course I burst out laughing. And of course he came over to my table. And of course we had dinner together. He turned out to be an advertising man from Holland, in London on assignment to film a Coca-Cola commercial. He was as pleased to find a "travel buddy" as I was.
We talked up a storm, ate everything in sight, and drank my entire bottle of vintage wine (as well as his). I will admit I felt a little bit wicked, but oh, what a nice kind of wicked.
Without the company of this stranger my evening had ranked about six on a scale of ten – pleasant, but . . . Now, thanks to my sweet tooth, it ricocheted right off the chart.
Brown sugar, I find, is even sweeter than I thought.