Rite of Passage Ten –The Ocean’s Beckon–
1957 to 1958 -I am twenty three to twenty seven years old
Q: Confrontations: Were you ever forced (by circumstances) to confront someone else when the outcome appeared to be questionable…even dangerous?
I was a very young general manager of a four star hotel taking care of a senior member of the British aristocracy.
It was the Royal Ascot race week and we were overwhelmed!
His Grace the Duke of Norfolk wanted a Sole Veronique, which is made quite simply with poached fillets of Dover Sole, a light yet creamy white wine sauce garnished with peeled black grapes.
Simple, providing that it had been on the menu! Imagine peeling black grapes…in a hurry!
The chef, a huge overemotional Frenchman was not amused or impressed with the Duke, or any Englishman for that matter!
“Non…tell ‘im we ‘ave not zee provisions!” He shouted over the kitchen din.
The Duke replied that we had black grapes in the fruit bowl and Dover Sole on the menu, “I’m in no hurry. I’ll wait.”
I took the grapes to the chef and ordered him to make the dish.
The chef clapped his beefy hands around the grapes, squeezed hard, and repeated, “we ‘ave not zee provisions!”
This, is a classic confrontation, one in which the opposition has considerable logic on their side…not to mention his 6 foot 4 inch 290lb physical ‘edge’!
Using as even a tone as I could manage I repeated my order…feeling that I too had reasonable logic on my side. The chef spun me around and hurled me into the dining room through the convenient flapping two-way doors!
So…what about now?
I remain unsure who won the confrontation. I fired the chef (on the phone) he was already leaving. I made the dish for the now somewhat inebriated Duke…and tried to put it behind me.
However…it still remains!
Since those early days I have had many confrontations where, when I lost, there were pretty serious consequences.
I have learned that one thing must always be avoided, at all costs, becoming angry whilst insisting on having one’s own way.
My second option? is to try hard to see my opponent’s point of view and to imagine him or her ‘crying out for justice’. They want me to understand their position…even if I don’t agree; they still need to know that I really did choose to listen.
Very recently (during our present political ‘hostilities’) I have seen just how much a kinder and more respectful exchange may have helped candidates and even more so…the nation and the watching world.
Now that may not be what we are wanting to see and we may even feel that a world like ours needs people with supreme self-confidence who refuse to back down. But do they have to be angry?
As for me –I’m done with insisting and the moment I feel anger rising I remember peeling those black grapes with trembling fingers. Surely there could have been another way?
This is where my recipe for fillets of sole made with black truffles, instead of peeled grapes, would have come in handy. Had I only thought, at the time, to offer this to His Grace the Duke, I might have won the day and kept both my illustrious guest and my impetuous chef…?
P.S This week I read Treena’s poem Capriciousness