Eating out in Jamaica can be a funny experience. My friend and I booked in advance, arrived early, and still waited forever. But at least the service was friendly and the food delicious. I guess it’s all about having the right attitude. As I collected my Jamaican bezzie for a bank holiday lunch outing, I commented that in true Jamaican style her timing was slightly off. 5pm isn’t technically lunch, I tell her. Yeah man, don’t worry, she grins, I called already and reserved a table. She then proceeds to call the restaurant and have me shout my food order to a server who promises to have our meal ready in 20 minutes. It helps having contacts, she winks.
When we arrive some 20 minutes later, Glorias is heaving with hundreds of people. It’s Ash Wednesday and Jamaicans love a bit of fish to kick start some Christian fasting. We’re grinning as we approach the only available table. Good job you know people, I say as we casually stroll to our prized seats. As we sit down a server comes over and tells us we need to rejoin the line outside as the table is reserved. After a brief argument, in which my friend name drops the guy she’d initially called (on reflection the least popular server), we’re ushered to a food stained table just next to the toilets. For two long hours, (it turns out our server also forgot our food order) we wait along with the other hundred people in the restaurant.
Every time a plate of food is brought up from the restaurant below, fellow diners eyeball each other in what quickly becomes the food lottery of Ash Wednesday dining. Yet the waiters’ cry of’yuh fud soon come’ seems to pacify most diners. People stare enviously and whisper as each plate makes its way to a lucky table. It’s like teetering on the edge of a giant fish abyss, I tell my friend. But she isn’t listening, she’s gone into some weird Jamaican happy place.
As I look around I notice more blank stares and for the first time ever I’m amazed that the room is essentially filled with quiet Jamaicans, waiting patiently for their meals. It’s a good job you called ahead, I tell my bezzie as our fish stew finally makes it to the table. Only two and a half hours after we arrived, we’d be sleeping here otherwise. We virtually inhale our food; this is the latest “lunch” I’ve ever had. Still, it was a delicious meal.
As we’re paying the cheque, we notice several of the Chinese tourists that we passed on the way in; they look like they’re asleep. Then our server-extraordinaire appears with cutlery for them. Their little faces light up only to be dashed when he tells them, yuh fud soon come.