I should never eat alone

Breakfast, take one: a croissant, another pastry, a copy of The Straits Times and brewed coffee. All gone when I got back.

One of the things I like about my two trips to Singapore so far is the breakfast buffet.

It is a stark difference, after all, to breakfast during my trip to Hong Kong. The "inclusive breakfast" with the hotel reservation apparently meant loads of gift certificates to McDonald's. It's exciting at first, since their Big Breakfast includes muffins (before it became an option in the Philippines) and you can also buy a cup of corn alongside. Four mornings of McDonald's isn't really what you call a culinary adventure, after all.

Then again, Singaporean breakfast buffets isn't exactly a culinary adventure, either. There are items that my first trip last year and the trip I'm currently doing right now have in common: hash browns, fried noodles, fruit platters, soya milk, a chef who does all the omelettes. But it's a good chance to try out the things that I don't really find back home. I fell in love with muesli last year. Yesterday, I realized that poached eggs are pretty greasy. And feta cheese makes me feel slightly luxurious even if it's a bit too salty for my tastes.

I didn't want to stuff myself during breakfast, especially since I'm alone for parts of the trip, and I figured I'll give myself a chance to try out as much Singaporean cuisine as possible. (That is the point, right?) So, yesterday, before I picked up a plate, I scanned the buffets and made a mental note of what's on offer. The pastries on Thursday, the omelette on Friday, the muesli on Saturday. That kind of thing.

So you can imagine my frustration when I got down to breakfast today and realized I won't enjoy it that much.

No, it's not the chefs' fault. It can't be mine either, since I always find something enjoyable about my food, unless it's absolutely repulsive. I can blame it on eating alone, and the over-efficiency of the staff at the Sheraton Towers.

I'm travelling with my dad, who's here on a business trip. My mom was supposed to go with him, but it ended up being me on the plane Wednesday morning. Today, he was out early for a long series of meetings, and to boot, I overslept, so I woke up before eight alone in the hotel room. He told me anyway that I'll be eating breakfast alone today, and I was a bit worried that if he gets breakfast before me, I wouldn't be able to eat, even if there are two meals per morning with our room. I didn't need to worry, though: I got myself a seat, asked for coffee, and began eating a croissant before heading to the serious stuff.

I left for the omelette and grabbed myself some fried noodles for a change. I returned and realized my half-empty coffee and my copy of The Straits Times disappeared from my table. Apparently the staff went in and cleaned my table while I was out having an omelette done. These guys are so quick. Yesterday I saw one grab an empty plate from a patron just as the poor guy is putting the last bite of whatever it is he was eating in his mouth. So much for being alert. No need to worry: I went back to the table and grabbed myself a glass of apple juice, another one of those things that I started to appreciate upon landing here, apart from grilled tomatoes and chilis on everything. And that newspaper was a hotel copy: the one they delivered to my room was, well, in my room.

Minutes later, I left to refill my glass, this time with water. I got back and saw one of the staff cleaning up my table - and the odd part is, I'm not yet done with my food! I think I had half a sausage and some noodles left on my plate. "I'm not yet done!" I told the girl, and she apologized, realizing I'm not yet done. She left taking my omelette, which was far from consumed. So much for scheduling.

Frustrated, I got back to the buffet table, grabbing some bacon and a couple more sausages. I returned to see my glass of water, barely consumed, gone from the table - as well as my cutlery, my placemat, and the salt and pepper shakers. I got another apology from the staff, and I took the unused plate from the other side of the table - it was for two, after all. I think the Indian guys beside me were amused at my predicament. I left my camera at the table, thinking it'll tell the staff that someone's still eating.

I got back to the buffet table to grab some dim sum, and I returned to see my utensils gone again. My new glass of water was gone, too. I left to get yet another glass, and returned, and I was relieved they didn't pick up the plate, too. Then again, it was still a full plate. Well, more of a nobody-has-touched-it-yet plate. And my camera wasn't gone, either. I just finished my breakfast, went back up my room to plan my walk across Orchard after lunch, and got down to write this blog.

Is it because they think I'm done eating? Maybe, but my plate isn't done yet. Then again, many others leave their plates half-empty when they're full, and nothing of this sort happens. Then again, I'm in a rich country, one that has a bit more of a margin when it comes to unfinished stuff. Then again, the price of mutton is rising, and you can't just throw mutton sausages away. Whatever.

I coughed on my way back up. The dim sum got its revenge. And probably the staff, too, because I found the whole scenario amusing enough to warrant a blog entry. Nobody will get the message, though.

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