Reporters on the Job

Go Ahead, Fine Me: Staff writer Peter Ford decided to test the new Hong Kong policy of fining people who left food on their plate (see story). He chose to eat at the Lin Kee hot pot restaurant, one that had reportedly adopted the policy.

A busy, steamy eatery, Lin Kee offers an "all you can eat" hot pot buffet. Customers choose the style of broth to boil their ingredients in the bowl of soup placed over a burner in the middle of their table.

"As a man who enjoys his food," says Peter, "I knew that if I ordered only items that I liked, the chances of my leaving anything uneaten were slim. Since the point of this dinner was to leave lots uneaten and see what happened, I decided to opt for the less appealing entries on the menu: Pig chitterling, duck blood, fish skin, and tripe."

"For some reason I had chosen the 'spicy Taiwanese' broth in which to cook my dinner, and nothing coming out of it tasted of anything but mouth-searing chilies. So, with pungent steam from the bowl fogging my spectacles, sweat pouring down the nape of my neck, and my palate numb, I worked my way through a respectable amount of food.

"Eventually. I leaned back in my chair and called for the bill," he says. "It tookseveral trips to clear away the untouched food. But I saw no fine on my bill.

"Unable to make myself sufficiently understood, I asked a man at a neighboring table to enquire of the management why there was no fine for my extravagant greed. Something was lost in the translation. The manager thought I was complaining that I had been fined. The poor man broke into a torrent of explanation, denying it had ever occurred to him to fine me, going through the bill again and again. How could he stay in business if he fined people for over-ordering?"

Peter left, disappointed. The next night he chose a simpler solution, gastronomically, linguistically, and professionally: He went to McDonalds.

– David Clark Scott

World editor

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