blogitto ergo sum

October 6, 2011

#196 – the lemon test

Filed under: Eat, Drink, Enjoy,life matters,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 22:55
Tags: , , ,

I don’t remember when it started.  I do know it became “the lemon test” after FourSquare entered my phone, and check-ins entered FaceBook.


I love water.  It’s the best drink there is.  Period.

Never got into carbonated drinks; can’t find anything soft in them.  Coffee is a whole different story, but we are in cold, refreshing land tonight.

There’s nothing in the world that tastes as great as a glass of cold fresh water, sans ice.  But not all water is born taste-equal.  There’s the kind with a metal aftertaste, there’s the kind with an overdose of chlorine, some plastic aftertaste.  There’s the kind that just tastes awful, so awful as a matter of fact, that it takes acid to wash it off; real lemony acid.   This is how it all started.

I love lemons too.

When there’s no coffee around, and no tea is to be found I’d be happy with hot water w/lemon.

Lemon is predictable [OK the Meyer lemons are amazingly sweet].   Sour is what you get, and I’m ok with that.

Then of course there’s the unavoidable “but why three” question.

Think about it: when ordering water, there are multiple variables one has to take into account.  For example:

which glass is it?

  • Glass size
  • Lemon slice size
  • Taste of water

One slice is never enough.  Two may be just right, but not if the glass is on the large side, nor if the slices are on the thin side.  Three, unless it’s the tiny decorative slices should always work.

Hearing problems of the waiting crowd

I used to say that 80% of waiters can’t count.  Obviously, when asked for three, about 80% of them fail to deliver three.  It got better, or maybe I learned to request better.

Recently, over lunch @ Oran’s Hummus Shop we discussed it, again.  We even engaged Lior, our great waiter, asking for his view of the matter.

There are many reasons why a waiter may fail to deliver lemons.

My assumption always was that it’s about the “auto pilot listening.”  Waiter listens to key words, totally dismisses everything else, assuming he KNOWS what you gonna ask for.  Wrong.

Well, it’s not that simple.  Stress level, how busy the restaurant is factor in.  It also matters where the lemons are coming from.  Getting three lemon slices from the bar is easier than getting them from the kitchen, where it’s received as a more removed request.  The bar however, tends to have thinner slices.

And there’s the personal preference component.  If the waiter thinks two slices to be just right, that’s what I’ll get.  Until I ask again.

So if it’s a test, Martin persists, what it is really testing.  It’s a reflection of the quality of service of the restaurant I argue.  Not the quality of the food, not how clean it is, but how accommodating it is. Is it’s acceptable to ask for the sauce on the side, to eliminate the onion of the salad, and to substitute the rice with steamed vegetables, it’s OK to ask for three slices of lemon.

You could say that it tests the attentiveness level of the waiter/waitress, but that doesn’t factor in how accommodating is the staff that needs to slice the lemon and hand it to the waiter… or if asked for “three”, how it is processed, which brings me back to the notion that it’s about the quality of service the restaurant is able to deliver.

No one can say that lemon slices are an extreme use case.  Now get me those slices please.








  1. Ah – the mystery explained at last…and I just always assumed you were a fussy patron! Thank God you left the coffee discussion for another day 😉

    Comment by David — October 7, 2011 @ 05:40 | Reply

  2. I was going to tell you about the number “4” and the connotations if you ask for “4” slices of lemons in your glass of water in Asian restaurants. In many Asian languages (such as Chinese), the number “4” is a homonym as the word for “death” or “die”. As you probably know, even though the words for “4” and “death” are totally different written characters, they sound exactly the same when you say them. So, the number “4” is considered wholesale to be bad luck in Asian culture.

    If you had used 4 slices of lemon in the lemon test instead of 3 (which I think you may have done in the past), you may see an anomaly in your experimental results that would have nothing to do with the act of delivering what was asked for, but instead would expose a cultural difference influenced by superstition in Asian restaurants. For example, if you ask for “4” lemon slices in a Chinese restaurant, a Chinese waiter or waitress might give you “3” lemon slices or “5” lemon slices instead, but never exactly the “4” slices which you had originally asked for and which they had heard you say. That would be like giving you a glass of water and telling you (metaphorically) at the same time to “DIE!”. Or, that they are giving you your glass of water and by the way, they are also giving you “DEATH” in your glass too. Not very nice to do to a patron and not a good way to try to earn a tip. 🙂

    Comment by Hinkmond — October 7, 2011 @ 14:56 | Reply

    • Hinkmod: am well aware of the 4 sensitivity. the Western aversion to 13 is nothing compared to it. on the other hand, i wonder what would happen if i asked for 8 🙂
      BTW, the word die in Hebrew, i mean the SOUND “die” in Hebrew means “enough.”

      Comment by yael [ya-el] wagner — October 7, 2011 @ 18:44 | Reply

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