A short lesson in English for food ordering:
America is famous for its choice, especially when it comes to food. You can get absolutely anything you want, and if you don’t see it, ask for it.
National chain, Au Bon Pain (it’s good because it has a French name — like you know Bronx-founded Häagen-Dazs is good), has built its business on this ideal. It’s what makes Au Bon Pain great: not the cheapest possible food, nor the best possible food, but reliable and reasonably tasty, healthy, quick and affordable food perfect for when you just need something to fill your stomach and not feel gross afterwards.
Which is the position I found myself in the other day in Chicago. It’s why I went to Au Bon Pain, for a salad for lunch and a sandwich for later, during a long, evening bus trip to St. Louis.
The bean burger sounded like a good choice, except it came with chipotle mayo. I like the spice but not the mayo, so I asked if they could “go light on” it.
Almost immediately, I realized my mistake. Though “to go light on” is completely correct shorthand for “don’t use so much”, it can be misunderstood as a request for light mayo (meaning low fat or low calorie, often achieved with all kinds of additives that are probably worse for you than the food’s natural fat and calories). It’s an easy confusion, especially in the peak of lunch-hour rush.
Better to say, “go easy on”, which means exactly the same thing — just a little bit — but can’t be mixed up with another request.
Later, when I unwrapped the sandwich, sure enough I had gotten what I ordered, but not what I wanted: the normal amount of mayo, but it was probably light.