For whatever reason, it is assumed that anyone working in the restaurant industry must be incapable of a real job. For those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t do or teach, tend bar and serve. The irony is that in the restaurant that I work in, everyone at least has a B.A. if not a Master’s- and if not, are working towards one.
Now, the people who type the restaurant menus are (typically) the general managers of a restaurant, and we have all fallen victim tot he power of spell check. Funny things have graced the pages such as “stripped sea bass,” “fingering potatoes,” “bong-in rib eye” and my personal favorite- “honey-glazed dick.” Despite these grammar mishaps, culinary lingo is one that requires much study. A little thing called the Cordon Bleu (for instance) is one that drills the gourmand’s jargon in to every aspiring chef dome. Julienne the carrots, dice the onion, chiffonier the brussel sprouts and macerate the strawberries.
In this episode of my misanthropic anecdotes of a bartender, a convention happened to be in town thus inundating the restaurant with visitors from exotic places such as Princeton, M.I.T and Harvard. They all flocked like geese to Albuquerque, in a double helix formation to rendezvous at the convention center and nerd out on Physics for a week straight. Ergo, we (the staff) got a serious dose of Ivy League alumni all bragging about their respective Alma Maters.
The first turn of the evening came and went. As did the second, and in the third a lingering table from the main dining room decided to adjourn to the bar for a digestive and dessert. The four gentlemen and single lady slid into the booth, ordered glasses of port and swirled them about as they critiqued the days’ presenters.
“Can you believe he did that?! I mean, thank God he did partake in the Manhattan Project or he would have killed us all!”
(Insert roaring pretentious cackle here.)
It came time to look at the dessert menu. Presenting them each with a menu, the cackle turned to a giggle as important decisions were made. As they all withdrew their reading glasses from their respective (plastic lined) breast pockets, they took a gander at what we had to offer.
“I’ll give you a moment to consider the menu,” I announced as I walked behind the bar and started my closing side work. Then, the giggle reappeared, turning quickly into a cackle and then an outright ROAR of laughter burst out of the booth causing a sound wave so great, I’m pretty sure it knocked down the busboys smoking their joint in the parking lot. I walked over to see what all the fuss was about.
“Have we decided?” I asked, searching for the catalyst that prompted the (now) ringing in my ears.
“Oh yes, she’ll have the chocolate torte- and I’ll have the citrus souffle…but can you tell them not to macerate the strawberries?” and the roar of laughter continued, now paired with a condescending swirl of their respective port glasses.
“What do you mean? Do you not want strawberries on it?” I was puzzeled. What on Earth could possibly be so hilarious? I considered cutting them off when he explained.
“Well ma’am-” Wait. Before I continue, I want to just say that I am 25 years old and I HATE being called “ma’am.” Sorry, we continue.
“We’ll ma’am- I don’t want the chef to chew the strawberries before garnishing my souffle with it!” the roar continued.
I stood their watching them laugh hysterically, thinking about just how absolutely belittling they were being. Who else do they torture in such a manner, cackling about swirling their glasses? I decided to start mockingly laughing with them.
“Well Harvard, he would have to masticate, not macerate the strawberries in order to do that-”