Posted by: foodtalker | December 4, 2010

food fights

I’ve had a sandwich thrown at me.  Fortunately it was an egg salad sandwich, so when it struck,  only my dignity was bruised.   But that’s the food business for you.  It’s unpredictlable,  Hungry people have agendas and flashpoint tempers.  

The thrower was a female customer who, having run out of patience waiting in line to pay for her lunch, decided to hurl it at me instead. 

This happened years ago when I had a gourmet food shop.  I was working the counter and had been trapped in a conversation at the check out.  The queue had started to grow.   Dressed in jeans and looking like any other chit of a deli girl, I didn’t have OWNER pulsating obviously in neon lights over my head.  But then maybe that wouldn’t have mattered. 

I’ve been summoned with a “Hey, Miss”, at posh parties I’ve caterer only to be unceremoniously handed a dozen shrimp tails and then expected to wait around whilst the same guest finished gnawing on a chicken wing  to then gift me the bone. 

People have walked into my restaurant and demanded a table.  The fact that every table in the house was filled and all the bar stools taken too, never seemed to faze them.  They just expected me to make one appear.  They’re not amused when I tell them it’s the food, not the magic business that I’m in.  

But after 30 years of being a caterer I’ve found lots of people have expected me to produce things out of thin air.  Like chairs, when more people show up, another six tier wedding cake when the one they have keels over,  or ice when they didn’t order enough.   And I’ve been asked countless times to do something about the weather.  It’s all very challenging. 

Then there’s something about being a waiter that says “dogsbody”.   Like those signs  pinned on your back that say ‘kick me’.   Hated by the kitchen workers, often treated with indifference by the customers, it’s a wretched way to make a buck.  I’ve had a client refer to my staff as “scullery maids” and suggest we all be frisked before leaving her party in case someone pinched a teaspoon or such from the family silver service. 

Then there are those who consider food service workers as a totally invisible species.  The worst are on-call doctors at parties.  Looking for a quiet and private space to return an emergency page, they invariably wind up in the kitchen.    Oblivious that the space is in actuality filled with busy workers feverishly replenishing platters, making sandwiches, elbow deep in chicken salad, arranging garnishes and slicing tenderloin, they proceed to discuss body parts, bodily functions, what’s been discharged and from which orifice, bowel movements, blood, bile, phlegm, and green and yellow stuff.   Patient privacy isn’t an issue in a kitchen. 

So, I’ve decided that in future instead of military service there should be compulsory national food service.  Everyone has to do an obligatory six months at the very least.  No pulling rank and no conscientious objectors.  On what grounds anyway?  Everyone eats.  Woosies and vegans would have to wash dishes.   It would be very humbling and humanizing.  Instead of polishing guns and boots all day, they could polish silverware.  So much more practical in the long run.



  1. Kate you are absolutely right! Learning the humility of service to others is not a value taught in school at any level. It is taught every day in the military service and the hospitality industry. And yet, what behavior do we admire? I answer selfless service. And what ticks everyone off everywhere it is seen? I contend selfishness. What is the expected response when someone cuts you off on the roadway or pulls into the parking spot you were waiting to be cleared? Or when…heck I could go on and on. Fill in your own pet peeve. Is it gentle understanding, a sweet smile, and fare thee well? No way! But imagine having a server not be obsequious as expected and all hades can come out of the patron’s mouth and the server must take it. You nailed it, Kate. Putting the shoe on the other foot would help everyone to be a little more understanding and forgiving. These are two values we all can agree need to be seen more in today’s society.

  2. I do recall some nightmarish situations when seven members of a twelve top wanted egg beaters instead of real eggs in the omelet and we had none, and beating a bag of ice on the back wall of the restaurant to “crush” the ice to make a margarita for Granny! It sometimes just becomes all too much and one has to walk outside and count to 100! I know, ’cause I did it! Bill

  3. Hear, hear. Most people would be far better customers after a tour of duty in the food trenches.

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