I’ve spent my entire adult life in commercial kitchens, I have a culinary degree and
Over the years I’ve come to accept that I’m an ass. Not about everything that would be exhausting, I’d say more a selective ass. Everybody who knows me is acutely aware of this and most seem to accept this personality flaw with not much attention, some even consider it to be “cute”.
When it comes to going out to eat where I will also be attending however, minds change, I am no longer “cute”. Family and friends with seemingly a lot of time on their hands suddenly have to have emergency dental work or visit their sick (insert relative, pet, etc here) Scattering to the winds like a hobo’s dandruff. They know and I know, that the burden of knowledge ruins dinner, specifically MY burden of knowledge.
I wish this burden only extended to food, but alas I also can’t go out to eat at any establishment without immediately noticing it’s smudges on the front door, cigarette butts on the front mat, sticky chairs, floaters in my water glass, food stuck to the bottom of my plate, vague undesirable smells coming from behind the landscaped hedges, could be urine, could be vomit, who knows? it’s an adventure. Everyone else is oblivious to this and God I wish I was…
I remember a thanksgiving dinner we had at a local 5 star restaurant. My mother reserved the table a month in advance we were all looking forward to this meal, everyone loved this old restaurant. This restaurant had been consistently rated 5 stars for almost 15 years, nobody I knew ever had a bad meal, bad anything there. On a beautiful crisp Thanksgiving day our group consisted of: my mom, her husband, his two grown daughters, my 17 year old daughter, my 9 year old son, my oldest brother , my husband and myself. The clearly over-booked dining room was firmly packed with a sea of tiny tables, proportionately set with tiny place settings. Each table had to be physically moved so that people could be seated. Everyone in my family proceeded to the table, blissfully unaware that this dining room set up was completely unacceptable…to me. I started to get wound up as I was crammed against the banister rails next to some random guy at the next table. What the …?” I seethed under my breath. I’m barely able to pick up my right arm to take a sip of water when I realized not only was there lipstick on my glass (Whore Red) not my own but I was sitting next to my notoriously left handed daughter. Caught between the banister, Lefty and forced up against some strange mans leg, I was hemmed in and cornered like some freaked rabid lab monkey,
Everyone was seated with a glow of thankfulness and love, except me. why can’t I glow? I want to glow, I deserve to glow… Sadly the only thing that was glowing in me was my rage, no candles in the centerpiece, wobbly table, bent fork, stuffy room, chipped plate, the list kept growing. My daughter was the first to go down. Catching her eye as she withdrew her elbow from my right breast for the 3rd time, I had had enough,” can’t you eat with your right hand just this once?!” My daughter, did as she was told, now she was no longer glowing. My husband was technically seated next to me, on my left, however in between our happy union was this strange man. My husband was blissfully unaware of how uncomfortable I was until the man sneezed on me. He did not apologize, he didn’t skip a ”beat and went right on chatting it up with his table mates and I felt kinda used. I discreetly tapped the man on the arm and whispered “you could have used a napkin”, “It was the pepper” he whined. I pushed his chair with my foot about 6 inches the other way so he could get reacquainted with his fat aunt who he apparently disliked. My husband was as usual appalled, with a hapless look on his face . The man and my husband were no longer glowing and a + 1 bonus long distance point for de-glowing an occupant at another table.
I had worked as a cook in this restaurant a long time ago, the quality, constancy, and service was always excellent. What happened? Our server was pissed off and sweaty, as she served us a just awful, pasty pumpkin bisque. I kept my mouth shut in a lame attempt to “glow’ like everyone else, but it was futile. I strained to fake a smile, but inside I was brewing, like bad batch of Oysters. Our next course was the salad. The “salad” was described as: “a crisp mix of fresh greens with a light Balsamic and Raspberry Vinaigrette“. I stealthily put down my fork. The greens remained stuck to my plate as I watched everyone around me enjoy their salad. Don’t they know? Can’t they see the plate is hot, the salad is wilted, the vinaigrette is salty, there is no discernible raspberry flavor and too much vinegar? This is not 5 stars! Just as I contemplated this, my mother lifted her head to shoot me a look. She said nothing and then continued to enjoy her salad and the company as I watched slimy bits of mesclun mix slide off her fork. I was determined to rein myself in and behave, it wasn’t about me it was about family and the holiday and WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?
The wait staff, swept the room with heaping plates of mashed potatoes, stuffing and Turkey without clearing the salad plates. I started to sweat because I could see before it hit my table ‘It‘s not Turkey oh my God, it‘s not Turkey. This may indeed break me, how can a five star restaurant screw up turkey???? How you ask??? When it’s sliced from a preformed loaf with pieces of turkey lodged in it, heated and then hidden with canned turkey gravy an abundance of greasy, over salted side dishes and canned cranberry sauce, when it‘s described in the menu as “Juicy, farm raised Tom turkey, slow roasted to a golden perfection with caramelized onions and sage with chestnut dressing and fresh cranberry sauce“.. This product is known in the restaurant business as “Turkey loaf” it isn’t even something you’d want on a sandwich let alone slicing it, heating it and covering it with gravy!!! Our pissed off server placed the plate down in front of me and I just stared at it trying for the sake of my family to hide my disappointment. Seeing my distress a collective and tentative “ what’s wrong Marian?” came from the table. They did not see it yet or maybe they did but chose to be adults about it? I don’t know but what came out of my mouth next haunts me to this day. “It’s the Turkey…it’s not turkey it’s… “fake Turkey…” “What do you mean it’s “fake Turkey”? my brother moaned dropping his fork. Then with everybody staring at me, I had to answer, the guy I was cozy with earlier at the next table and his fat aunt wanted to know too. “ I’ve been dreaming about this meal for over a month and this is not Turkey it’s Turkey Loaf and it’s not 5 star , it’s not any stars it’s just gross and I don’t want to eat it, I want real roasted carved from the real bird Turkey with real gravy!” I slumped in my chair, not even the guy at the other table wanted to acknowledge me now. Silence followed and it wasn’t just at my table, the entire room heard me and then the sound of people picking up forks, murmuring “fake Turkey?” collectively poking and flipping the gelatinous, pasty slices. “it is fake Turkey, it’s just lunch meat” someone barked… Then the entire room erupted into a cacophony of mass fury. People started complaining out loud “we paid good money for this meal where is the real turkey you had advertised on the menu???” “How can a 5 star restaurant serve crap like this” ‘we want our meal comp-ed, right now!”. It was disastrous, the meaning of Thanksgiving flew out the window the second I opened my mouth. My family looked at me with shame, the wait staff scurried around taking food back to the kitchen
. People walked out without paying, my Mom and Step Dad were arguing with the restaurant manager about the vast difference between “loaf” and “not loaf”. My husband, son and daughter were all deflated and hunched over. People started to leave, a mass exodus ensued, Thanksgiving was over and nobody was glowing. I don’t know why a 5 star restaurant would serve Turkey loaf to an entire room of guests who booked a month in advance from a prefixed menu. but they did and the only reason I can reckon is that money was involved, it‘s wasn’t right any way you look at it. After the Thanksgiving disaster I have since been designated as Thanksgiving headquarters because now my entire family has the burden of truth. It’s like a disease it spreads and ruins people from enjoying a meal out, they see the smudges on the glasses, bent forks and feel the sticky chairs but now it’s at my house.
There are people who want to eat out for the comfort of breaking bread with friends and family and those of us who want a culinary experience and still those who want to celebrate without much thought about the food or the apparent lack of quality. Then there are people like me who have been taught what it takes to create truly good food, feeling pride in a finished product, how a dining room should be run, what customer service and a true dining experience really means. It wasn’t my fault that the food was bad, poorly prepared with cheap ingredients, it was my fault that I brought it to everyone’s attention , I ruined Thanksgiving for an entire room of people that year and without me saying anything maybe they would have never noticed, yes I find that sad but that’s my problem because not everyone needs to know the turkey is fake.