…the young couple tried to attackĀ their artichokes two fisted…


With the knife in his right hand he had been successfully poking a hole into the top of the vegetable. His repeated stabbing into the same, looked much like an attempt to slaughter the semi-exotic food.

I am the kind of waiter who after years in the hotel and restaurant business and a few excellence in hospitality awards on the walls of his overcrowded apartment sometimes thinks “I have seen it all!” Nothing is farther from the truth as I get to find out day after day, night after night.
The other day I sold a few orders of Abalone to a table of Japanese. Next to them a table of visitors from Southern Europe who asked for ice and more ice all of which they dumped, to my surprise, into their Cabernet Sauvignon glasses. To consume any of the 1985 Heitz Cabernet on-the-rocks seems to me barbaric. Maybe I should not have recommended such a fine Cabernet. “Bulk wine would have been good enough for such a treatment” I think as I go on waiting. “The more a wine is chilled, the less there is to taste.”
In-between tables I served a visiting pleasant young couple their appetizers, steamed whole artichokes from nearby Castroville. I got more ice for the red wine drinkers, more tea for the Japanese guest, took an order at a new table and kept busy. As I walked by the young couple, I saw their frustration building up. Both tried to attack their whole artichokes two fisted, with both the knife and the fork. I felt like breaking out in loud laughter. Nevertheless, such behavior would not have gone too well with my black and white outfit. Guests still do not like to be criticized by their waiter.

Laughing about any guest standing in front of the same is also not appropriate. Therefor I hid out in the waiters’ station, laughing, tears in my eyes. Thirsty, I sipped on a cup of cold coffee. I got to listen into some colleagues conversation about hilarious frustrating situations. One talked about the dishwasher who had split, misunderstanding the chef’s instruction for split. The chef meant split-shift. The dishwasher understood split, leaving, to get going. Another waiter explained how a new person busing tables being asked to bring an ice-bucket to a table to chill the wine, had brought a huge kitchen bucket with ice instead. “He went to the customers’ table all right. He even put it onto the table as told.” The guests’ eyes were getting bigger and bigger looking at the white-kitchen-plastic-bucket on the table until an experienced waiter apologizing corrected the problem. Here the waiters talked about misinterpretations. And out there I had these my guests practicing their lack of understanding.
I had calmed down enough. Knowing what I was going to do, I headed right for the couple where the lady held her thistle-vegetable captive with her fork. I can only vaguely imagine the efforts she made to push the fork straight through the artichoke’s heart. It made a teeth-shattering screeching sound, scratching over the china. She had not yet eaten any of it, but she surely had pinned it securely against her plate. The other, her left hand directed the knife, over the hard leaves, getting nowhere fast.
Her man was holding the artichoke with his left hand. Yet with the knife in his right hand he had been successfully poking a hole into the top of the vegetable. His repeated stabbing into the same, looked much like an attempt to slaughter the semi-exotic food. I was thinking to myself “Please stop it’s dead already.” But instead I complimented both for their efforts. I watched him withdrawing the knife. She too, stopped with her, to me, strange looking activities. They lifted their finger bowls and toasted at each other. I overlooked this part but explained to them, “Around here we eat the artichokes by picking one leaf after the other!”
I showed them where to start and how. “The soft meaty side of each individual leaf is dipped into the mustard-mayo and we bite off only the soft part.” “The hard leaves we put onto the extra plate.” She looked at me thankfully. He said “That sounds easy enough!” I stood there for another minute or two and watched them enjoying their artichoke. I had a new table, a couple from the Big Valley. They ordered a sixty-dollar bottle of Chardonnay and they asked for ice too. I mentioned to them the red wine drinkers who used ice in their Cabernet. The man answered, “If they like it let em. We just don’t like reds.”
From this table I went back to the couple with the artichokes just in time to show them how to cut the hairy section of the artichoke heart and how to eat this, the best, part. They were happy, laughing and joking. Next I took a dessert order at the Japanese table. Then I cleared the remains of the artichokes from the young couple’s table and the empty finger bowls. I served the food to several tables including the main course for the young couple. On one of my rounds between the tables I asked the young couple “Is everything okay?”
Guessing from the speed with which they ate I knew they loved it. Still I asked “Is there anything else you might need at the time?” He answered me with a friendly smile and “Sir this is some fine chow you have here.” I was happy to hear this.
“Say Sir! Bring us two more cups of your special lemon tea and could you heat it up for us?” He asked and added “The other two cups were barely lukewarm!”
I didn’t say what I was thinking, but answered “Two more of the finger bowls! Boiling hot water and lemon.”
I brought such to them. I took care of my other tables and only after the couple had paid their bill and were leaving she asked me. “Why the name finger bowl for lemon tea?” So I told her that most people use it to cleanse themselves externally only with it. I explained that they typically serve finger bowls with finger food in all the better European type restaurants. Both were blushing and chuckling. So, to make them feel better about their faux pas, I said: “Who says it cannot be used internally? It is clean water and lemon. You two might just be trend setters!”

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by helmut schonwalder