[Sca-cooks] Cooking steaks was Re: lethal drinks

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Wed Jul 23 04:52:15 PDT 2008

On Jul 23, 2008, at 2:28 AM, Lady Celia wrote:

> Ok, I can accept all of that... but respectfully, there is a great  
> deal of
> different between "With respect, sir, are you sure you want that?" and
> trying to help someone who seems a bit lost, and what you said  
> earlier,
> which came across to me as patronizing and bullying.

Quite possibly, but maybe you just had to have been there, or  
acknowledge the possibility that, as with difficult-to-gauge-intent e- 
mail and other internet communications venues, what comes across to  
you from reading a second-hand account of the words might lose  
something in actual content after twenty--some-odd years, and all  
vocal tones, body language, facial expression, etc.

I don't think the man had any such intent, unless as a way to add a  
little humorous weight to his point. And, frankly, there are places  
where the cooks can become a little miffed at certain requests. Y'ever  
see the Lenny Henry TV series "Chef!"? It's actually not that far off  
absolute truth, and this doesn't just apply to Le Grenouille  
Pretentieuse. I seem to recall the Pinnacle Peak restaurants all over  
the Western US didn't like serving well-done steaks (this was in  
addition to snipping off guys' neckties and nailing them up over the  

> I've been a waitress, a
> short order chef, a sous chef, a "cook", a dishwasher and a  
> manager.  I've
> pretty much seen the biz from most sides, and from my POV, the job  
> of the
> whole team in a restaurant is to ensure an enjoyable dining  
> experience to
> the customer, so temperamental chefs just aren't something I have a  
> lot of
> empathy for.
> And while I have a great deal of respect for the extraordinary  
> amount of
> work that goes into fine cuisine and superb presentation, I'm simply  
> not a
> believer that "presentation is everything".

Neither am I, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored, nor does it  
make you any money when you have to put four orders of salad on a  
small plate because any less will make the same always-right, happy  
customers complain about being cheated; mesclun is bulky, mulch is not.

>  Those seniors at the Supper
> Club probably asked for their salads "finely minced" because that's  
> what it
> took for them to eat them (dentures can be a bother at times, doncha  
> know),
> and I'm sure that the fact that it might look like mulch was of less  
> concern
> to them than the fact that they might get to taste some of it on the  
> way
> down if they knew they could get it down.

Yes, of course. I knew why they were asking for this, and I gave it to  
them, too. But it doesn't mean it wasn't kind of a pain for a variety  
of reasons. This is actually a sufficiently common request that some  
restaurants, especially in decades past, used to offer a chopped salad  
on the menu, and while some of the people who requested it probably  
did simply need it to be prepared that way, it's entirely possible  
that some were harking back to times and places when this was how a  
salad ought to be prepared.

> Don't get me wrong.  I *love* formal dining.  I actually belong to a  
> formal
> dining club.  My palate is not as sophisticated as some. I grew up on
> southern fried everything, too much salt, too much grease, and most  
> stuff
> pretty bland or overcooked.  But I learned to be a gourmand, if not a
> gourmet.  I love it when my food comes out beautiful, but I love it  
> more
> when it comes out "to my taste", so that I can enjoy it.  I love  
> trying new
> things, and am pretty adventurous, but can be picky about which  
> flavors I
> like together.  And I might never have broadened my palate past fried
> chicken and hamburgers if I wasn't happy to learning.

So why begrudge one person giving another a helpful nudge in that  
direction, under conditions that don't embarrass anybody, and why take  
umbrage at it when the people involved did not?

>  But I've as little
> patience with chefs who are "insulted" by someone asking for  
> something so
> that they will enjoy it as I am vegetarians who think that everyone  
> else has
> to eat what tastes good to them.

I think there are more venues for a chef to get a little miffed at  
things than you might suspect or recognize, and these aren't always in  
high-end restaurants with funny foreign names; it's conceivably just  
as possible to tick off a chef who turns out chicken-fried steak and  
cream gravy from his grandma's recipe as it is the guy preparing the  
ris de veau en timbale a la financier. Ask a chef in and from Mobile,  
Alabama to put sugar in the cornbread, or one in Kennebunkport to put  
tomatoes in the che-ow-duh. Ask one in a Chinese restaurant to put  
grated cheddar on top of something and run it under the broiler for a  
bit. Tell one in Mexico how much you really prefer wheat-flour  
tortillas and Pace salsa...

>  Call me a heretic, but I'm for diversity
> of palate, and ensuring the best dining experience possible (*within
> reason*) ;-)

I don't know what a heretic is, really, except maybe for people who  
douse food with salt without tasting it first, or who immediately pour  
soy sauce on white rice (I can't even watch people doing that without  
nearly gagging). But in the end, I think the waiter in question was  
trying to optimize the experience for a couple of teenagers in a near- 
empty dining room, and he succeeded.


"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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