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Grin and Bear It.

Donna Summer,  Once Upon A Time (inside)
Image by spike55151 via Flickr

There are some things in life that you just need to heed the sage advice of cartoonist, George Lichtenstein and “Grin and Bear It”. In Lichtensteins case, or George Lichty (his pen name), it was a his comic strip originally from the early 1930’s that inspired the well-known phrase that means to “accept something unpleasant with good humor”.

This is often the case in restaurants when you receive something not exactly as you ordered, however to risk complaining to the staff may result in dire consequences. I have known many a waiter or line cook to bitterly complain about the “jerk at table 4”. Their sole method of retribution is to act in the most passive-aggresive way possible and….. spit in your food.

Who knows exactly what is going on behind those kitchen doors. Are we just to blindly assume that the food preparation areas are immaculate germ free temples of cleanliness?  Should we just take it for granted that the chefs and the sous chefs never sneeze when peppering out dishes, or scratch their hairy heads when itchy? Should we all presume that the members of the staff wash their hands vigorously with warm water and anti bacterial soap for the CDC recommended time of 20 seconds after using the facilities or touching raw meat. A little sidebar, The CDC also recommends singing “Happy Birthday to You” TWICE as the appropriate gauge for the length of  washing.

And for the food itself, who can honestly tell if that steak or hamburger accidentally slipped on the floor or not? As dirt is usually brown, the same color as cooked meat, who would be the wiser? That bread in your bread basket? How many tables have those lovely little loaves actually been on before they ended up in your basket? Those fresh salad greens and crispy fries so artfully arranged on your plate, were of course, painstakingly placed on your plate with sanitized utensils, never the cooks grubby little fingers. And by the way, what exactly is that secret ingredient in the special sauce?

I am not trying to freak you out about dining in restaurants. On the contrary dining out is one of my favorite things to do. Nor am I suggesting that you don’t speak up if the food is ridiculously over-cooked or under cooked. All I am suggesting is that if it is a minor infraction to just weigh your options and at that point decide to or not to grin and bear it. 

My parents recently dined at Jean Georges Steak House in Las Vegas. my mothers steak was exactly as she ordered it, rare and bloody, however my father’s veal chop was grossly undercooked, extremely fatty and very grisly. Now my father, a man who has spent over 40 years in the restaurant industry, was really torn about complaining. He knows first hand how unfavorable it can be to complain about a dish, however at $48.00 (!) just for the veal chop alone,  he just could not restrain himself. My parents very quietly and discreetly called the waiter over and politely complained. To which the waiter, immediately became defensive and said “Well maybe, you don’t eat veal chops very often. This is the way Jean Georges likes to serve them”.

Well maybe that line of food-superiority works with the folks from Butthole, Mississippi, but that does not fly very far with my New Yorker, restaurant owner, and gourmet connoisseur parents. My mother very coolly replied, “Well, that’s not they way we usually have them at Jean Georges in New York. To which the disgraced waiter quickly took away the offending meat and replaced it with a much more satisfactory chop hopefully one that did not see the bottom of the chefs shoe.

Thats why whenever I am in a restaurant I try to be my most charming and courteous to the staff. In the words of Donna Summers, 1983 hit, “She (or They) works hard for the money…. so hard for it honey…. they work hard for the money so you better treat them right, that’s right!”

Chow for now!

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