The Food Issue
How's my gag reflex control doing?
“As soon as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude. There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”
My Esteemed & Hungry Fauxs,
I completed my university studies in 1991, having read and fallen in love with poetry in English and German.
My plan upon graduation was to become a poet.
Then again, there might not have been a plan.
I had worked in restaurants to pay my tuition through four years of college.1
In my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, I worked summers at the Top of the Harbor, the revolving restaurant at the top of the Radisson Hotel.2
In Madison, I worked at a place called Ovens of Brittany on State Street, where the foodie culture was just beginning to take hold.
Upon graduation, I told myself that I would not have to work in restaurants again, now that I had my degree.
Then I started playing in bands and trying to tour while living off the income I earned as an associate editor at a small publishing house.
The numbers did not add up.
Plus, the work piled up and waited for me when I left the publisher’s office for a couple weeks at a time.
And so, after five years off the restaurant floor, I once again donned the apron and went back to the world of talking about food for a living.
That was 1996 or so; and I’ve done it off and on since.
I’ve met some amazing people.
I’ve eaten some amazing food.
And I’ve learned some weird things about people.
For instance, a lot of people seem more interested in a good dump than a good meal.3
Also, some people become chefs so they can feel less weird about being really into knives.
Some people are incapable of laughter until they’ve had their first Martini delivered.4
I served a group of four not that long ago.
When I delivered their food, first guy on the left was the last to be served, and I placed the salmon special in front of him, announcing it as such.
The four companions immediately joined hands and began to pray.
When they finished their solemn prayer of gratitude to the lord for these thy gifts, salmon guy raised his finger to call me over and said in up-talky way “I think I ordered the Halibut.”
I dared not look toward heaven.
I don’t know if they still do this there, but every table would get complimentary olives and almonds upon sitting down.
Consequently, I witnessed a lot of first dates having arguments about the merits of olives.
I also witnessed a lot of people arguing about runny yolks.6
I once overheard a woman say that she couldn’t be with a guy who didn’t like sunny-side up eggs, like her dad.
At the time, I thought: hmmm, there might be a song in there.
I’ve included a lyric video here in the event that you want to read the story as you listen to the song.
The meta data on the voice memo for this song indicates that I recorded it at 12:38 am on September 13, 2015.
I’m guessing the edibles were kicking in and I was sipping a beer after a long shift at Graze when I recorded this improvisation to my phone.
I was playing quietly as the wife in kids were sleeping in the next room.
The meter is wack. The sound is wack. And despite this, I feel an urge to share it with you all now.
This mixed up file has been in my pocket for nearly seven years. It’s time to let it go.
Here are the lyrics
I ordered mine over easy
I specified a runny yolk
I denied myself the right to
complain when she said
I didn’t complain (I read it in her diary)
she said I could never love a man
who didn’t like his eggs
sunny side up like her dad
and I had time to think
on the first date
there was a burger on the menu
I said I’d have it with no pickles
she became angry or so it seemed
she said “You don’t— you don’t want pickles?!”
“Are you crazy?”
“Well, I’ll take the pickles,” I said and uh yeah so
so the burger came
And I had to eat a pickle
she said “I like to dip mine in mayonnaise first.”
so I tried that
didn’t have a problem with mayonnaise
and I kind of liked the pickle with the mayonnaise on it
it was weird
and then there was a time
where we were out
they just brought these free olives for us to eat
and she fell upon them with much vigor
I was like “Oh no, I’m not gonna eat any olives…”
And she was like “You don’t eat olives?”
and uh, I said “No, not really.”
and she was like “You need to eat an olive right now!”
and I really wanted to make her a part of my life
so it was like “I gotta eat an Olive right now,”
“How is my gag reflex control doing right now? You know?”
as I bit into it
I kind of liked it
and I felt so wrong about so many things
I felt so wrong
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Tuition for a full credit load at UW-Madison my first semester was in the 840 dollar range, and the twelve hundred range when I graduated. So it was possible to pay my tuition while earning $2.63 an hour plus tips.
In addition to being a waiter, I was also the night auditor, which made being a waiter seem perhaps a tad less sucky.
There is a lot of emotion around food, some of it exuberant, some of it anxious.
Oftentimes they laugh too much after the 2nd martini.
Actually met my wife working there. Also, the chef, Isaac Becker, whom I consider a friend, paid to have “The Mongolian Invasion” (which I had self-released on cassette) issued as a CD.
There was a fried egg dish on the menu and damn if those yolks weren’t jiggly!
There are grownups who refuse—nay, are physically incapable of putting an olive (or a pickle, or a mushroom, etc) into their mouths.