As a child, my favorite meal at a restaurant was a burger — I’d ask for “meat, cheese and mayonnaise.” It stayed that way well into high school. The only green vegetable ever allowed on my plate was English peas, which had to be swimming in butter and served with mashed potatoes. For me, food has always been a means to an end. I dream of the day when science creates a pill that will fill me up while providing all the necessary nutrients.
I have spent a great deal of my life as a waiter, and therefore, carrying plates of food to people who care about it much more than I do. I am a non-foodie living in a very foodie world, and that comes with struggles.
These days, it seems like everyone considers themselves a food-lover. Does watching cupcake competitions on Food Network and posting Instagram photos of various organ meats make you an expert in food? The answer, at least anecdotally, is yes. At least once a week when I am serving tables at the restaurant where I work, I overhear customers refer to themselves as foodies. And as a self-proclaimed foodie, they don’t just want to know how the salmon is, which is difficult enough for me to answer (more on that below), they want to know where the salmon grew up, how it was caught, how it was transferred to the restaurant, who it was dating and its mother’s maiden name.
“Well, it’s farm-raised in a completely sustainable environment and it’s so delicious,” I tell them. “We cook it on the grill so it has this slightly smoky flavor, but it’s still light and flaky. I love it!”
The truth is I’ve never tasted the salmon before, despite it being on the menu the whole seven years I have worked at this restaurant. Growing up, I enjoyed the occasional fish stick if it was smothered in tartar sauce (mayonnaise with pickles) and I do like a tuna sandwich as long as it’s mixed with mayonnaise and served on really thick bread, but sushi will never be in my future. Thanks to my husband of 27 years, my dining options have expanded to include adventurous fare such as shrimp and calamari, but not the tentacles because they remind me too much of what that animal must have looked like when it was frolicking in the ocean. This is also the reason I won’t eat any meat with bones in it. Show me a boneless, skinless, chicken breast and I’ll show you a guy who has completely compartmentalized his feelings about eating animals.
At least once a week when I am serving tables at the restaurant where I work, I overhear customers refer to themselves as foodies.
Being a server in today’s food-obsessed world can be very complicated. When a customer asks me what something on the menu is like, do I lie and say it’s delicious? Or should I tell them the truth, that the only way the pâté appetizer would ever make it into my mouth is if someone blindfolded me and told me they were going to feed me Cheese Whiz on a Ritz cracker? It’s a daily dilemma and one I usually solve by lying through my teeth.
There must be other people in the world who feel the same way I do about goat meatballs and quinoa on a menu. I say rise up. Don’t be ashamed of your love for Velveeta. Embrace it and let your Fritos flag fly. Our Instagram photo of a cheeseburger and a pickle can look just as tempting as a photo of a truffle butter-infused Wagyu burger stuffed with foie gras and a side of zucchini fries cooked in goose fat.
Maybe someday, I too will worship at the altar of all things edible. But for now my church is one of simple foods that I can pronounce and that taste better with mayonnaise.
My name is Darron. I will be your server tonight and if you ask me about the food, I will probably lie.