The life and times of waitress in Cool Cape May… by Molly Stone
There’s nowhere I’d rather be on Halloween than Cape May. Jack-o’-lanterns glow on the steps of eerie Victorian mansions, rumors about haunted bed and breakfasts are at an all-time high, and that hair-raising mannequin stands guard on the porch of Elaine’s Dinner Theater. But for the customers who come to eat where I work, it isn’t a scary story that’s spooky; it’s an unfamiliar dinner menu.
I understand aversions to food. The very sight of raw carrots used to make me gag, so roommates of mine got a kick out of hiding them in my books, my shoes, even my shower. But the people I serve often take food phobias to a whole new level.
Like many who go through a traumatic experience, a meat-and-potatoes kind of diner can enter a state of denial after reading an avant-garde menu. I learned this the last time I tried to take a dessert order.
“I would like vanilla ice cream,” my customer said.
“We don’t have vanilla,” I told her.
“Of course you have vanilla.”
“Perhaps you’d like to try our goat cheese flavor,” I suggested, “Or lavender?”
“No,” she nodded, “The vanilla.”
After more circular conversation, I realized this woman needed a carton of Breyers or a shock blanket, and fast.
Those not experiencing food-induced denial often wish they were. To these folks, a whole fish is creepier than Freddy Krueger’s metal claw. Faces go pale at the very thought of a cured meat or roasted skate wing. When bringing news of a basil-flavored sorbet, I’m made to feel like the Bride of Chucky, and I’m faced with looks of pure, uninhibited terror if I even mention the word ‘sweetbreads.’ Whispers of “Well I never,” and, “Can you even imagine?” float across the dining room.
After suggesting a cauliflower and white chocolate soup, I’ve heard the kind of “ew” that’s so elongated, it becomes a multi-syllable word. I’ve seen elderly folks scoop their dentures off their bread plates and hurry out of the dining room when I tell them what foie gras really is. And, after the kids hear about the chef’s squid ink risotto, they cling to their mother and scan the room for the nearest exit. When these things happen, I don’t feel like a waitress; I feel more like Frankenstein, the Elephant Woman, a post-surgery Courtney Love.
Sometimes the dramatics get old. It is, after all, only dinner. I certainly don’t come into your office to shout in terror over the Egg McMuffin in your sack lunch.
If the stuffed branzino entree is really that horrifying to you, I suggest you channel the very scary fish for your Halloween costume this year. I don’t think the outfit will scare too many kiddies on the Washington Street Mall. But a raw carrot? Now that’s spooky.