Monday, December 28, 2009

Salad Bar Memoir

Last night, Daddy, the boys, my mom-in-law and I treated ourselves to dinner out at the local supper club, Jake's.  This was a special treat for all of us after all the holiday cooking we'd I'd been doing for Christmas.

Jay had the Surf & Turf (to-die-for, melt-in-yout-mouth medium-rare prime rib and sweet, succulent jumbo shrimp with drawn butter), Mom-in-law had fried chicken (she said this was delicious, but I'll have to take her word for it), I had Chicken Rockefeller (this was tasty, but paled in comparison to Jay's meal - shoulda never tasted his), Xander had a cheeseburger (from the kids menu, but clearly adult-sized), and Tobey, my 8-year-old foodie chose poached salmon with dill sauce (he also wanted to order the brown sugar salmon appetizer because as he said, "I love salmon.  I would like to try it every possible way.", but I suggested that his entree' would be more than enough, so he settled on that).

Along with his fancy-pants grown-up meal, Tobey got to choose between the soup du jour and the salad bar.  He chose the salad bar.

Boy, this brings back memories for me! 

At Tobey's age (and on very rare occasion), my parents would sometimes take their 5 little kiddies out to The Home 20, the nearest supper club in our area.  We were NEVER EVER allowed to choose an entree from the menu.  We ALWAYS ordered off the kids menu - and were ALMOST ALWAYS limited to a hamburger with fries (the extra cost of the cheeseburger made it off limits - though on special occasions we were allowed to order the Silo Burger which had not only cheese on it, but also bacon and a special savory BBQ sauce - yummylicious).

Of course, Mom and Dad did order off the menu - and this always included the salad bar.

As a young girl, the salad bar trips represented a special freedom and privilege of age ... salad bars were a bonus that came with maturity.  I enviously eyed the selections that my parents made and brought back to the table.  They always chose a selection of plastic-wrapped crackers to keep our appetites at bay.  I was so tickled that they would do this as I found that the wait for our burgers was always painfully loooong.

So, here is my young man making a trip to the salad bar with Mom (I let him know that this is not a privelege I received until I was MUCH older ... that's part of the mommy job description, you know, telling my kids how there life is pretty plush compared to mine at their age).  This particular salad bar is NOT very elaborate -lettuce, toppings, dressings - and slightly sad looking pasta salads (2 of them) and cole slaw (just 1).  Tobey is not much of a salad eater, but he takes his privelege seriously - never complaining - and chooses some cauliflower, broccoli and carrot sticks along with a pool of french dressing for dipping.

Salad dressing brings me to the final portion of my little salad bar memoir (I'm so silly ... I'm tickled to death that Bar and Memoir rhyme ... teehee ... simple pleasures for simple minds). 

When I was 17, I got the first job that issued me a regular paycheck (unlike the farm and house chores endlessly expected of me at home).  I was hired at the very same Home 20 where I coveted the salad bar and was limited to burgers.  As I recall, I interviewed on a Thursday, went to Prom and Post-prom ALL night Friday, went to bed at 6am Saturday - and got a phone call Saturday at noon (I was SOOO exhausted) informing me that if I'd like the waitress position, I needed to show up at 4pm that day!

Well, I desperately wanted my own income, so I accepted the position, sloshed cold water on my tired face ... and spent the next 2 hours perfecting my makeup and teasing my hair into something that I thought resembled Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman because that is what I aspired to in those days (and because, frankly ... what else did I have to do besides obsess over my appearance?  Yes, I know ... Plenty, BUT I was 17 and ignorant.)

I showed up at work and was issued a special waitress shirt (actually, it was NOT very special, but rather hideous thin white bedsheet cotton with a ruffled placket and sleeves that stopped just above the elbow and poofed up about my shoulders and was held together in the center with cheap faux pearl buttons).  The rest of the "uniform" was on our own - black on the bottom, either skirt or slacks, and shoes.  My "job" for Day One was to shadow one of the experienced wait staff, learn my way around the waitress station, fill water glasses, and monitor the salad bar (wipe up spills and maintain the food).

I was dreadfully uncomfortable in my own skin back then, and though at one point, the waitress pro (who was incredibly sweet and cute, and my exact age ... but clearly more confident) offered me a table, I declined.  Now that I had the job, I realized that I was terrified of my new role.  I preferred to hide behind the coffee machines nervously fidgeting with the water glasses and coffee mugs - organizing them in flawlessly straight rows, and wiping counters that were already clean.

At any rate, I survived Day One ... more or less.  The disaster of the day came after hours. 

I wiped down tables, put place settings out for the morning, and helped disassemble the salad bar.  The manager showed me where to find Saran wrap for the produce and where the walk-in cooler was located.  After the produce was stored safely away, he showed me the giant tubs of salad dressing that were also in the walk-in cooler.  My final assignment for the evening was to take the salad dressing from the salad bar and pour it back into the matching dressing vat (about a 3 gallon container) in the cooler.

This task began rather smoothly.  I located the vat of Ranch dressing, carried it to the waitress station, opened it on the counter, retrieved the Ranch from the salad bar, and poured it into the vat.  I dropped the empty dirty container from the bar at the wash station, covered the vat of Ranch and returned it to its place in the cooler.

I repeated this action with the Italian, the French, and the Blue Cheese.

Now, I came to the Thousand Island.  I went through the same motions I'd completed four times now, but here is where everything went wrong.

I walked into the cooler with the 3 gallon vat of Thousand Island and looked up to the shelf from where it had come.  It was over my head as I recall.  I am about 6 feet tall, so maybe the shelf was at that very height (we'll just say that it was).  At any rate, I had to lift the vat up above my head to reach the shelf ... and just as I was about to set it safely in its resting spot, I felt my hands slide up the sides of the vat.  I struggled to tighten my grip, to thrust it onto the shelf before anything went awry, but ... too late.  The entire 3 gallons of Thousand Island poured from the vat, Carrie-like, over my head ... and over the hideous waitress issue white shirt ... and ran down the front of my very own black skirt (hand sewn by my genious seamstress sister for me).

The vat continued on its way to the floor of the cooler.

And there I stood ... in the walk-in cooler ... covered in Thousand Island ... hands poised as if to catch something ... when ... my manager walked in.


How humiliating.  I fully expected him to yell at me, but he calmly suggested that I go to the bathroom, clean myself up and go home (he would clean up the mess in the cooler).

To my great surprise (perhaps even to my dismay), I was not fired, but was forced to return the next day ... for more adventures in humility.

To this day, I cannot STAND the smell of Thousand Island dressing ... but I still love a good salad bar.


  1. How humiliating! I cannot imagine! At what point did you CRY? That would be me...I would have been standing there crying!

  2. I just cried inside!!!! I cried ALL the time about everyday life at that time. I think that I had no tears for this - but I have laughter today!!! :-)

  3. OH MY GOODNESS. That is hilarious! And you're story leading up to it surprised me to have that as the ending.
    You are a funny gal.
    I'd LOOOOOOVE to get together! I take Aleah to school at 11:45 each day but Friday. I am just with Ellie after that until she gets off the bus at 3:45....
    You let me know what works for you and we'll have a date :)
    Are you going to do Raising Godly Children at Dawn's next Monday? I will be there!


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