“Um, I don’t know, what does the package say?” Hank looked over to his line cook Scooter who was reading one of the tickets that just came in. “Don’t they know what kind of joint this is?” he grumbled to himself and dumped a basket of crawfish on a plate, “Order up!” he screamed through the pickup window. A waitress in a mid-drift and ponytail materialized and giving the surly cook her iciest look collected the plates and disappeared once again into the dining room.
“Hank, there ain’t no package that I can see. Must’ve thrown it out ages ago, I’d wager,” Scooter said and scratched his head absently. Handing the ticket to Hank, Scooter turned back to his green tomatoes, and continued chopping, Hank would just have to figure this one out on his own- that’s why he got the big bucks.
Hank growled deep in his throat and knotted his fingers together behind his head. He knew this day would come, but somehow the knowing made it all the worse. Why the new owners had decided to even put the thing on the menu was beyond him… the menu was fine the way it was, everybody knew the old menu, they liked it. So why change it now? “We need to diversify, silly!” he could still hear the reply of chipmunk-faced Midwesterner Darlene, wife of Dale (ironic enough) and new co-owner of Billy’s Bait Bucket, what had been a fresh fish and crawfish staple in those parts of the Gulf for seventy-five years or more.
“Diversify my ass,” Hank spat and fired up the grill. He’d be damned if the out-of-town idgit who lacked the wit to order something decent from the menu would be the one to stump him in the kitchen. Dealing with the foreign food like he would a decent catfish fillet, Hank went about his task and prepared the dish as best he could, drawing from random memories of seeing it ordered in other restaurants or on TV. By the end of it, Hank was right impressed with himself, it actually looked edible. “Gawersh!” Scooter replied as he watched Hank fling the finished product onto the counter of the pick-window. “Order up!”
About five minutes later, as Hank was pulling a basket of fries from the fryer, he turned to find Mandy, the head server, tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for him to notice her. Pulling a dissected sandwich from behind her back, Mandy practically flung the plate at him, “Hank, for the love of God, I thought you knew how to cook? What the hell is this? The lady sent it back after cutting into it, didn’t even take a bite. You know why, Hank? I’ll tell you!” Mandy suddenly grabbed Hank’s forefinger and plunged it into the center of the sandwich. “Because, as you can tell, it’s FROZEN! This sandwich is not cooked in the middle, Hank, it’s raw. Now, this lady was very nice and she’s part of a large party and I really need a decent tip after last night, so cook her another one, and this time, make sure it’s actually COOKED!” turning on her heel, Mandy disappeared through the swinging doors before Hank remembered to remove his finger from the frozen mess that was his creation only minutes ago.
Grabbing another frozen patty from the freezer, Scooter handed it to Hank and tried to offer a weak smile of encouragement. Seeing right through Scooter to the hockey puck of meat he now held in his hand, Hank let out a string of curses that would make the devil blush. Feeling a little better, he threw the puck onto the grill and ground his teeth, “who orders a hamburger at a fish joint anyway?”
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Took advantage of another lovely November day in balmy Florida, and met Andy’s family up in Orange City for a relaxed lunch and day of just relaxing. Deciding on a place we could eat lunch outside, we loaded up and drove over to a quaint seafood joint nicely situated on the St. John’s river. Walking in, you knew not to expect a “fine dining” experience, what with the stuffed gators on the walks and moonshine jugs hanging from the ceiling, but then again, we weren’t exactly what you would call “fine dining clientele” either, so it worked out. We were all geared up for the special of the place, Mahi Mahi when come to discover- they’re all out. This threw a wrench in the works for just about all of us, including Andy’s mother who decided to go with a burger, since Mahi wasn’t available. Well, guess this place isn’t accustomed to filling an order that doesn’t call for something that used to swim, because that burger came out, and I swore I heard it ‘moo’. The thing was R.A.W. raw on the inside, and cold as the river behind us. Her peach of a boyfriend was good enough to call our server’s attention to this matter, and took care of ordering her a new sandwich (she shares my hatred of sending back food, even when it deserves it, so I thought it was really nice of her boyfriend to step up and do the dirty work). Unfortunately, her new burger was none the better, completely overcooked this time, as we predicted it would be, but at least it was edible. The entire experience left me wondering, could this have possibly been one of only a few times this cook had been asked to prepare such a ‘rarity’ as a cheeseburger? It certainly appeared to be.
Love & Squirrels.