Inviting Writing: Restaurant and Kitchen Surprises

I was horrified to see the world’s creepiest menagerie of alien-looking sea creatures wandering through my walk-in

What is "Cancun Style," exactly?
What is "Cancun Style," exactly? Image courtesy of Flickr user dental Ben

For this month’s Inviting Writing, we asked you to share your favorite stories about dining out—your funniest, strangest, most memorable experiences, from the perspective of either the server or the served. Here are three of our favorite short items.

Assault With Menu

I was driving my mother and her friend from Florida to their home in Michigan. We picked up my sister in North Carolina and stopped for lunch. The four of us were taking our time going over the menu when my mother’s friend asked those at the table about grits because she had never had them. The waitress, who was not standing there waiting for our order, somehow overheard me when I quietly replied, “I don’t care for grits, they taste like wallpaper paste!” Suddenly, in a flash, the waitress flew up from behind, gave me one good smack on the side of the head with a laminated tri-fold menu, and said, “Honey, you’re in the South, everybody here loves grits!” I was pretty much dumbfounded! (By the way, it actually hurt and left the side of my face red!) After the initial shock, everyone in our group (except myself) politely laughed, then we ordered our meal. Later, back on the road, my sister made an excuse for the waitress (adding insult to injury) saying that the waitress probably recognized her from previous visits, which must have given her the inclination and liberty to land me a good one! Really?!

—By Judith Burlage, a registered nurse who comes from a huge family of great cooks

Invasion From The Deep

Several years ago I was an executive chef for a major oil company, managing food service on one of their offshore platforms. One night, one of the roughnecks asked my night baker if he could put a loosely covered can in the walk-in refrigerator. Thinking nothing of it, he said, “Yes.”

When I walked upstairs for work the next morning, I was horrified to find the world’s creepiest menagerie of alien-looking sea creatures wandering through my walk-in. Seems the loosly-covered can contained live critters that had been belched up from a pipe that was being cleaned and the roughneck though they would make excellent fishing bait if he could just keep them alive until he left the platform in a couple of days.

—By Rebecca Barocas, through our Food & Think Facebook page.

That’s Cancun Style?

Back in the 70s my hippie art teacher from college and I went to Cancun, long before it became the bustling resort you see today. We got to Cancun on a sketchy wooden boat that had at least 30 people on board. We’d been dining on rice, beans and tortillas all week to try to manage our sparse funds, but we decided to splurge on a real meal for a change and ordered a dish called “Red Snapper Cancun Style.” This was a quaint local establishment and I was looking forward to a nice local treat. We got our meal—and what a plate it was. It was a piece of fish with a half-cooked piece of bacon wrapped around it, skewered into the fish with so many toothpicks that the flavor of wood was imparted to the fish. Topping it were cold canned peas and mushrooms. Not what I expected! (We had a much better meal later that week in Cozumel in a beachfront restaurant that served langostinos sauteed with garlic that was just lightly toasted, and then a little lime juice. Perfect!)

—By Sue Kucklick, a mental health counselor who lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

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