Tonight's Special: E-Coli | Mental Poo

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tonight's Special: E-Coli

In a previous post about crapping myself, I intimated that I was fat as a kid.

Thankfully, I’m no longer fat. I lost most of my excess weight, believe it or not, by working in a restaurant at the age of 15.

How I still manage to actually go to restaurants, after actually working in one and seeing what goes on back there, is beyond me. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

I was eventually graduated to the role of chef (from peasant dishwasher). This set me at 16-17 years old, and cooking food for people.

You can see where I’m going with this.

Teens are not good with responsibility…or cleanliness…or, really, anything that doesn’t involve boobs.

At that age, as a teenage boy, you have a keen attitude that slightly resembles “who gives a f*ck.” This not only translated into my attitudes at home and towards other people, but towards my preparation of food and the customers who ordered it.

Settle in. This gets ugly. Here we go with some examples…

(I can imagine the vegetarians firing up their word processors and PETA getting their emails ready now…)

#1: The Lobster Incidents
Did you know that when you order a baked-stuffed lobster, that the lobster must be killed while it’s still alive? You cannot cook dead lobsters. This is not a good thing. I mean, the lobsters don’t care at this point, but the Insurance companies responsible for counting your dead just might.

Unlike boiled lobsters (which can be thrown into scalding water and burned alive), a lobster that’s ordered as “baked-stuffed” must be murdered by hand. I had a real aversion to doing this when I was first told to, but – eventually – you realize that SOMEONE is going to do it…so why not get paid $4.25 and hour for it.

It’s getting graphic here, kids…hold on tight…

To kill a lobster, you have to grab it, flip it on it’s back, and then drive a ginormous knife into it’s mouth. You then work the knife all the way down it’s body and split it open. You THEN have to reach in, with your fingers, and pull out it’s brain (as, apparently, it is either poisonous to eat or doing so stops the lobster from becoming zombified and attacking you later on that night in your sleep).

(Dear, Moooooog…. I’m from PETA and I….)

It sounds as horrible as it is. BUT, you actually get used to doing it.

To make this somewhat entertaining, I used to take said butcher knife and – prior to splitting them open – would stick the lobsters to the walk-in freezer door…Michael Myers “Halloween” style (you know the scene…when Michael bursts from the closet and sticks the guy to the wall with the knife? Just picture Michael coming out of the closet, and in one hand he’s holding a 1-1/4 pound lobster).

While the lobster is there, his tail is frantically flapping away.

Forgive me Baby Cheez-its...I’m a teen…I know not what I do….

This has two effects:

1) It’s funny to your friends who have been hired as auxiliary dishwashers
2) It TOTALLY freaks out the waitresses who want to get into the freezer to get Jell-o

…good times…good times…

#2: Specials
Never, EVER, under any circumstance order the “special” at a restaurant.

Specials are created to get rid of food that’s about to go bad. If it didn’t sell before at full price, Hell, put some cheese on it, call it “Au Gratin” and sell it cheaper. This way, we don’t have to throw it out...and now it's cheesier!

In fact, one of my friends worked as a dishwasher while I was the cook. In the walk-in freezer, was a small cup.

In said cup, was a piece of ham.

The ham was approximately 200 years old.

We called it the “Lipton Cup-a-Ham” (not an actual Lipton product).

We put it in a corner of the freezer as a science experiment. We wanted to see if (a) anyone would notice it was there and (b) how long it would stay there untouched and how green it could get. Keep in mind that part of our responsibility was to clean the freezer regularly.

We always skipped cleaning or removing the Lipton Cup-a-Ham.

It became so famous in the restaurant, that in this kid’s yearbook entry, under “Memories”, he wrote – I swear this is true – “Lipton Cup-a-Ham.”

So skip the specials…you have no idea how old that food is.

Just another helpful tip.

#3: Never eat out during a power outage
One night, we had a hurricane actually blow through New England. I was working at the restaurant at the time.

The power went out everywhere.

We stayed open…people came pouring in. We were able to stay open because we had gas-fired stoves, and a flame grill.

Now – the actual dishwashing machine is neither gas nor flame powered. It needs electricity.

This does not bode well for clean dishes.

Here’s what we did:

Taking a large garbage pail (yes, a large garbage pail), we filled it with hot water (faucets still worked). We then blasted the plates with water, and rinsed them in – yes – the trash bucket.

As the trash bucket now weighed 472 pounds...the water pretty much remained in the bucket the entire night. It eventually resembled a 3-foot high bucket of soup.

This passed as a “clean" plate.

There were no deaths related to the hurricane.

However, I’m not so sure of the count from e-coli related deaths because of people eating off of our plates.

#4: Teens + unguarded booze = drunk teens
Recipe for disaster...

A) I had a bunch of my friends hired at the restaurant.
B) The basement of the restaurant was filled with booze.
C) The owner of the restaurant trusted me enough to take over on nights to do all the cooking.

This was a bad idea.

As such, my teenage friends and I would have the following ritual on worknights:

1) Cook a meal
2) Drink a beer
3) Wash a dish
4) Drink a beer
5) *burp*
6) Cook a dish
7) Wash a meal
8) Wash a cook
9) Go pee
10) Sh*t…I’m hammered…

We used to get completely sh*tfaced while working. Meals would get screwed up. Dishes would be put away dirty. Spaghetti that went out with butter instead of tomato sauce was power-washed in the sink and re-sauced...and vice versa.

It was not pretty.

..but it was fun...and Hell, we were teens…who gives a f*ck?

Enjoy your meal.


AZZITIZZ said...

One of our local restaurants (luckily not a regular haunt of mine) got closed due to hundreds of domestic cat skins found in the bins behind the building!!!!!!
Tastes like chicken!

Sara Sue said...

1 1/4 lb. lobster! YUM! I don't care how you kill it, I'll take one :)

PETA is so gonna get you for this post!

Elise said...

OMG! I will definately take your tips on board.

I always knew there was something dodgy about Specials. You can just when the waiter has a smirk on his face; "Would you like to order the Specials?"

Anonymous said...

Dear Moooooog,

I really am from PETA.....

I stopped boiling Lobster years ago. I couldn't stand to hear their screams as they tried to escape.

I worked at a drive in restaurant when I was 14. The green potatoes never went over well with the customers. I thought they were pretty.

Moooooog35 said...

Lobsters don't scream. If they did, I would have heard them - trust me.

I had a lobster pinch me once on the way to the steamer. As a reflex, I threw my arm out...where he landed on the stove...on a lit burner.

...taught THAT little crustacean a lesson...

...I'm sure he was delicious.

Anonymous said...

There is a reason I have never worked in the food industry. As you put it "ignorance is bliss". I knew I didn't want to know.
When I vacationed to Maine several years back we went to the docks and bought fresh lobster right from the sea. My son was about 4 at the time. We took their little rubberbanded selves back to the house, and my son and I decided it would be cool to put them on the porch and watch em walk around. I wish we would not have done this. Very shortly after observing them it occurred to me that they very much resemble the giant cockroaches (palmetto bugs) we have here in Florida. After watching them with those beady eyes and waving antenna I couldn't stomach eating one. I also watched as they were thrown into the pot, their limbs squealing as the hot air steamed through their many crevices, and then silence. They changed a nice, lovely red, but I just couldn't do it.
Who wants to eat giant boiled sea roaches? Guess that makes me a cheap date.

TY for your comment today, I guess it isn't funny, but the truth is, I have suffered far worse. We will be fine. I do think I could use a cocktail or two though.
much luv and respect~d

Emmy said...

I second hopes thoughts. ;)

Chickie said...

Well, at least you didn't have a story about putting bodily fluids in food.

Malach the Merciless said...

MMMMMM, time for Lunch!

Moooooog35 said...

Lobsters could look like giant boogers (i.e., oysters), and I'd still eat them.

..delicious, delicious boogers.

I don't remember expelling bodily fluids into food...although, I was drunk a lot of the time and probably peed in something at some point.

Kitty said...

Hi ... just landed here after following the link on Emmy's page (how could I resist a blog named 'Mental Poo'?) and have spent a good many minutes sniggering.
Loving your work there moooooog. Hope you don't mind if I bookmark and visit again?
Keep up the good work. Kitty :-)

Tequila Mockingbird said...

mmm, that trash can of soup almost sounds better than cup o ham. both are tantalizing, and would probably be edible (not healthy, but edible) with the addtion of cheese... HEY! DUMPSTER SOUP AU GRATIN!

FreeOscar said...

I went from Tequila's blog to this & I just had lunch.

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is where the health inspectors were through all of this?


Anonymous said...

NOW this is hilarious! My hubby worked in restaurants for years, and his storeis sound simliar to yours.. cup of ham? trash soup..? yum! =< glad i wasnt at that restuarant...! nice memories!

The origin of Fu said...

There are so many reasons I knew you refused to go out when in Boston...didja think the hippies in Oregon were any cleaner with their food manufacture?

Baba Doodlius said...

Huh-huh. You said "boobs". Huh-huh.

robr said...

Good ol' Jim Pucket. Fun times at the S&S, I think I lasted a month. My mother always loved picking me up after work and getting in her car with my disgusting fishy smelling clothes . I notice you didn't mention how underage dish washers could also pass cases of beer out through the basement window to their friends outside.... or so I heard anyway.

Oh yeah, we also used to squash the dinner rolls that came back on the dirty dishes, otherwise Jim wanted us to reuse them. Ever since then, if I get bread with a meal I don't eat (gee, I dunno why), I'll make sure to squash it.

A Girl, A Boy, and Me said...

I'm from the f&B industry. I loved the free cocktails while I was working (at 16).

I worked at a place that had plum sauce in big pots under the counter. If it was slow I'd do homework and garnish plates in the back. I sat on this high barstool. The floors were nasty and I remember moving my heels along the rung of the stool and crap that was sticking to the bottome of my shoes was scraping off. Little did I know it was falling into the pot of plum sauce...

I told the owner/chef and he said it was too expensive to throw out so he continued to use it. It was the kind of thing that lasted MONTHS.

A fave was watching waiters eat leftovers from customers as they boxed up food for them at the back counter.....

Good times.

Anonymous said...

I read the whole of that thinking - Please don't let their be "bodily fluids" in the food, for the love of cheezits, please! - :)

Forrest Proper said...

Great stories- have you read Anthony Bourdain's 'Kitchen Confidential'? If not, you'd enjoy it.

Cash said...

Yes I left those cat skins around.

Tawnya Shields said...

Glad I don't eat out at fastfood places. And I think I just vomited in my mouth. Blech. :o)

Flower said...

Hi Moooooog! (hope I got enough oooo's in there!)
Nice to meet yer :)
I love your blog it has certainly brightened my day today!

I think I am entering my second teenage phase ~ mind you during the first phase I think I was more 'grown up' than I am now!

I never drank, never went out and sat in me room all the time looking miserable.. So, Yep..second teenage phase being had right now!! Haha..

Love your blog me dear :)

prin said...

What if the specials are more expensive than the regular menu? lol

One Vietnamese restaurant I go to has letters on the menu. The "A" is $9.95. One day, the "A" was the special, with ice cream for desert, and it was $14.95. lol I just ordered the regular "A". :D

But yeah, ew. Ignorance is bliss, until you find short curlies in your pasta.

Unknown said...

I'm pretty sure I won't be eating out for a good long while.

(vomits in mouth a bit)

Joeprah said...

Awesome! Brings back fond memories of my stay in the restaurant industry. I may have to write on that. Great post!

Gauche said...

I think I just puked a tiny bit.

nice blog. I gotta go cry for a while now.

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