Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Strangest Night of My Life

I know that's a bold claim, but I honestly cannot think of another night that hosted such a series of disorientingly unexpected events.

Everything was normal until I got to work. Our chef, Eder, came out to tell us the specials and to let us know that we'd have a VIP diner that night (this happens a lot, as we're James Beard Award semifinalists and our chefs have a Michelin star at our sister restaurant). I didn't catch the name when he said it, but he pulled up photos on his phone — and it was MARK BITTMAN. Only the most famous modern American food writer. (except prob Michael Pollan). He wrote a food column in the New York Times for 13 years. Eder said he'd probably sit at the bar, but we should all be aware of him in case he took a table. (No one else at the restaurant knew who he was, which surprised me at first, until I realized I'm a food writer and therefore a million times more likely to be aware of other food writers.)

Around 6pm, Mark Bittman walked in. And SAT IN MY SECTION. I have never panicked because of a person's celebrity before. It meant nothing to me that I've served Tim McGraw and Jennifer Garner (in Nashville). I wouldn't even blink if it were Bono or Morgan Freeman. But somehow serving Mark Bittman made me panic. My heart was pounding and I could hardly string words into a sentence. I approached him and said, "I'm a big fan of your writing." He gave a gracious "thank you" and that was it. I didn't tell him I was also a food writer and that his writing inspired me, so he had no reason to ask me anything about myself. Regrets, regrets.

He asked me to describe the Rezebal Blanco txakoli, and I could not think of a single thing to say. I said "well-balanced" with a stutter, and he ordered it and seemed to like it, but unfortunately it is not at all well-balanced: It's super tart and upfront. Intense bright fresh fruit flavors. I can't believe I told him it was well-balanced. I went to the back and basically banged my head against the wall.

I took some deep breaths and gave myself a stern talking-to. He's just a person, I told myself.

The rest of the night went fine. I did drop his friend's knife onto his plate with a huge clatter when trying to reset the table — but because the knife was oily and not because I was nervous, I think?? I described all the food appropriately, which is more important to me than wine, even though I know I really should know both to the same extent. Mostly I tried to stay out of their way, because I was so afraid of hovering. They both left generous tips.

Later that night I tried tweeting at him, but I doubt he'll see it or respond. I am going to try emailing him, too.

this was supposed to be a dazed face.
got his autograph!!!

The same night, John T. Edge walked in!!! Two of America's best food writers, in the same room with me, and I talked to both of them! My head was spinning. (John T., if you don't know, is the director of Southern Foodways Alliance and author of the recently published Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South. I highly recommend it. So does the New York Times.)

I felt off-balance the whole night. To cap things off, my train ride home was very strange as well. The train driver fell asleep at the wheel or something, because he zoomed through my stop and then screeched to a stop just past it. I was in a middle car. Over the loudspeaker, he announced that anyone wanting to get off should walk to the rear car to exit through one door that had been manually opened by a MTA employee. They couldn't open all the doors without endangering passengers in the front cars, who were stuck in the tunnel past the station. So weird.

"WHO'S DRIVING THIS TRAIN?" An angry woman shouted as we de-boarded.

The same capricious higher powers that sent me Mark Bittman and John T. Edge in the same night, I thought.

different night, but I'm going to include this here because it is also strange.

I watched this man

devour four hot dogs

one after another

and then lick his fingers when done.

No comments:

Post a Comment