Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Common Courtesy...

Word Count: 3034. It's midnight, and I'm exhausted! I will be sooooo glad to finally post this thing on Friday and forget about it for several months! I'm getting heartily sick of my characters' sex lives...the story has tried to end itself 3 times already, and I'm just a tad over 44K. Only 6K left...and two more days. I should be able to do it!

The following has been posted with permission of Zola, one of the ArcaMax chefs whose e-zine I stumbled across last winter. I've tried some of her yummy recipes, as well as Chef James, Wolfgang Puck (although some of his are too spicy or too complicated, but there's one that's a monthly fav!), and the ArcaMax chef himself.

Given the holiday season is upon us, and people are rushing about, let us not forget to be courteous when we're entertaining, shopping, or even eating at our favorite restaurants. And if you're looking for great recipes to spice up your meals, please visit and sign up for the free ArcaMax e-zine. You won't be disappointed!

A Study in Human Nature...

During this time of gift-giving, generosity and the human spirit, I want to talk about courtesy.

I came by my experience with this phenomenon a few days ago. I was at a very special gathering. I was asked by a special friend to cook a lunch/brunch for 125 people and I had to prepare quickly. I only had a couple of days’ notice. The gathering was going to be in Wisconsin, so the first thing I had to do was drive up from Chicago.

My niece lives at my house in Madison (now that I live most of the time in Chicago). I heard she was planning to have a couple of friends come in for the weekend. When my niece heard I was going to be working hard on this event she volunteered herself, her boyfriend and the other couple as help. I was overjoyed and relieved. There was no doubt I needed help. My back is much better, but my body is not ready to carry the full responsibility for a party that big. On my best days I’d still need help.

We made the best of the evening when we were cooking. It was a party atmosphere. Even another good friend, Troy, joined us and made a major effort to help out. It was the wee hours before we finished up for the night and we had to get up at the crack of dawn in order to have the whole event ready for the guests to arrive.

And arrive they did. All 125 of them.

We set out a brunch with Cheesy Hash browns, baked French Toast, Italian Pot Pie, and a whole host of other side items. (You can find the recipes for the hash browns and the pot pie on my website at

My “crew” set up the buffet tables and it looked gorgeous; down-right professional. In order to feed that many we had to serve in chafing dishes I had rented from A-Z. You couldn’t tell the buffet was set up by a bunch of young adults with no professional cooking experience. It was a sight to behold. I was very proud of this group of young adults.

They volunteered to serve at the event and to keep things tidy as well as clean up after the guests left. That way I could circulate amongst the group.

I kept a slight eye on the buffet table but gave them little advice along the way. They were doing a perfect job.

It wasn’t until after we had the whole party cleaned up that I heard about some of the comments from guests. I won’t go into specific detail but there were times these young adults were treated like minor slaves. Comments were made to them about all kinds of things. (No one was complaining about the food. Thank goodness. They loved the food.)

Here’s one specific example: One of the young adults went up to a woman who was holding an empty plate. It was obvious she had finished her food. There were stains on the plate and her fork was dirty but she was holding it while talking. The crew-person asked if she would like her plate removed so she could chat. The woman laid into the crew-person railing something about, “How dare you! I’m not done! I’m going back to the buffet”. Of course the crew person backed off politely and went to clean up other plates and glasses left behind. On another occasion one of the crew was chewed out for not serving drinks fast enough. (The drinks were served buffet style so the crew person showed her where to get a drink. The drinks were right next to the buffet. They were difficult to miss.) This was just the beginning. I’ll save your ears some of the rest of the borderline insults. (And for those of you who think alcohol was the catalyst. It wasn’t. No alcohol was served).

The interesting thing is that when most of the guests learned these young folks were not part of a catering company, but friends of the woman who orchestrated the cooking on behalf of the hostess, they turned 180 degrees in their language and attitude. When they found out, they were not only courteous, but full of compliments and thankfulness.

My question, is what’s the difference? The young adults didn’t change clothes; didn’t change faces. They were still the same people. Why is it that when some people think you work for a caterer you are a target for abuse and when you are a “friend of the family” it’s completely different? I don’t think it is different. If I ever had an inkling of starting a catering company, that experience pretty much killed it.

In this time of holiday spirit, parties and generosity I’d love it if you’d help me promote courtesy to those who serve us all. In America we have a lot to learn. I daresay it may be a worldwide phenomenon.

Bless you all as keepers of the faith in the kindness of mankind.

For more information on Zola and to see more of her recipes, visit her Web site at


Brynn Paulin said...

That story at the end is quite an interesting study in behavior. Pisses me off because it's so true... I swear politeness is a dying virtue.

Phoenix said...

A good reminder. Thank you Moll. It aggrivates me to no end when people cannot maintain common descency and politeness.

Bronwyn Green said...

I just don't get why some people think that only certain people are deserving of courtesy and kindness. Pisses me off.

Molly Daniels said...

It irritates me, too. Back in 1990, I went to Bern, IN with idiot #2, and our server was rude and obnoxious to me, but sweet to him. I'd had enough of it, but he tried to talk me out of reporting her. So I tried something: She brought us the bill before asking if we wanted dessert; I ordered cheesecake.

I warned him I was going to do something and to just shut up and play along.

She brings this huge slice and pretty much slams it down in front of me and before she could walk away, I said, "Oh man, big're going to have to help me eat this; I'm stuffed!"

This is no joke: Her attitude did a complete 180 and was soon laughing and joking with both of us! Never did get the idiot to give her his number...I tried, but he wouldn't let me.

Sandra Cox said...

How sad is that, I ask while shaking my head.

Molly Daniels said...

Oops...I meant to say idiot #1...I married #2...