Irene, the manager (outside contractor) of the cafeteria, was a beast for portion control and cost containment. Sometimes the consumer was the direct victim of her Dickensian penury and according to Bill Howard, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to come away from the serving counter with the observation that they had received their eggs and bacon but it had come with only one grit.
I can’t remember if I coined this or not (probably not—I’m not usually gifted as an author of clever one-liners), but one discussion involving sliced roast beef claimed that Irene had cut it so thin it only had one side. I added that to my repertoire and have used it for years. Roddy calls that one of the most cerebral observations he’s ever heard.
I originally posted that story in early 2009. Two things have happened since then. First, I’ve heard Guy Fieri, host of Diners, Drive-ins & Dives (on the Food Channel) say the “so thin it only has one side” thing at least three times in watching his shows. He’s fairly young, so a phrase used (if not coined) in the ’60s is clearly more original.
Second, I recalled another café funny, although I’m certain it didn’t involve Irene—I think I witnessed it at ZAU. Nevertheless, it’s the same theme. On the placard entering the serving area of the café, the daily specials were listed on one of those signboards with white plastic letters with tabs that stick into parallel creases in the black fabric. One particular day the soup du jour was clam chowder. Some wag came out of the serving area, looking pensively at his bowl of soup on his tray, looked up and announced in the general direction of the kitchen, “you’d better change the sign to potato soup—I found the clam.” Hilarious.
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