How Was Everything?
When I was done the waitress came by and asked, "How was everything?"
"It was OK," I said, "but it was rather small and overpriced for what I got." I decided to forgo the wrap tirade.
The waitress's response? "Perfect! Can I get you some dessert?"
"How was everything?" is a rhetorical question, like "How are you doing?" Nobody listens to the answer. Nobody wants to hear, "The food sucked," or "My life sucks," or "The world sucks." Well, if the food sucks I'm gonna tell it like it is.
Some years ago I ate at a now-defunct West Village restaurant called The New Haven Pizza Company. They had an item on the menu that was highlighted as a special: fried kale. We ordered it. I think the premise of the dish was that the deep-frying process turns the fibrous leaves into a crispy treat. Well, the result was one of the greasiest, heaviest things I've ever tasted.
"How was everything?" the waitress asked when she presented us with the check.
"Well," I said, "the fried kale was one of the greasiest, heaviest things I've ever tasted."
The waitress got indignant. "Well! Most of our customers LOVE it." Good for them, I thought.
In the mid-eighties I went to Cincinnati to visit the Ty-D-Bowl man. A friend of mine who had recently graduated from business school had gotten a job as an assistant product manager for Ty-D-Bowl Toilet Bowl Drop-Ins. I'm always game for a visit to a new city, though Cincinnati was certainly a culinary wasteland. What can you say for a city whose greatest contribution to American cuisine is Skyline Chili? Greek-spiced chili over spaghetti! It wasn't bad, but once in a lifetime is sufficient for me. Anyway, while I was in Cincinnati I went out with my friend and his wife to an Italian restaurant that turned out to be abominable. In fact, I specifically remember the Ty-D-Bowl man saying, "This sausage is foul."
Our waitress, a perky, hyper-Caucasian, strawberry-blond Middle-American teen asked us, "How was everything?"
In a non-inflected monotone (is there any other kind?) I replied, "No good."
"Oh, thank you!" she said enthusiastically.
Sometimes the staff knows better than to ask "How was everything?" I remember a place near Madison Square Garden that served Portuguese and Italian food. We all ordered from the Portuguese menu, as it was clear that this was a Portuguese place that served Italian food to hedge their bets. The food was lousy. I'm sure you'd do much better in a Lisbon hospital. The waiters were all ancient, dour, unsmiling Portuguese men in black suits and bow ties. I was waiting for our waiter to ask, "How was everything?" I was going to tell him how everything was. But he never asked. I think he knew.