Cocktails and appetizers, anyone?
OK. I’m a foodie or something along those lines. At my age there are less of life’s experiences available and food becomes, perhaps, too important. That’s why, I guess, an out of town friend, while visiting Reno, called and asked me just where she should dine for a special dinner.
My son, Doug, and I haven’t been into Reno recently; however, there are still other fine places to dine and I told her my suggestions. She then asked why not write a column about my favorite meals and when and where they occurred? I began to smile; remembering one meal I wasn’t served, but one that I served while waitressing at a Jewish Country Club in Montgomery County, Pa., many years ago when I was raising five sons.
According to my family history, my great-great grandfather was a Russian Jew. My maiden name is Hoffman and I have a great affection for, and connection with, the people I was serving. The lively and unabashed actions during this particular celebration showed something about their character. It’s as if “Hey, world, we enjoy food and fun and if you don’t like how we behave, we really don’t care!” I love this about the Jewish people.
When I got the call to work this function, I knew from experience that serving a large contingent of Jewish guests wouldn’t be easy, especially after a holiday that required their fasting. They love to eat and sometimes require a little more than the usual service. We always had many Jewish customers who dined at my regular waitressing job at the Blue Bell Inn. So I wouldn’t be surprised at their requests.
Arriving early, I found others were already setting up “the appetizer room.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’d never seen so much food in one place in all my life. There were mountains of shrimp, trays of fabulous looking assorted cheeses, special tidbits and goodies. Mounds of food were set up in layers, from lower to top tiers and everything in between. It was absolutely mind-boggling.
This was some special Jewish holiday celebration and there were a multitude of people who were, at that very moment, busy indulging in the bar area. Then I was quietly informed to get out of the way, since they were announcing the opening of “the appetizer room.” For my own survivals sake I was told, don’t be in the doorway, these people haven’t eaten in a long time. Getting in their way wasn’t advisable.
Almost immediately, as the announcement was being made, you could hear the people rushing from one room to the other. Within what seemed mere seconds, hundreds of beautifully dressed people descended into that appetizer room. As instructed, I stayed out of their way. Those once huge and beautiful mounds of food were reduced to empty platters in just a few minutes.
Then, about a half hour later, dinner was to be served and I had three tables of eight people each. The center of each table contained a huge chopped ice filled bowl with an entire bunch of celery. You know, that big celery “thing” you buy. The bottom had been chopped off and the stalks separated and jammed into the ice. It was surrounded with all kinds of olives and radishes. In about five minutes that food was history.
As I served the first course matzo ball soup to the last of my three tables, the first man served was yelling for his salad. I turned, looked right at him and; giving him a look that would kill; told him something about how he could just wait until I had served everybody else their soup. I really wasn’t very nice.
Our eyes met. The look continued as I exited the dining room to go and serve the salad to all of my guests. Don’t laugh, but it was fun and this man knew it and so did I. Each course he would give me trouble, and each time I would return in kind.
We were paid a good salary for that evening. Tips were not to be expected, it wasn’t that kind of evening. Luckily, I got to watch many of those finely dressed people do a couple of their special Jewish dances. It was absolutely fantastic to watch them doing tradition moves.
We weren’t supposed to get tips, but my once demanding “friend” left me one of the largest I had ever received. It was one great evening.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.