My mother has a peculiar tendency. After cooking an absurdly large dinner, she feels the need to identify each dish on the table. I’ve turned this dinnertime ritual into my latest, brilliant epiphany: Replacing restaurant menus with Mom.
I’m not sure if this is a common motherly trait, but here’s how it goes down in my house: First, Mom prepares an obscene amount of food. Then, when the dining room table is so crammed with the feast that hardly room for your own plate-setting, she begins.
“There’s corn, and rice pilaf, and chicken, and salad, and dressing, and…”
On and on, she identifies everything before us. It’s a tremendous service, considering there are 27 entrees on the table; You may miss that tray of pink applesauce hidden behind the dinner rolls stacked halfway to the ceiling.
My epiphanies often turn these type of behaviors into lucrative cash cows, and I could see this one was no different. Without delay, I phoned a friend who owns a restaurant. “Recycle those menus,” I said. “My mom is coming over.”
Mom Goes Overboard
I explained the process to my friend: Instead of using menus, my mother would visit each table and do her food inventory thing, reciting every dish the chef could prepare. A tad bit time consuming, but the restaurant would save thousands every year on menu printing costs.
Profit margins are tight for restaurants, so my friend was willing to give it a try. My mom, who seldom performs dinnertime inventory now that we kids have moved out, was overjoyed. The chance to call out food items all night long — it was a dream come true.
Out of the gates, the experiment was a tremendous success. Patrons were amazed at how Mom could rattle off every dish on the menu, every item in the kitchen refrigerator, and anything edible within a forty-five mile radius.
The owner loved the service because Mom was, by her maternal nature, perennially upselling. “We’ve still got a lot of mashed potatoes,” she would announce. “I need someone to finish those.”
Unfortunately, the arrangement had a fatal flaw. After the customers were done dining, my mother would intercept them at the door. “Here, take these,” she’d say, and hand them complete four-course meals, wrapped up in plastic bags. “Leftovers. You can have this for lunch tomorrow.”
Of course these weren’t leftovers, and the restaurant owner tried to explain to her that she was giving away food and profits. She wouldn’t hear of it, convinced that everyone was on the brink of starvation. (“Obesity is in the eye of the beholder,” she often says.)
She was fired, and yet another epiphany resulted in complete failure.
I took Mom home, and as we pulled into her driveway, she turned to me and smiled. “Don’t worry, I had a good time,” she patted my hand. “Now would you like to come in for some dessert? We have apple pie, cherry pie, cookies…”