A fresh new writer and seasoned waitress will be your server for this memoir of a life measured out with coffee spoons. It’s not the same story as Prufrock’s.
This plat du jour is as mundane as meat loaf and, even loaded with filler, as easy to digest. Starting in her teens, Ginsberg has served in her family’s borscht belt luncheonette and in a stodgy, WASPy private club. For over 20 years she’s delivered slices in pizzerias, drinks in bars, and good eats in restaurants nationwide. It’s been no piece of cake. It’s true: some provoked servers may spit in an insensible customer’s soup, stomp on a returned steak, or tamper with a cheapskate’s doggy bag contents. But patrons may just as frequently be remarkably nasty or truly stupid. Looking for a free meal, they may plant bugs in their food. Worst of all, they may even stiff their waiter or waitress and leave no tip at all. Discussing the theory and practice of waiting tables, Ginsberg updates the Federal “Occupational Outlook Handbook” and deconstructs films and TV shows that feature food servers. She notes the value of adopting a persona, true or false, and presents, with considerable verisimilitude, the sounds, the smells, the panic, the steamy drama of a busy kitchen. It’s not the savage scene once limned by dishwasher George Orwell, down and out in London and Paris, and there are no small servings of sex. It’s close and feverish, after all, in Ginsberg’s domain. As well as a guide to acceptable table manners, this is a memoir of people she’s worked with and for—of blighted romances and of growing up in an apron, order pad in hand. On the whole, she seems to have enjoyed the job.
Not a definitive study of the profession, but simply one woman’s tale of table service and, equally, of her lovers, her friends, and her family. Served with a smile.