Sunday, August 16, 2009
Mr. Sunday Afternoon Special
I wait tables at A Restaurant. Like many other establishments looking to kill you slowly, we serve a dish called "The Elvis"; two slices of thick-cut, applewood-smoked bacon is cooked into two gigantic buttermilk pancakes, whereupon they are topped with bananas sauteed in honey and butter, a blob of peanut-butter butter and powdered sugar. This coronary is served with a side of pure maple syrup. For those looking to dip their toes into the experience without committing fully, we also provide a single bacon-pancake-banana-peanut-butter pile to those asking for "The Lisa Marie" (pictured). It should be noted that most of our guests have a hard time cleaning up a plate of even the latter.
This weekend is the anniversary of the day Elvis entered the next world largely thanks to food, so it seems only fitting that The Restauranteurs AKA Bosspeople of The Restaurant crafted a menu of special foodstuffs honoring his demise and, at the same time sort of accidentally, honoring the capacity of our cuisine to interrupt one's life cycle.
One of the items on this weekend's menu of death is a $35 crash course in diabetic shock called "The Graceland." We do sweeten the deal, aha, though: if you can plow your way through its SIX bacon-laden pancakes, THREE bananas sauteed in a pint of clover honey and clarified butter, THREE BALLS OF PEANUT-BUTTER BUTTER THE SIZE OF A TEENAGE FIST and a bowl of maple syrup, we will award you a bona fide Restaurant Logo tee shirt.
Luckily the only t-shirts we have left these days are Large an Extra Large. Also, you have to eat the whole thing in 30 minutes or under.
This morning, the restaurant is quiet. A little too quiet. At about 10AM, a lone gentleman arrives. At my mercy. At our mercy. He carries with him a backpack and a plastic bag, through which a bottle of something and paper currency is clearly visible. He is in my section. He is fine with only water. Pointing at the specials menu, he looks up at me. He has one eye.
"This come with a t-shirt?"
"You have to eat the entire thing. In a half and hour or less. Its alot of food!"
He smiles. "I'll take it!"
I ask him if he's sure; he says he's sure yes. The kitchen goes nuts, the manager is joking did he ask for a bucket too. Twenty minutes later, I place before him a pile of flapjacks and slime weighing over five pounds, dripping goo from a height of eight inches. The previous evening, four people working in unison could not conquer this dish. He says "Can I wash my hands?"
"The restroom is right around the corner, first door on your left."
The Graceland is thus allowed a moment of repose. Diners gawk, whispering, and capture its steaming, wide-shouldered form in their memories. We take pictures of it with our digital cameras and inside the tiny image within the tiny screen The Graceland makes everything around it seem to contract in size. The man returns, hands still wet. From his backpack he produces two rubber gloves and fits them awkwardly, squeakily, over his fingers.
Turning around, I leave him to his work.
Momentarily, a coworker gasps "He's eaten a whole ball of peanut butter butter!" Suddenly we're all watching again; he's working on the banana chunks, getting them in there. The peanut-butter butter globs are mostly gone. The topping is going down first. He requires more water. He has not yet engaged the silverware.
He drinks a glass of water, sixteen ounces of cold water. Our cooks are emerging one by one from the kitchen to satisfy their curiousity about the man who bragged he could do it in less than thirty for sure. They can't believe it. He cuts the entire pile in half with his silverware, then again. This will be the extent of his cutlery use for the duration of the meal.
Ten minutes down. Toppings gone, syrup undisturbed, pancakes a pile of shrapnel the color of vehicle upholstery. He has food all over his face like a postcard of a baby, and is hoisting jagged wedges of pancake halfheartedly into his mouth. He needs more water.
Fifteen minutes down. He is starting to reel, eye half closed, sitting up from his meal, from his intense pancake-ingesting hunch.
"You better bring a bucket, I'm gonna throw up!"
At this I sort of laugh and pour him some more water and then head into the kitchen looking for a suitable container for what would be, at this point, about a gallon of foamy tan vomit. It occurs to me that we should probably not cater to his immediate whim or perhaps fantasy of barfing in the middle of a restaurant but I sort of feel like I'm going to vomit myself and I momentarily fear that if I return to his side I will either vomit or be vomited upon. The host is ashen; he, too, has got the puke fever.
No. At eighteen minutes, we have to address the situation. A half-dozen tourists are watching him intently, having just finished their comparatively miniature breakfasts, and it would not do to encourage their accidental regurgitation either.
I return to the table.
"These are the worst pancakes I've ever had!" He is swirling in his chair, gloved hands coated with pale muck, fingers wiggling slowly.
"Sir, are you ok?"
"You better bring me a bucket."
"Ha ha! Well. Lets get into the restroom, then. Can you stand up?"
He rises, teetering, and I guide him as gingerly as I can towards the men's room. He stumbles through the partially opened door towards the urinal.
"Sir! The stall!" I exclaim, alarmed. He changes course, heading for the toilet instead. Once more, I leave him to his work.
Twenty-two minutes. An intrepid dishwasher volunteers to check on him. The report back from the front is there's no mess, he wants some more water, and now he's in the hallway. The manager is concerned about whether or not we've landed him in the hospital later today. We decide he's earned The Graceland, now an assortment of cake nuggets and melting ice cubes waiting moistly for his return. This one will be on the house.
Thirty minutes. At a table in the bathroom corridor, head in his hands. I fill his water glass and at the sound of ice cubes hitting plastic he looks up. I give him antacid tablets and he chews them like dinner mints.
"I don't know what I did to myself!"
"Its on us. Could have been the peanut butter butter, right?"
"I'll be fine I'll just have a cigarette. Want to have a cigarette with me?"
He gathers his belongings and reemerges into the balmy heat of the day. We think, Ah! If he comes back we should give him a t-shirt anyway.