Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Overhyping Your Cafeteria Food

I work for a casino here in Las Vegas. I've worked for several casinos. And I'm a veteran of numerous academic institutions. The common thread? Mediocre cafeterias. Steam tray after steam tray of questionable foodstuffs - enchildadas that are too dry, pasta still floating in water, chili con carne masquerading as chili colorado.

But none of that's important. Cafeteria food will always be mediocre. What does piss me off is the way the food is all served with these impressive, boffo names on the steam tray placard: "Shanghai style beef tips", "panache of vegetables", "Scottish style salmon"... Cafeteria food sucks and these names just don't belong. You know why prostitutes were called tarts? Because they were a bunch of whores, and they were all tarted up. Yeah, I'm talking to you Panache of Vegetables.

So today's post is basically going to just me be venting and ranting about some of these tarted up cafeteria food names. First on the list: "Oven Roasted Tom Turkey". What you need to picture here is an aluminum tray filled with turkey slices. To be scrupulous and fair, the placard should really just say "Here is some Turkey". But no, it's oven roasted Tom Turkey. Now, I'd have to go look this up I guess, but doesn't "Tom" turkey mean that it's a male turkey? That's all it means, right? So 1) Why did I need to know that, and 2) Why was I supposed to be impressed? Frankly, it grosses me out just a bit. Chicken and cows are all female. That's what I'm used to. Why do I need to know about the gender of the animal that is now my food? The only thing "Tom Turkey" is really saying to me is "Recently, close to this food, there was a turkey penis." Thanks, placard. Good job.

In college, the soft serve machine said "Double Dutch Chocolate". Now, what makes soft serve chocolate ice cream Dutch, and how does one then double what is Dutch? Could you make triple Dutch ice cream? Or would there have to be a copy of the diary of Anne Frank hidden somewhere in the cone? I believe this is related to the broader trend of just slapping the word Dutch in front of various nouns to make them more interesting. A Dutch treat, going Dutch, Dutch doors, double Dutch, and of course the infamous Dutch oven.

Then there's the gravy. Oh my do they try to make you impressed with the gravy. I'd say probably the largest disparity between quality of food and pretense on the placard has to be in the gravy department. Picture, please, a warmed tub of your typical, industrial, processed beef gravy. You know - the musky, brown, syrupy sort. The kind that sits next to the tub of instant mashed potatos. The kind that is always congealing at the top. There you go... you got it. The sneeze shield is all fogged up. There's dried gravy caked on the ladle. Perfect.

Now why the fuck would you call that "Natural Pan Gravy"? It's not natural pan gravy. And I'll be honest, natural pan gravy isn't really so great either. It's watery, oily, and not that flavorful. The real placard, in my world, would read: "Brown Fluid - which, you'll admit - can pretty much pass for gravy." There you go. That's honest. None of this Orwell-lite trickery.

It's like they can't bring themselves to have a placard that just says "Rice". It has to be "Jasmine Rice". Tomatos have to be "Blistered Tomatos". And they must have a whole room full of potato related placards. "Idaho Russet Sweet Scalloped blah blah blah Fingerling Potatoes".

You know, I'm just going to go in there one day with some stealth placards and just replace them all when no one's looking. We'll all come in to work one day and it'll be "Rigatoni with Yesterday's Shrimp", "There's-Fish-at-the-Bottom Soup", "Fruit", and "Here are your Goddamn Potatoes".


Matt Vella said...

I fear the gravy as much as the placards, perhaps more.

Rowsdower said...

Then you don't want me to get started on the "Giblet Gravy".