This is where 'everything else' goes.

The Breakfast Invitation

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , , , — Wigi @ 8:31 pm January 31, 2009

I got up late this morning, and decided I would toss a load of laundry into the washing machine. When I went downstairs with my arms full of clothes. I was greeted at the bottom of the steps by the family cat, named Mouse.

“Meow.”

“Hey, Mousie! You’re right, it is a nice day.”

“Meow.”

“Yeah, me too. I was going to go to the convenience store and get coffee and one of those terrible breakfast sandwiches.” I noticed that there was a spot on one of the shirts I was stuffing in the washing machine, so I grabbed the pre-wash and started spraying like there was no tomorrow.

“Meow.”

“Wow, that’s really sweet Mousie, but you know I prefer coffee and that sausage-egg-fat pill they sell at Holiday”

“Meow.”

“No, I am not too good to eat with you… but there’s a reason they call it “cat food” and not “cat and people food.” Plus, there’s something about eating something that is nothing more than fish-flavored Lucky Charms.” I dumped the soap in and started the washing machine.

“Meow.”

“Because you’re a cat, that’s why. I am not making salmon for breakfast, and if I did, I wouldn’t be feeding you any of it. Anyway, you’re supposed to like that stuff. You always eat it.”

“Meow.”

“That’s cute. ‘Screw you then, just feed me.’” I mocked his tone. “Meow meow meow, my ass. Whatever happened to ‘please’?”

I grabbed a handful of cat food and threw it in the bowl. “There. You happy?”

What a whiner. I started up the stairs, but then I turned back.

“You know, Mouse, that bowl you’re eating out of? It is a puppy bowl. Notice the little puppy paws on it?” I slammed the basement door.

Let’s see how he enjoys his food now.

The Intangibles

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , — Wigi @ 9:28 pm October 18, 2008

It is Saturday morning, and my usual Saturday ritual is without direction.

My partner and I have made it a habit to take off on most Saturday mornings to get breakfast somewhere. For a long time, we went to a place in midtown, where we found good food and a very friendly server, who was the inspiration for a blog I wrote way back when entitled Sunny Side Up. When we went, we would always try to sit in her section, but even when we didn’t (or couldn’t), she would always come by and say hello.

Since that time, our favorite server has departed for greener pastures. We hadn’t heard that she left… we went a few times and noticed that she was missing… but for all we knew, she was on vacation or something. The strange thing was, the quality of the food seemed to drop, too. The eggs weren’t cooked correctly, things would be cold… Nothing else had changed… same owners, same crowd.

After three or four visits, we concluded that our friend had left… but more importantly, we weren’t enjoying the food, and we were not enjoying our visits to this particular restaurant. I don’t know how or why, but the departure of one server had made a profound difference in the quality of the entire experience… not just the service, but the food, too.

I must say that I am a creature of habit, and that might be a part of it. There is a convenience store that I go to on weekday mornings for coffee… and there is a rather pleasant guy there that I joke around with… and while I don’t go out of my way to go there to see HIM, if he didn’t make the visit a pleasant experience, I might get my coffee elsewhere.

There’s something to be said for being seen as a ‘regular’. You don’t really get any better service… or at least, you shouldn’t. But it is nice to be recognized, and it is nice that you get some value out of your visit that goes beyond just the item you pay for.

Back about fifteen years ago my job took me to Pearl River, LA for an extended work trip. At the time I was living in California, so there was a slight amount of culture shock that I experienced in the five weeks there… but it showed up most interestingly when I would go out to eat. Pearl River isn’t very big, so when you stopped in at a place, it only took one or two visits before people started to know who you were.

The most striking thing I noticed was when you left a restaurant (or any other place, for that matter), the server would say, “Y’all come back and see us…” Of course, this is just the bayou way of saying ‘please come again’, but it was so different from what I was used to that it made an impression on me… and I would suggest that it was subtly but substantively different, though I wasn’t sure of that at first. I became sure when I went to a diner in downtown Pearl River. A co-worker and I walked in and sat down. We immediately attracted withering stares from a woman standing behind the counter. The interesting thing was, this woman looked and sounded exactly like one of the women who worked in our Pearl River office…

The woman came to our table, and started quizzing us about who we were – apparently Pearl River doesn’t get too many visitors… especially visitors with a distinctive non-bayou accent. When we told her where we worked, her entire countenance changed. It turned out that she was the twin sister of the woman at our office. We went from suspicious carpetbaggers to long-lost relatives in the span of a sentence. And when we left and she said, “Y’all come back and see us…” you could tell that she would have been disappointed if we hadn’t.

I think a lot of owners and managers don’t look at the intangibles when it comes to marketing their products and services. I hate going to Costco or Sam’s Club, because I feel like the relationship part of the experience is stripped out so that customers can save fifty cents on a twenty pound tub of grated cheese. But, at least for me, the whole experience is important. When I go out to eat, I want to enjoy the entire experience. When I go to a store, I’d like to know that there’s someone there that wants to help me, if I need it.

After my partner and I realized that our favorite server had bolted from our breakfast haunt, we started looking for a new place to go. We found a place, and immediately liked it… but our second visit was troubling – when there were errors in our order, the server had excuses rather than solutions. The third visit was worse than the second… the food was room temperature, and the service was slow. So today, we’re without a breakfast haunt.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking out of the grocery store, and I ran across my wayward server friend. She immediately saw me and ran over and hugged me. I told her how much we missed her, and that we don’t go there anymore, since she’s not there. She could barely hide her contempt for her former employer… and she thought we were sweet for changing our habits when she left. She told me that she had a new job, and she was working at a different restaurant. Unfortunately, she’d taken a job with a one of the chain restaurants… and as much as I like her, it isn’t enough to get me to go eat there. I am glad she’s landed on her feet… but finding her didn’t solve my problem.

So now I am getting hungry, and it looks like it will be me cooking… which is fine… I like to cook. But in the meantime, my Saturday morning quest continues, for je ne sais pas…

Forward Progress?

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , — Wigi @ 9:45 pm May 11, 2008

One of my favorite things to do is to make breakfast on Sunday mornings. I used to like to go out for breakfast, and truthfully, I still do enjoy it… but I am a good enough cook that I’ve gotten kinda picky about the food I get in restaurants, and greasy hash browns and rubbery eggs just don’t cut it anymore.

Fortunately for me, the kids don’t care for my cooking, or breakfast could be an all-day affair, and turn me into a short-order cook. A gallon of milk, Cocoa Puffs and a shovel (and safety goggles) will suffice for them.

So today, I made one of my favorites – french toast – which is both easy and tasty. I have a special recipe for the batter… and I use both cinnamon and ground cloves, as well as sugar, half and half and eggs. The big advantage there is that the cloves make for a very fragrant presentation, without overpowering the taste.

There is one other ingredient that is a must have, and that is real maple syrup. I went to make french toast a couple weeks ago, and discovered that I was out of maple syrup, so before I could make it, I had to run to the store. [As an aside, don't you think that totally defeats the purpose of breakfast? The idea that you'd have to get dressed and go to the store to get something before you could come home, get undressed and put your jammies back on, just to enjoy the meal? By the time you get dressed and go out, the breakfast clock is running down, and it is already getting to be lunch time.]

“Pancake Syrup” – the brush I will paint the entire market from Log Cabin to Mrs. Butterworth’s – is an abomination… but more importantly, it was one of the first baby steps of the food industry into the realm of corn sweeteners. Without going into the horrors of High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which one could easily look up in any search engine, the idea of substituting pancake syrup – basically liquid sugar – for a flavor that is so unique that it defies substitution just boggles the mind.

Sure, real maple syrup is expensive. But it shouldn’t be treated like a staple, it should be treated like a spice or a garnish. A little dab will do ya… and a small bottle of maple syrup goes a long way. If you’re concerned about the serving size your kids would use, put it on there for them… you don’t let them decide how much garlic to put in your tomato sauce, do you?

I am not a food nazi… but just think how much more enjoyable having those dishes the way they were intended.

Like margarine before it, corn sweeteners will end up being a nutritional failure. So why settle for sub-standard anyway?

Sunny Side Up

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , — Wigi @ 9:30 pm July 25, 2006

It has become a bit of a ritual for us. Every Saturday morning we go get breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast places (they serve other meals, too… but bagels are their thing, and they have good coffee). We are there often enough that the servers know us by sight, if not by name.

Our usual server was there this past Saturday, and she is always quite cheerful. She came by with a refill for my coffee, and this is what she says:

“I love breakfast, don’t you? I could eat it every other day!”