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Kitchen Chronicles: A New Weekly Series

June 10, 2012

I’m going to be starting a weekly installment series on top of my (not so) regular posting tonight. I think you’ll come to love it.

If you’ve been reading thus far you know that my current post-grad achievement has been acquiring employment at a restaurant in town (among other things like mastering the art of the perfect cover letter…or at least the cover letter that isn’t completely terrible). I was watching Little Women today and was reminded that I should make more of an effort to write from my life experiences. This is when I realized that many of my new life experiences at this dining establishment actually have a lot to offer in a critical feminist analysis.

Thus, Kitchen Chronicles was born.

It will be a weekly dose of the hilarious/terrifying/interesting/puzzling things that I hear, am told, or experience in the kitchen, a place few restaurant guests venture. I can’t promise it will always be a perfect direct quotation or recollection of the event (I am working after all during all of this) but I’ll do my best! Tonight we begin, enjoy!

Kitchen Chronicle #1

Spoken to me on one of my first few days: “Give yourself a month or two and you’ll be as racist as the rest of us.”

On the particular night this was said, it was as if the entire waiting staff joined in the chorus of the one above. I would be in the middle of checking out a customer and someone would come up to me to reaffirm what had already been said about my inevitable fall into racism. This was not the most fun night in the kitchen. Imagine having several people catch you off guard when you’re just trying to accomplish a task and telling you that you will be racist in the near future.

You probably already guessed that the majority of this racism comes from the differential tips customers will give us on a ticket. There are so many issues with this line of thinking that I know I can’t cover them all. One of the major problems though is that in ascribing to this sort of racism, there’s a complete lack of attention paid to the structural inequalities that persist in the world.

If you have ever read Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva then you will have knowledge of what I allude to here. When structural inequalities exist in the U.S. that keep African-Americans from reaching high paying jobs (which I would argue they do exist, and Bonilla-Silva does so as well, see his book for more information!), as a group, servers will indeed find them most likely leaving less of a tip than others. Because someone with less money to begin with is not going to tip as someone with more money/stability/savings/what have you.

At this particular restaurant we also get a lot of non-U.S. tourists, visitors, or business-people who just aren’t always knowledgeable of the typical tipping procedure of the United States. When this happens of course, rather than understanding that there’s an issue of differing cultures at hand, my fellow apron-ed coworkers seem to view it as the blatant meanness and/or stupidity of the culture (characterized in racial terms) of the person leaving the 0% or $1 tip.

This is an especially painful misunderstanding for me to be an audience to as I just want to sit everyone down and attempt to explain that this doesn’t have to be a racial thing. I also want to sit them all down and tell them very staunchly that I intend to never turn out being just as racist as the rest of them (and if somehow in a million years I do, I hope someone will come find me and slap me out of it). Instead I just went with the fastest (there’s very little time to explain structural inequality when serving food to the masses) way to get them to stop telling me how racist I would be in a few months by just quickly saying “you seriously don’t know who you’re talking to.”

Alas, welcome to the kitchen dear readers. Or at least the parts of it I think compelling enough to let you in on. Enjoy the series. And have a wonderful day.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. aarondelwiche permalink
    June 10, 2012 6:39 pm

    This is a good idea for a series of essays. You could even create a dedicated blog for this (e.g., kitchenchronicles.wordpress.com) and see if the foodosphere takes notice. 🙂

  2. June 11, 2012 10:39 pm

    That’s an exceptional idea! Plus I’ve realized I have way more material to work with than I first imagined I would!

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