FIRST HAND EYEWITNESS

          While working as a night watchman at the most exclusive Country Club in town, my employer allowed me and my typewriter a small office overlooking the kitchen area to finish my book. One evening while in a semi-daze stare pondering a plot conflict, I gazed though a window onto the cooking area, absently observing the five cooks, none of whom spoke English. One walked away from standing in front of a dining-table-long hot grill with heat lamps above the serving bar, no doubt for a breath of cool air while in the process of breading. Judging by the way he traded hands back and forth, reminding me of the child’s game of patty-cake, he must be preparing veal, which at that moment slipped his grip and splat on the tile floor. I was shaken from my stare as the cook picked up the main course, which lost much of its crumb coating, only to drop it again on the other side and partially step on it. As if a normal part of food preparation, he then picked up the piece and resumed patty-caking as his hands remained thick with crumbs. I lost the thought I had been contemplating altogether. Hopefully he would dispose of the uneatable dinner in a nearby slop barrel except he continued patty-caking. Did he intend to return to the stove and cook the meat for the family dog in order not to waste the expensive cut? I had another thought but quickly discarded it, or tried to. Don’t tell me he dared reuse the tainted meat. Surely he understood he served the richest, most refined people in town? His customers were gourmets with practiced taste buds able to discern the finest foods and the most exotic wines. If they even caught wind such a thought entered the cook’s mind, firing would be too good for him. The outraged connoisseurs occupying the lavish dining area might forget their good manners for once and form a lynch mob, or something similar, and drive him out of the kitchen on a rail, if they had one, headlong off the loading dock.

The next moment, of all the epicurean sacrileges, the man in white wearing a  toque blanche, or cook’s hat, let fly the prized meat, this time out the top of his hand-clasp, a perfect three-pointer in the slop barrel basket. Fortunately for him, the tub was brim full and spilling over the sides, allowing the cook to pick out the meat from among the grease and food scraps. He continued patty-caking. Horrified, I watched him return to the grill and plop the slab on the hot surface, along with whatever other items clung to the meat. There the main course sizzled as cheerily as if a happy-go-lucky pariah among the steak, chicken and fish uppercuts.

My dreams of being a Best-Seller sank into oblivion as I waited breathlessly for the inevitable shouts of outrage from the dining room. Any moment a red-faced customer showing barred teeth should show up demanding the identity of whoever served him such a horrid, foul-tasting, hunk of ptomaine. Instead all that came back to the kitchen was an empty ceramic platter, although not entirely without leftovers and bite-size hunks as among these people a clean plate was considered bad form.

And that, my friend, sums up the problem with America shipping its production overseas for cheaper labor costs.

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