Friday, October 29, 2010


You can’t fake quality anymore than you can fake a good meal."
- Williams S. Burroughs

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Excerpt from Keep The Change

So why do we pay extra? Why do we tip? I was a waiter for almost nine years and, to be honest, I haven't got a clue. But after slaving in the restaurant trenches there's one thing I do know: quality of service has almost nothing to do with the tip a server receives. Any waiter whose IQ hasn't been lowered by alcohol and Quaaludes will tell you that there's no rhyme or reason as to why some customers tip and others don't. I could give one patron incredible service and get two pennies, while with another, I could get his order wrong, insult his heritage, leer at his wife, make fun of his kids, and still get 20 percent. Customers who looked like they had scads of money used to stiff me, while people with dirt under their fingernails and bad manners would give me the best tip of the night. If tips were based solely on the quality of service, waiters would have gone extinct long ago.

According to a Zagat survey, 80 percent of Americans prefer leaving a voluntary gratuity instead of paying a fixed service charge because they believe tipping offers an incentive for waiters to provide good service. They believe that "extra" they're paying rewards the quality of the service they receive. But that's not actually the case. There is a correlation between service quality and tip, but that correlation is very small. How small? After studying customers' tipping behaviors extensively, Dr. Lynn came up with this statistical gem. "If zero means no relationship and one means a perfect relationship," he said, "then the correlation between service and tips is 0.2. A lot closer to zero than to one." Having flunked statistics in college, I asked Lynn to dumb it down for me. "Put another way," Lynn said, "service has no more effect on the tip than how sunny it is outside."

I know, I know. Right now you're shaking your head and saying, "If the service is good, I tip. If the service sucks, I don't." But that's not what happens. In 1997 two researchers named Bodvarsson and Gibson surveyed five restaurants to see how Service quality affected tips. After they crunched the numbers, they noted that the customers who ranked the service highest increased their tips by only a measly 0.44 percent of the bill. When you're a waiter, that's chump change. And it tells servers that no matter howhard they hustle, their service has a negligible effect on their tip.

Of course some studies argue that good service Increases tips. In one 2003 study, researchers asked customers to rate servers on a service scale of 1 to 5. They found that each point on this service scale increased a waiter's tip by 1.49 percent of the bill size. Restaurant patrons used this scale to score servers in five areas: appearance, knowledge, friendliness, speed of service, and attentiveness. Speed and friendliness added to a waiter's tip percentage, but appearance and attentiveness had no statistically significant effect. And a server's knowledge actually reduced his tip, causing Israeli economist Ofer Azar to note in his paper "The Social Norm of Tipping: A Review," "The latter result is surprising, as it suggests that diners tip less when they consider their waiter more knowledgeable."

I think Azar is on the money here. Despite the fact that I knew my restaurant's menu like the back of my hand, many of my customers got annoyed when they realized I knew more about the food than they did. And whenever I gently corrected a customer when he or she mispronounced a menu item, my tip was sure to go south. I guess some people want their waiters speedy and friendly but distracted and stupid. I attribute this aggravating effect to the thousands of "foodies" spawned by that marketing colossus called the Food Network. After watching chefs such as Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Emeril Lagasse work their considerable magic on the boob tube, these culinary geeks automatically assume they're culinary experts.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


T. Rex Meat


Tyrannosaurus rex may have been a cannibal, according to research released on Friday. A team of paleontologists has discovered T. rex bones with giant teeth marks, suggesting the ancient carnivore either hunted their own species or scavenged their remains. What might these dinosaurs have tasted like?

More like hawk meat than chicken. Many people have glibly suggested that a hunk of dinosaur flesh might have tasted like an oven stuffer. Birds taste a bit like crocodiles, they reason, and both are related to dinosaurs. (Birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs, and crocodilians are their cousins.) But this simple logic is probably wrong. Countless factors determine the flavor of meat, including the composition of an animal's muscles, its eating habits, and its hormones. Based on the evolutionary tree, we might speculate that T. rex tasted more like poultry than, say, beef or pork. Its flavor would likely have been closer to that of a carnivorous bird—perhaps a hawk—than a chicken. What does a hawk taste like? It's probably not far off from the dark meat of a turkey but would be more pungent because of its all-meat diet.

Crocodiles and chickens both have lots of white meat, which comes from their quick-acting, fast-twitch muscles full of pale glycogen. That fast-twitch anatomy fits these animals' lifestyles: Chickens stand around most of the day, relying on their large breast muscles for the occasional burst of flapping so they can escape into the trees when a predator threatens; crocodiles save their energy for quick lunges at passing meals. But an animal like a T. rex, which seems to have roamed the alluvial plains of western North America in a constant hunt for food, would probably have had more high-endurance, slow-twitch muscle tissue—the kind we think of as dark meat.

Furthermore, farm-raised chickens are mainly granivorous, dining on pellets of corn with small amounts of soy protein. T. rex was a carnivore, dining on herbivorous dinosaurs like triceratops (and, from time to time, his fellow T. rexes). That difference would likely have affected the flavor, in the same way that grass-fed cattle might taste a little different from their corn-fattened cousins. There were some granivorous dinosaurs, a few very closely related to T. rex, which seem to have subsisted on ancient precursors to the cereals of today. These animals might have tasted a bit more like chicken. The less specialized herbivores mostly ate plants like horsetail and ferns.

Drumsticks are likely to have been the most plentiful source of T. rex meat, with other large deposits in the neck and back. With such tiny little arms, Tyrannosaurus rex had a relative paucity of breast meat, though, at six tons per animal, there was plenty of just about everything. If the king of the dinosaurs had any white meat at all, it would have been in the tail, which may have been whipped around as a weapon. It's also possible that the tail was used exclusively for balance.

Friday, October 22, 2010


“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”

- J.A. Brillat-Savarin

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Other Side of Town

Someone once asked me, “Can you tell me about yourself?”

Simple question, normal procedure. It was the same question the kind soul had obligatorily asked every applicant that had ever come in, just so that he or she could freely express themselves to their own liking and imaginative freedom.

So, I responded coolly by saying, “Why yes, I’d love to. To start, I eat, I drink, I breathe, I sleep, I shit.”

He looked at me blanky, flabbergasted.

I then added, “Why, come to think of it – the exact same things you seem to do.”

He said nothing.

“But if you mean to ask me - or rather, prefer to imply – that I describe myself in a manner that contrasts myself, against the other candidates for this job, in a way that highlights my “interesting” characteristics, that elevate me above others as a “special” candidate, who may potentially propel your company in a positive and profit-inducing way, then… why yes! I’d love to delve into the laundry list of wise and witty notes about myself. Let me begin --”

But before I could begin, the man stopped me with his open hand, quite similar in shape to that of a stop sign.

Coughing – or clearing his throat – he muttered out, “That’ll be enough… err, thank you for coming in for the interview today. We’ll be in touch.”

Unfortuantely, we never got back in touch.

Maybe he didn’t like the “shit part.”

That might’ve been it.

Yeah, probs.