‘THIS GUY SAYS this Ramos fizz doesn’t taste right,” a waiter says to me in passing.
So it begins, another Easter brunch shift.
I throw the offending drink out and start again; raw egg white, cream, sugar, gin, a splash of lemon before a dry shake. Then an orange flower water rinse of the glass, a shake with ice, a strain and a topper of fresh nutmeg, just like all the books say. Perfect.
“He says this one doesn’t taste right either,” the waiter says before he wheels off again.
I try a little more sugar. It comes back again. I try a little orange juice — just to be different — it comes back again. I try a little more gin. There are only so many ways I can make this thing.
“He must have liked the last one,” I mention as the waiter passes, noting an absent return.
“No, he just remembered he doesn’t like gin.”
“Then why did he order a gin drink?” I ask, but the waiter is already gone.
Sometimes in the restaurant business, there are no answers, only questions.
Today is Easter, the original moveable feast, if you don’t count Triodion or Shrove Monday, and I don’t. The date for Easter, unlike Christmas, moves around. The reasons are long and complicated. The name, on the other hand, is easy. The name Easter is based on Eoster, a spring celebration for the ever-hopeful goddess of the dawn, Eos.
Hope does spring eternal, if you believe Alexander Pope, and I do. Hope is what keeps people in the restaurant business going. We hope all goes well; we hope we get decent customers; we hope the food is hot and the drinks are cold, and along the way we do what we can to make sure that all of that happens. However, busy holidays get in the way of that.
Easter is one of those days where people who don’t normally go out, do. I suspect the same might be true for some of the religious services, too, but I can only comment on their aftermath. In my 31 years in the restaurant business I have worked at least 20 Easters, and even though the years were different (and the dates, moveable feast and all that), I have seen a lot of similarities. All the hope in the world won’t stop some of these things from happening:
• Restaurants will overbook. They have the opportunity to make a lot of money from people that they are only going to see once, and they are going for it.
• A waiter or waitress will cry.
• After two mimosas, a grandma will say something really inappropriate.
• Also after two mimosas, her family will pretend they didn’t hear it.
• A father and a son will fight as will a mother and a daughter. They might even be in the same family.
• Some eggs will be undercooked and a piece of bacon will find its way into an omelet ordered by a vegetarian.
• Veteran food servers will keep it together and rookie bartenders will fall apart.
• Someone will say Bloody Mary, when he or she really means mimosa. The resulting misunderstanding will cost a waiter his tip.
Such is Easter in the restaurant business.
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places,” said Ernest Hemingway, whose posthumous Parisian memoirs were published, ironically, as “A Moveable Feast” — which, of course, had nothing to do with Easter.
Here are some other Easter ironies you might not know:
• The original Last Supper, a Passover seder preceded the original Easter Sunday by four days. However, because of discrepancies among the Julian, Gregorian and Hebrew calendars, they rarely line up any more.
• Because of calendar discrepancies Orthodox Easter is celebrated on May 5 this year, which I believe is the date of another popular Mexican-American restaurant festival.
• The original word for Easter, Pasch, also means Passover.
• Communion wafers are still made of unleavened bread because of Easter’s association with Passover.
So, forgive me if any of this causes any of you distress. Easter is about forgiveness after all. But remember this one steadfast Easter truth: I’ll still be making Ramos fizzes today, like I’ve done more than 20 times. And for better or for worse, they always have gin in them.