Restaurant love

26 Sep

For the past three to four years, beginning with a dining experience at New York City’s ‘The Fatty Crab’ on the Upper West Side, (now defunct) I asked waiters and waitresses to order food for me. I did not want suggestions. I wanted them to order for me. I said, ‘What would you eat today-not yesterday or on a Friday-but today, in the here and now.’ I tell them to bring, to order anything-I had no dietary restrictions; but do NOT to tell me what I was going to eat TILL they bought the item(s); and to surprise me.

I have rarely been disappointed. Meals have been fresh and tasty; wait people excited and engaged in describing why they have chosen as they did. And people around and with me always ask me ‘why? They ask, Why with their eyes or their words, Why I order with such total openness. What if you get something you don’t like? But I never ever have. And I got something else. Trust. And for me, trust leads to love. But before I to get to love and trust, I need to go to the start, the genesis of how I ‘order…’

Ultimately, I think it all goes back to the word ‘order.’ Waiters wait for ‘orders.’ In a sense we are all ‘Waiters.’ People are either giving or responding to ‘orders.’ (Their own or others) I know that is what I listen to: voices that move me to a ‘to do’ or an ‘order’ list. I deeply want to satisfy people, satisfy and fill orders. But… then I catch myself ‘appearing’ to listen as people speak about their lives and self; their passions and hates….but…. I don’t want orders, or to be the ‘orderer.’ I want a type of love, a serving love, a memory of food and surprise and people that will last and not fade.

Generally, I faded out relatively quickly with people. I judge all almost them instantly; I judge words and actions. Them.  How?  I want to jump in when they speak; add my ‘two-cents,’ my two pence. My stories. And when I do this jumping and judging, speaking and storytelling, I am ‘ordering.’ Unconsciously, I am telling them what to do; second guessing them. I am the waiter from hell. You ordered this life for yourself? Wow. What a poor, poor choice. I am giving advice, orders, not listening. What I really, really need to do is not to ‘order’ but to receive, to listen. Wait on others. Like when Jesus tells his disciples before sending them out for ministry, (Matthew 10:8) ‘Freely you have received, freely give.’  For me this means: Freely receive, listen without judging, or thinking. Wait. Now give. Before you can give, you got to know ‘how to receive. Receive with thankfulness; with love; with a listening heart. So how do I practically teach myself how to receive? I made a choice: don’t order food in restaurants anymore. And this choice looks like I am really valuing Wait Staff. And I am. But I am also valuing another. Me. How? Why? For what purpose?

I have been badly hurt in the past. In ‘order’ to heal, I needed to reconnect with others; I needed really to hear, to listen deeply. To the strangers around me; to my ‘other.’ The self I can’t hear when I am talking too much. The little Charles, the hidden Charles, few, the very few, ever listened to .Including my Charlie, big personality self.  I need Charles.

So I now and always ask wait people to order for me. What have been the results for the past three years?

First, great food. Tasty, different and surprisingly about 40 t0 50 % of the time food ‘off the menu. ‘Surprises.’ Wait staffs eat stuff they like and create with kitchen staff. Surprises, like tuna seared lightly on one side in Cape Cod. Or a white chocolate sweet crepe with sweet alcohol in Hampstead. Second, I have had great conversations with the staff and the people with me. With the wait staff, they passionately tell me what they love. And more than the food they choose, they love, really love, to have someone listen and receive from them. And they go over the top to explain ‘why’ they have chosen as they do. It’s great. Third, I get to talk to the people with me-those who are sharing time and food with me- about trust. I have had soo many disappointments in my life that I have trouble trusting. (That’s the little Charles’ experiences)  How do I combat this desire not to trust, to protect my self from disappointments??? I do it by trusting Wait People. Waiters and Waitresses. All the time and all the way. This trusting holds me accountable to others-the friends with me; the Wait Staff; people watching me order (trust me-they watch!) and my ‘other’ me, my other self. (Are you feeling listened to Charles? You will!) That other self that wants to trust, but is afraid to speak because he will be judged, rejected, thought stupid, not heard… So, I am ordering freely, openly to build trust: with others and especially rebuild the ability to trust in/with myself. This is the final result I see: people do feel valued by someone trusting them. Me. They feel loved, trusted. And I feel loved and I am surprised by how strangers can deeply love. And I am learning to trust again. Relearning. Deeply. That’s the real reason I let Wait staff order food for me: so I can trust and love again. It’s working by the way. Slowly.

Try to order, freely, openly. Maybe not all the time. But try it. Once. You may feel loved. You certainly will be surprised.

One Response to “Restaurant love”

  1. toadstoolsandteacups October 18, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    I love this idea Charlie, I’m going to do it next time I got out to eat

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