Gregorio, my Spanish teacher in Chiapas, Mexico, told me in April that he had a student who ate nothing but tuna and macaroni salad for a whole year in order to save up money for a year of travel. That sounded like a pretty simple equation: One year of boring tuna and macaroni equals one year of blissful work-free travel around the world.
“Yuk,” was my response. I don’t have anything against tuna and macaroni. But to eat the same thing every day, three meals a day, for a whole year? Water boarding sounds like more fun.
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It’s snowing in Jackson Hole. It started snowing last weekend and it’s been cold and dreary for a few weeks now. People, crazy people, are even skiing on the sparsely covered Tetons.
With this sprinkle of winter has come low reservations in area hotels – about 35 percent of capacity. The only tourists are the ones from warm places who didn’t know any better and the bargain shoppers.
There are usually 10 servers at my restaurant. As we slip into the off-season, we cut back to nine, then eight, then seven and sometimes just six. I was number eight of eight last Sunday. The hostess seated a nice couple in my section who ordered a bottle of wine and an appetizer. The night started off well, but the front door was quiet.
The owner’s son, who manages on Sundays, came to me 20 minutes after we opened and sheepishly said I was cut, server vernacular for “not getting any more tables.” I asked my fellow servers if they wanted to trade places with me and go home to their couches. No one was interested. Everyone is looking down the barrel of the financial gun with tips trickling down to nothing before we close for a month starting the day after Halloween.
My nice couple wanted a leisurely meal. They took their time, ordered dessert, sipped their wine. I folded napkins and folded napkins and folded napkins. They had a pretty good meal and a pretty good bill. If they left within two hours of sitting down and tipped properly, it wouldn’t be a total wash. Plus the manager offered me a free dinner as a consolation.
After they paid, I noticed the man following my moves across the restaurant.
“Are we your only table?”
I explained that it was a slow night and gave them directions to the grocery store and plucked the little black bill book from the table.
They tipped 20 percent – $22. I gave $2 to the bussers and $1 to the bartender and collected my free dinner, my coat and my $19 and went straight to the grocery store, where I purchased a bag of macaroni and two tins of tuna.
I made a massive bowl of delicious, spicy macaroni and tuna salad with lots of olive oil, capers, left-over gorgonzola cheese and crushed red pepper. I filled a Tupperware container with the dish for lunch each day this week.
I swear my macaroni and tuna salad procreates in the bowl. There's enough left for another week of lunches.