Nourishing the Machine

Dining is an extremely democratic experience. One opts for a specific entrée on the basis of appetite, selection availability, even time of day. Most of us, having only a middling hunger at lunch time, crave an item reflecting what Mom used to cram into a transparent plastic bag, i.e. a turkey club sandwich with French fries in place of lovingly-pared carrot sticks. A more fastidious diner will occasionally go off-menu, asking for oddballs like a fruit cup or cottage cheese in place of potatoes. And then there is that rare patron who can disrupt a day’s flow by asking if the chef can throw together a Broccoli and Bleu Cheese Omelet just for him, as the ingredients appear in the chopped salad, proving that the components are indeed “in-house”.

This democracy falters when it comes to side dishes, however. Servers oftentimes stand patiently at the tableside, while husbands, wives, or friends debate their dish’s accompaniment. With side dishes made to sate a pair instead of a single person, then what would be the best accompaniment for two different main dishes? What is the other’s “food-mood”, like, or dislike? The list of debatable items is as long as a civil ordinance.

A most curious occurrence transpired when several members of the Chicago City Council were seated at Table 44, originally set for five. As I scribbled John Daley’s oft-requested Coke onto my green, lined notepad, an additional member walked onto the floor to cast his vote for a beverage. He wanted an iced tea, an additional chair, and a place for him at the table. His needs were met while I expedited the six drinks. Next, while the drinks were being placed en face of each proper guest, another from City Hall arrived, calling for comparable accommodations, which again were met.  With the table burgeoning at seven now, I initiated the lunch order.  That day, the near-unanimous vote was for each to have his own chicken sandwich. As it is with any bill passed around the City Council floor, however, everyone seemed to have an item to add or replace. Whereas Mr. Daley agreed to have French fries as a side, Mr. Silvestri preferred broccoli; yet, whereas Mr. Silvestri preferred broccoli, still another fancied broccoli sans butter. All were democratically chosen items chosen with another’s influence, only each had a personal little spin.

I entered the entire list of modified items into a computer, once the votes were cast. And the only item that has remained the same since has been Mr. Daley’s soft drink of choice, a sanctioned substitution for his true love, Pepsi.

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