the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Breakfast with Lily

As I have mentioned many times before, Sophia is a strong, assertive woman. I find that sexy (unless, of course, when it has anything to do with me, when it can be a pain in the ass). One of the traits I really admire about her is that she isn’t a wallflower in restaurants. If she doesn’t like a dish or it isn’t up to her standards, she isn’t afraid of telling the waiter and speaking her mind.

Before I met her, I was too meek to complain.

“Eh, the salmon is OK.” I would say. “It’s not that bad.”

“Don’t eat it. Return it!” she would answer. “You’re PAYING for it.”

During the last several years under her tutelage, I became stronger. Hair sprouted on my chest (even if the hair has grown a little gray lately). Now I eat in restaurants with renewed confidence.

On Sunday, my mother and I had breakfast with Lily, a workmate of my mother’s from Farrar Straus, and Giroux. She is an elegant-looking Peruvian woman of about fifty. Her strong opinions reminds me of Sophia’s.

We received our food, and Lily took one bite of her omelete.

“It is completely cold,” she said.

“I’ll call the waiter over.” I insisted, taking charge of the matter, the testosterone running through my body.

“No, it’s fine like this.” she whispered quietly, and continued to eat her mushroom omelete.

I found this very confusing. Normally, Lily is very assertive. Had I become such a stronger personality –that I had already surpassed her? Have I finally rid myself of my passive nature? Am I ready to take the world by storm, standing tall, my c**k always at attention — like a true man?

As we left the restaurant and stepped into the September air, I built up the courage to ask Lily the question on my mind:

“Why didn’t your return your breakfast when it was cold? It seemed so unlike you.”

“I know,” she answered. “But my husband has worked as a cook in a restaurant for twenty-five years. I know FOR A FACT that when a customer returns his food, everyone in the back spits on it.”


  1. Memarie Lane

    Have you ever looked at The Stained Apron site? Spit should be the least of your worries.

  2. Kathleen

    I’ve worked a lot of shitty (and not so shitty) restaurant/bar jobs in my day, and I’ve never ever heard of or seen anyone actually do this.

  3. Annie

    I knew there was a reason I never returned my food. Actually I will return something if it is really bad, but I might think twice about it now

  4. nancypearlwannabe

    Hence the reason I never, EVER return food.

  5. natalie

    i always have issues when people are overly assertive about their food. my mom is one of those. i have sent food back before, but i am always really nice about it. usually it is only if it isn’t cooked enough. if i order something and i don’t like it i just chalk it up to trying something new. it’s not their fault i don’t like it. when my food is cold i usually just eat it that way i guess. in turkey there is no way i would ever send anything back. first of all they wouldn’t have any idea what to do with it. people just don’t do that here. and secondly there is no such thing as the customer is always right. not here anyway!

  6. texasholly @ June Cleaver Nirvana


  7. All Adither

    That’s so wrong. How passive aggressive and disgusting. People who spit in other people’s food (or who spit in general) should be sent to the health department’s jail.

  8. Finn

    I’m with Texasholly. Ugh.

  9. Astrogirl

    Yeh, I’m torn too – I’ll usually only send food back if it’s unacceptable (stone cold, spoiled, burned to a crisp, raw when it shouldn’t be, etc.). I

    ten a meal that was truly horrible and merited sending back (or maybe I’m just too passive – I want to be a man, too! I want my c*ck at attenti-oh wait, never mind). Most of the time, disappointing restaurant experiences related to food (service is another matter – sometimes I wish I could send the server back and get a new one!) are just because the food was so-so.

    Nice bit of irony at the end – ever think of writing short stories?

  10. Twenty Four At Heart

    I just go weak at the knees when you write things like, “testosterone running through my body.” Ha!
    I worked in restaurants to pay my way thru college. Never saw anyone do the spitting thing. I did see them pick up food they dropped on the floor and serve it though.

  11. Mattie


    Are you and Mr. Penis have a falling out?

  12. Mattie

    I mean “did you.”

  13. followthatdog

    That is one of my greatest fears. If I send something back, which is really really rare, I am usually too freaked out to eat it when they bring the replacement.

  14. kenju

    Oh, Lord. I wish my husband’s aunt was still alive to read this. She sent back everything she ever ordered, complaining loudly to everyone who’d listen. I bet she had eaten gallons of someone else’s spit before she died.

  15. G. Savant

    I think that those who spit in other people’s food because THEY messed up should burn for a long, long time in a pit in the Hell of Flaming Mucus and Bile.

    I send my food back if there is a problem, but I’m not very picky. However, if I suspect that the food has been tampered with (spit upon), I will demand the bill be thrown out and will speak to the manager about having the little prick fired.

    My wife and I were once eating at a local Mexican bistro and were sitting and eating our food when I saw a scene happening at the counter. A man had received a plate of tacos that he’d requested NO ONIONS on. He had sent them back, and they were returned to him with the onions half-assedly picked off. So he went up to the counter and asked for the cook to come out. He then proceeded to stand there, in front of the cook (a long-haired cuacasian stoner, by the way), with his plate held up between them, and flick the onions off of his plate AT THE COOK, saying “Apparently you don’t know what NO ONIONS means. No! Onions! Please!” He punctuated each word with a hearty flick, and some onion hit the cook in the face.

    That’s a little extreme, but he did make his point effectively.

  16. churlita

    I worked in restaurants until I was in my mid-thirties. They only spit in the food if the customer is a total jerk and usually at the prompting of the server.

  17. patois

    I always suspected that would happen. Blech.

  18. JanePoet ~ JP/deb

    Yuck!! I wish I never knew that … !! Thanks Lily.

  19. teahouseblossom


    I worked in a restaurant and none of us ever did that if food got sent back. But I’m not surprised that it happens.

  20. scarlet hip

    I worked as a chef for over 15 years and I have never ever seen that happen. Lily’s husband must have worked in some real shitholes.

  21. Neil

    Scarlet Hip — Maybe I should find out, for the sake of all of us, where her husband HAS worked.

  22. Tootsie Farklepants

    I KNEW it!!

  23. dan-E

    i’ve worked in, and currently work in a restaurant and i’ve never seen anyone spit in a customer’s food.

    and i don’t have any problem with dishes coming back, for example, if a customer’s steak is rare when they ordered it medium, especially if they’re nice about it.

    on the other hand, if they’re rude about it… well i won’t go into that.

    but spit, and other bodily fluids for that matter, rarely happens.

  24. patty

    Lily is a wise woman. Your restaurant assertiveness was raising all kinds of flying DNA concerns for me!

  25. piglet

    isn’t is sad that if our food comes out really shitty, we live in fear of sending it back b/c someone *might* get mad about it? seriously, that sucks.

    people do not appreciate it when you try to stand up for yourself, as if you have no right to do that at all.

  26. claire

    I knew it! So much for me getting more assertive in restaurants…

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