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Your Pork Is Thoroughly Poached

, , , , , | Working | August 3, 2022

Back in the eighties, when I still lived in the UK, I worked in a roadside restaurant for a time. It was part of a large nationwide chain, and the menu offering fell somewhere in between fast food and more serious meals. You could eat substantially but quickly as a break from travelling.

I was fairly new at this time and was not competent to cook meals yet, but I had just about learned the menu sufficiently to take the orders. So, when a more experienced member of staff went on her break during the morning shift, the manager took over the cooking while I hosted the restaurant. Most of the orders being given at this time of day were still for the various cooked breakfasts we offered, though some people were already ordering early lunches by then. Breakfasts, like all other meals, had standard formulations which were items on our menu, but you could also pick and choose by ordering, say, two rashers of bacon, an egg, and two sausages, or whatever combination you liked.

I approached a couple who was seated at a table far away from the cook’s area with the beverages I had already served them. On arrival, when I had seated them, they had spoken with a Scottish accent which I did not find easy to understand, so I was a little relieved when the man seemed perfectly understandable now when I took their food order.

Me: “Good morning. Have you both decided what you’d like to eat?”

Man: “Two pork steaks on toast.”

This was most certainly not on the menu, but I knew we could make up unusual combinations like this and price them from the extra portions list. At the time, we were serving something called a “pork platter” which involved a large fried pork steak with vegetables and fries. Slices of toast were very common orders at breakfast.

Me: “Certainly, I’ll order them for you straight away.”

At the cook’s area, the manager had her hands full preparing the orders from all the other customers, but she stopped and watched as I wrote down this order.

Me: “They want two pork steaks on toast. I just price those up using the extra portions list, right?”

Manager: *Mystified and very dubious* “Two pork steaks on toast?”

Me: *Confidently* “Yes, that’s what they want. The pork steak is on the same extra portions list, right? Or do I have to subtract the vegetables from the price of the full pork platter?”

Manager: “They’re on the list. But wait. Two pork steaks on toast? Are you sure?”

Me: “Yes, that’s what he asked for.”

Manager: “Can you go back and check? It’s a very strange order.”

Me: “No, he really said that. Two pork steaks on toast. I’m quite sure it’s right.”

She cooked the pork steaks, which took something like fifteen minutes in the fryer, much longer than normal breakfasts took to make, toasted a couple of slices of bread, buttered the toast, and placed the sizzling steaks on top. I took the meals out to the Scottish couple. The manager watched me from behind the griddle as I went out to the table, still doubtful that I had that order right. I hadn’t been working there very long after all.

Me: “Two pork steaks on toast. Enjoy.”

Man: “No, those aren’t for us.”

Me: “No? Oh… What did you order, then?”

Man: “Two poached eggs on toast.”

Me: “Oh, goodness, I’m so sorry. I think I misheard you. I’ll order your poached eggs at once!”

I could see the manager watching me. The look on her face as she watched the altercation at the table and me heading back to her with the couple’s pork steaks was a picture in its exasperated contempt and annoyance. I returned to her shamefaced.

Me: “I misheard them. They want poached eggs on toast. Sorry.”

Manager: “I asked you if you were sure! I said to go back and check!”

It was not my finest hour, but the incident was shared with hilarity among all the other staff for months afterward. When that manager left to go and run another restaurant sometime later, I wrote in her leaving card, “Come back to us here whenever you feel like some nice pork steaks on toast.”

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