The Seaside Chef

Once upon a time, in a small New England town, a charming restaurant sat on the corner of Main Street.  They were well liked and well patronized by locals and regulars, who enjoyed their signature crab and garlic lobster.


One evening a man entered the restaurant and sat a small table in the corner.  He chatted with the waitress in a friendly manner, stating that he was visiting from Texas, and when she suggested their signature dish, he ordered it, ate his entire meal, and left a nice tip.  On his way out of the restaurant he shook hands with the manager.  “That food filled me up good, Sir.  But you know, being from Texas, I really like spicy food.  You oughta try some spice instead of garlic.”  And with that, he tipped his hat and left.


The next day the manager met with the chef.  “Last night’s new customer really prefers spicy food to our special.  I want all of our customers happy.  So I want you to change the signature dish.”


“But, wasn’t he just visiting? “ the chef asked.


“Well, he likes spicy food better, and we might have more visitors from Texas.  Create another dish.”


The chef consulted cookbooks and experimented with ingredients until he came up with a new signature dish: spicy southwest seafood pasta.  The regulars were a little surprised, but they adapted to the dish, and most everyone liked the taste.


Then one day a couple came in while visiting from California.  The waitress recommended their signature, and so they each ordered the spicy southwest seafood pasta.


“Your dish was good,” they commented to the manager on the way out.  “But it’s not very healthy.  Maybe you could add greens and fresh veggies instead of so much meat and sauce.”


The next day the manager shared the couple’s concerns with the chef.  “You know, chef, we really should be more considerate of people’s health and cholesterol and such.  Change the dish.  Make it healthier, and give people a vegetarian option.  After all, we may have customers from California again someday.”


The chef went to work again.  He took out the seafood and added spinach, zucchini, peppers, and other veggies, tossing them in a light sauce.  He came up with two s=dishes:  seafood pasta primavera and New England pasta primavera.  Again, the regulars were a bit surprised, but the dish tasted good, and they liked the restaurant, so they adapted, though a few started going to the place down the street.


A group of businessmen from Chicago came to eat one night after closing a deal.  They ordered the new signature, and though the taste was good, they missed a meatier, more substantial meal.  They suggested to the manager that he might consider a steak dish as the signature.  Again, the chef was asked to change the dish to become more Chicago friendly.  He created a delicious signature, beef steak pasta in a meat sauce.  The regulars were beginning to get a bit confused, and though they pleased the new couple who had just moved in from the midwest, several of the female customers who had begun watching their waistlines decided to go to the fresh market down the street.


One Saturday night everyone shouted greetings to Charlie.  Charlie grew up in the town, as his parents and grandparents had.  He had served in the Army for over a decade, traveling all over the world, and he was glad to be home at last.  He shook hands with and hugged the regulars, and the manager came over to offer him a complimentary welcome home meal.


“Thank you so much!  I’ve been looking forward to your crab and garlic pasta for months!”


The manager fumbled a bit, and apologized that they no longer served their original signature.  Charlie was a bit disappointed, but he decided to try the newest dish, and though it was a bit heavy for his taste, he did think the steak had a nice flavor.  However, he never went back.


Eventually, the manager realized that he had a bit of a problem.  He called the chef in.  “Our regulars always loved our original, so I think we should bring it back.  But we have to be ready for our Texas tourists as well.  And of course, there may be more health-conscious patrons.  And that new couple loves the beefsteak.  So let’s just make them all every night.

The chef had a heart attack, and by the next spring the charming pasta restaurant had been replaced by a Ruby Tuesday.


I will Not Ask For Freedom

I will not ask for freedom
As the hungry ask for bread.
For kind and loving masters
See they are already fed.

And for the key I’ll not request
Unlock the heavy door.
For pride constructed every wall
And fear provides the floor.

The ropes that bind are strong
But neither made of love nor wealth.
And subtle promises prevent
Me rending them myself.

The need to win the battle
Has forged each and every bar.
And never mind the pain I feel;
Stay blinded to the scar.

‘Tis best to keep the bird’s wing clipped
Within a gilded cell.
Than let it fly or see the sun,
consigned instead to hell.

The castle tower decorated
Cannot still disguise
The slowly dying soul that one
Is coming to despise.

So I will not request reprieve
Or ask the doors undone.
Nor will this flower dare to hope
For rain or sky or sun.

Instead I’ll hope the blinded guard
Will someday take the key.
And chose to place it in the latch.
And set this sparrow free.