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Post details: Calling all restaurateurs

Calling all restaurateurs

One of my favorite Czech novels, Zdenek Jirotka's Saturnin, begins with an observation that all people can be neatly categorized according to how they react to a plate of doughnuts in a quiet cafe.

The first kind, lacking any imagination, simply stares at the doughnuts, not exhibiting any cerebral activity beyond the obvious ingestive ambitions. The second type looks at them as well, but cannot help pondering what it would be like if someone started bombarding the other customers with the displayed pastries. And then there is the rare third group. The people who consider the idea of flying doughnuts so palatable that they actually get up and make it happen.

For a while there used to be a little coffee shop in Prague, not far from the Central bus station, where you could buy "Saturnin's platter" and instantaneously become the third type of a person. The platter description specifically stipulated that its content can be hurled at will, which is why it cost about 10 times the fair market value of the presented doughnuts (1,900 CZK) to allow for damages to patrons' clothing, hairdo and self esteem. Dry cleaning and law suits don't come cheap even in Prague. As far as I remember, the place was called Cafe Imperial and although I never saw any airborne food articles swishing across its parlor, I did see that item on the menu with my own eyes.

I think the idea of a restaurant where any guest could pelt any life form within striking distance with assorted grub and chow could revolutionize the otherwise sedentary business. The stress release potential itself should make this concept worth considering. Imagine how many marital quarrels could be settled right then and there by a tactical low-altitude apricot pudding. Or how about Take-your-boss-to-lunch Thursdays? And then there is the eternal appeal of silent movie climaxes: think Charlie, Buster, Stan or Laurel staggering in a barrage of whipped cream and birthday cakes. Who wouldn't want to be part of that?

As coconuts, watermelons, whole pigs, frozen jumbo steaks and other culinary heavyweights might inflict damage well beyond the scope of civil law, I would suggest either rigorous separation of food into throwables and unthrowables, with bar area sparingly designated as a No Fly Zone, or the mandatory use of hard hats and bullet proof bibs for all diners. Nothing spells out romantic dinner like wearing a motorcycle helmet and protective goggles over a plate of long range Jarret D'Agneau Braise.

On special occasions, the restaurant owners might put together reconstructions of famous battles. For instance, the Battle of Thermopylae would be a memorable thematic extravaganza. Patrons would take tables on either the Greek or Persian side and start ordering their ammunition while a resident historian in a tuxedo and bow tie sketched out the contemporary milieu. Tense expectations would soon be ripped apart by the first salvos of kefalotyri and spanakopita. Impeccable formations of moussaka would violate the Persian airspace, souvlaki and gyros meat wreaking havoc on mideastern attires. Persians would immediately respond by launching their own artillery: catapulted Nan-e khoshke-tanur would be just the warning shot. Before you could say "check please", saffron rice-cakes are splattering on balding skulls, a pommegranate is discharged from a dark corner, rapid fire chelo kababs are blitzing the Greek tables. And should the outcome of the battle fall in doubt, either side could always whip out their ultimate weapon: surface-to-air baklava.

Possibilities to develop the budding industry of cannonical gastronomy are endless. Lobbing lobsters at waiters and waitees alike is guaranteed to satisfy the whims of the most discerning gourmets. The phrase "tossed pizza" would finally get an adequate content. Even Washington's stagnant political scene might benefit from new civic movements. Imagine throngs of working class activists picketing in front of the White House and angrily waving their home made cardboard signs: Immediately ban all Chinese cucumbers. Sign the Blue Cheese Non Proliferation Treaty! No more pancakes of mass destruction. Halt risotto testing now!

And while on the subject of restaurant ideas: the other day I was having lunch with a friend of mine, and we thought it would be cool if you could order your food and drinks at specific temperatures. You know how irritating it is when your coffee is too hot and your soup too cold. So your ordering would go something like this: "I'll have a bowl of minestrone soup at 135F, well-done steak at 150F and 29F strawberry ice-cream. Oh - and some water at 35F, please." I bet many people would appreciate that extra degree of thermal control. You could even entertain your party with the knowledge of the Celsius scale. "Oh waiter, I'll have that stake at 65 degrees centigrade." How delightfully decadent!

So if there are any intrepid restaurant entrepreneurs out there, have a go at either idea. Good luck and bon appetite at 98.6F!


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