Hello, and welcome back to Off The Menu, where we explore the craziest stories about food from my email inbox. This week, we’ve got stories of customers who really, really weren’t supposed to eat that. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
One summer during college I worked at a local Pizza Hut. My main responsibility was making the pizza dough each morning, which should tell you how long ago this was, so I never had to deal with customers.
This particular restaurant had a pizza/salad bar, which normally ran very smoothly, with everyone taking a fair amount of food. But at least once every week or so this group would come in and decimate the pizza buffet like a swarm of locusts. I never got to see them because I would be in the back when my coworkers would come back swearing and grumbling that we needed to put in more pizzas immediately.
Each member of the party, which was usually 3 or 4 people, would take a whole pizza on their first trip up to the buffet. The only thing was they didn’t eat ANY of the crust, not even the bottom crust. [Editor’s Note: I had to double-check with Karen in a follow-up e-mail here, but yes, this means they didn’t actually eat any “bread” aspect of the pizza. Which is like 65% of a fucking pizza.] So at the end, they would have a mountain of crusts. This was before the Atkins diet became popular, so I don’t know if they were early adopters or what. And they would usually make several trips before they left.
Even thinking about it now makes me nauseous.
I once ordered tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich to go. I got grilled cheese and something red. It wasn’t until I took a bite of the “soup” that I realized something had gone tragically wrong.
It turns out the tomato soup and hot sauce were in similar pots, very close to each other.
There is a very nice restaurant near my house — good food, decent prices. They decided to open an upscale version with slightly better food and slightly higher prices. Still a good deal.
We went to the upscale version one night and had dinner, after which the waiter, who was new and not part of the regular staff, asked whether we wanted dessert and announced that they had a special that night, Calamari Cheesecake. Calamari Cheesecake, I asked. “Yes, Calamari Cheesecake.”
I don’t usually eat dessert, but I’m one of those people who (a) has to try new things and (b) likes to have stories to tell people. After all, how many people have had Calamari Cheesecake? So I ordered it.
A few minutes later, the waiter comes back to the table to inform us that he made a mistake. “It’s actually Caramel Cheesecake.”
I still had it. It was good, but I was terribly disappointed.
I’ve been delivering pizza for about a week now, and already I’ve got a story.
I didn’t take the order, all I saw was the receipt. The guy ordered a black olive and Canadian bacon pizza, and a Mountain Dew. That’s all. That’s pretty normal. But then there was the special instruction on the receipt: “No icing. (IMPORTANT).”
This guy thought it necessary to remind us not to put icing on his PIZZA. And he paid with cash, so this wasn’t an online order or something, where he’d just have to type the comment in — which would be bad enough. No, he specifically told the order taker to put “No icing. (IMPORTANT)” on his receipt.
I mean, on one level, I agree; it’s important to not put icing on a black olive and Canadian bacon pizza. But on another, more rational level, what was that guy taking?
For five years I worked in a tiny health food store in a small Southern California town. We sold a small amount of groceries, produce, refrigerated and frozen food, but what kept the business going was the juice bar/organic deli. We made sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and juices to order, and also had one daily soup and hot dish. It was the only place you could get an organic meal in the entire town, and since the owners (an older hippie husband and wife team) had lived in the town for over 30 years, they were friends with just about everybody.
We had regular customers who let their crystals decide what kind of sandwich to order, or who relied on their dreams the previous night to lead them toward the best add-ins for their smoothie. People tried to tell me about chakras or my aura or talk to me about past lives daily, and one guy consistently tried to pay for his food/beverages in weed he grew in his backyard. We had plenty of normal customers too — the majority were pretty normal, really — but the people who were weird were suuuuuuper out there. One man, in particular, stands out in my memory.
We had a deal when it came to the juice bar that if you wanted something juiced that wasn’t on our menu, you could bring it in and we’d add it to your juice. Usually, it was really simple requests — people would bring various roots in (ginger, turmeric, astragalus) or herbs from their garden. Almost everyone used common sense about what was appropriate to bring in and what was crazy to ask for, but a few folks took it way, way too far.
One man would come in a few times a week with different random ingredients he wanted to be added to his juice. He appeared to be in his late 30s and was fairly soft spoken, and he started off with a fairly reasonable request: to juice an entire head of garlic and add it to his carrot juice. That’s like 8 cloves of garlic, which is gross, but not too crazy considering our customer base. The next week, he brought in an entire pineapple that he wanted juiced — skin and all — which he then wanted mixed with wheatgrass juice, bee pollen and echinacea powder. Again, kind of gross tasting, but not THAT weird.
As the weeks went on, he started getting pretty demanding with his requests. He would come in with more and more ingredients for us to add to his juice, which progressed to him bringing his own quart jars to hold the quantity of juice his produce was creating. Me and my coworkers shouldn’t have let it go as far as it did, but it was always fun to work together and compare items the weird juice guy brought in during our shifts. Besides, we didn’t have any strict rules regarding what could and couldn’t be juiced, and none of us were comfortable turning away a paying customer. Sometimes he’d bring in items I’d never seen juiced before, like raw asparagus, onions, and potatoes. The most disgusting thing he brought in was a raw calf’s liver, which we, of course, refused to juice, citing health code violations. We came to the conclusion that he was mentally unstable, because his hair and clothes were looking more and more disheveled as his requests got weirder, and he was becoming louder, more hostile, and less patient. We all started getting kind of afraid of how he would react if we didn’t make his juice.
One day, the hippie wife owner was working in the juice bar when he came in with an order that was crazier than ever. I think she had thought we were exaggerating about the guy because she was never working when he came in, so I just wrote down his order and handed it to her. She stared at it, then stared at me, then stared at the ingredients he had provided. I was certain she was going to refuse to make it because, as much as her vibes said “mellow,” she actually had quite a fiery side, and I never saw her take any shit from customers. To my surprise, she got to work on his order.
First, he wanted all of the vegetables and fruits he brought in juiced. He brought in several heads of garlic, a huge ginger root, two unpeeled pink grapefruits, an entire red cabbage, an ear of corn, arugula and radishes from his garden, part of a pumpkin, two pears, a jalapeno, and some cucumbers. He THEN wanted the juice put through the blender with six eggs, goat yogurt, two avocados, and a few bananas. His drink made the entire building stink, and as my boss poured the disgusting mixture into his several quart jars, she glanced at me and shook her head. When I saw her come around to the front to bring him his drinks I could tell she was about to do something, so I stayed close to watch.
She passed him his drinks, which he put into a cloth bag, and as he grabbed the last jar she leaned forward and calmly said, “This is the last time we will ever juice anything for you. Your drinks are fucking disgusting and we are tired of your shit.” He turned bright red, started sputtering a reply, and then quickly walked out. As he reached the front door, he turned back and my boss waved, smiled, and shouted, “And don’t ever come back, ya’ hear?” She turned to me after he was gone, but I couldn’t talk due to being doubled over with laughter.
The following week, his brother came in on his behalf to try to get more crazy things juiced and my boss literally chased him out of the store with a broom.
Do you have any food-related stories you’d like to see included in Off The Menu?Feel free to submit them to WilyUbertrout@gmail.com. New submissions are always welcome! (Seriously, you don’t need to ask if I want you to send them in, the answer is always yes). If you’d like to stay up to date with OTM news, my Twitter handle is @EyePatchGuy.