Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The American Legion Breakfast
Last Saturday I helped serve morning breakfast at the American Legion. This is the duty of the legion Riders twice a month. The Legion riders are guys who ride motorcycles and belong to the American Legion. It’s mostly men, but there are some women. The morning breakfast duty lasts about 4 hours. The actual breakfast is from 8:00-10:00, it’s open to the public and we served over 90 customers.
Sam, the Legion commander always comes in early and preps. I’m not sure what all he does. He probably turns on the burners and gets out the various ingredients. The breakfast menu is always the same items: scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, blueberry pancakes and biscuits with or without gravy. One of the tasks I do know Sam does before the rest of us arrive is to prepare his special gravy for the biscuits. Rumor has it that he puts in chopped Sirloin, but nobody knows for sure. By the time I arrive at 7 a.m. he’s already busy cooking the scrambled eggs.
In typical military fashion, each member is assigned a specific task. One guy makes the pancakes, another guy is in charge of cooking the meat and tending the warmer trays. There’s a guy who makes coffee and keeps the coffee pots filled and there are two dish washers, one guy to wash the dishes and one to take the dirty dishes from the bus table back to the sink and replace the clean ones on the shelves. It all runs like a fine machine. When someone is getting overwhelmed and needs help, someone else will pitch in, whether it’s their assigned duty or not.
I’m always assigned to work in the dining room, either bussing or waiting tables. The kitchen duties are for the more experienced guys. These tasks are all interconnected, and require team work and multitasking. But there is one exception. One guy’s total job is to ladle gravy onto the biscuits. That’s all he does. While everyone else is running around performing a variety of tasks, this guy stands in front of the big pot of gravy waiting for biscuits to be held in front of him. He’s standing there every Saturday morning when I come in. You have to ask yourself, what’s with this guy?
Working in the dining room has its challenges as well. Two weeks ago I bused tables and helped with the blind vet’s, who are transported down from the VA in Tucson. Last Saturday my job was waiting on tables. The tables were divided between two women and myself. I was assigned just two tables. One of the women is very controlling and bossy. She is small and thin and rides a Honda Shadow like myself. Most everybody jokes around as they go about their duties, but she is “no nonsense” and “all business” all the time. I certainly didn’t want to get in her way, so like the gravy guy, I stood glued to my two tables with pad and pencil in hand waiting for customers to sit down.
I did a lot of standing around and got to know the other waitress pretty well, the non-bossy one. She looks like someone’s grandmother, in fact she is a grandmother. She told me she and her husband, who was bussing tables, love to ride together. They each ride their own Harleys. She said she started ridding in her late 50’s. She also said she has ridden over 150,000 miles. That’s a lot of miles on a Harley. She was a very sweet lady, but after talking with her, my macho motorcycle image became a little tarnished. I’ve been riding since the 1970s and haven’t ridden nearly that amount of miles.
One of the scandals of the morning was when the bossy, uptight waitress took an order from the Harley riding waitresses tables. How dare she, especially after making the rule and enforcing it on the others. Well the Harley riding grandmother waitress said she was not going to let this get to her. But later I saw her saunter over to one of the bossy waitress’s tables and take a man’s order. When the bossy waitress returned from the kitchen and realized what had happened, she shot a look that could kill over toward where we were standing. I guess they were working things out in their own way. I continued to stand there, minding my own business glued to my two tables.
After the breakfast is over, it’s time for us volunteers to eat. I’d never tried Sam’s famous gravy, so I decided to throw all caution to the wind and had eggs, sausage, hash browns and biscuits and gravy. They were right, the gravy was delicious. There were a bunch of us eating together at one of the large tables. The other guys finished eating and went back to cleaning up leaving me sitting alone with the gravy guy. I was tempted to ask him if the reason he never left his post at the gravy bowl was because he was afraid of the bossy waitress, but I didn’t. He began telling me about his golf cart and some of the modifications he’d made to it. I shared an idea I’d had for making money: buying used golf carts, fixing them up and painting them bright colors to sell to the boomers who are moving here in increasing numbers. You can’t beat the golf cart for cheap transportation around Green Valley. But the gravy guy just looked at me like I was nuts and so I decided to go help break down tables.
For the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, I felt sluggish and tired. Why did I eat that “heart attack on a plate” breakfast? But I survived to write about it. Sometime in the near future I expect to graduate from the dining room to kitchen duty. These are the crucial jobs that make or break the American Legion breakfast. Well except for the gravy guy’s job. What’s with that guy anyway?