It wasn’t much at all, really. Definitely not worth bragging about, even if I were prone to boasting about such things; in fact, the only reason I am even mentioning it is that it is part of the story. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Last night, Donna and I went out to our favorite pizza establishment. We sat down at our usual table, ordered our usual drinks, and I ordered my usual pizza. (Donna, being marginally more adventurous in culinary matters, went with something different.) And then we began our usual wait.
Except that, after a while, it became apparent that the wait was becoming unusually long. Our waitress came to our table and apologetically explained that it would just be a few more minutes; they had a new cook in the kitchen, on his second day of working on his own. No problem, I told her; I was once a new cook myself, long ago in a galaxy far away, and I could very much relate. And then, a few minutes later, the food arrived. And what was on my plate was nothing short of pizza perfection…the mounds of cheese melted to a perfect consistency, the toppings generous without being overwhelming…I could not recall ever being served a finer pizza in my life. And, when the waitress came back to check on us, I told her as much. And then I handed a very modest tip to her (as I said at the top of the story, not really that much), asking her to pass it along to the cook and to let him know that this was, in fact, the best pizza I had ever had.
A minute or so later, she returned and asked if we would mind if the cook came out to our table. Not a problem at all, I said, and momentarily she returned with the cook. I really did not know what to expect; cooks come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. As he approached the table, I turned to look. What I saw was a gangly young man who was probably eighteen but who did not look a day over sixteen, whose eyes betrayed something of a lack of self-confidence…somebody who probably needed an attaboy, not necessarily due to his cooking skills so much as anywhere he could find it.
I saw myself, forty years ago.
He introduced himself and thanked me in a way that left no doubt as to the depth of the sentiment, and I thanked him once again for the excellent meal. We shook hands, and he went back to work. A couple of minutes later, our waitress returned and told me “You just made his day”.
Truth be told, he made mine, too. And that, dear reader, had nothing whatsoever to do with the food.