by C. Murphy Donovan (December 2017)
Bread and Dish with Fruits on a Table, Pablo Picasso, 1909
I got to thinking about popovers the other night at Phyllis Chesler’s book launch soiree. You may recall that the popover is actually a version of Yorkshire pudding. You might also recall that Dr. Chesler is a take-no-prisoners feminist; courageous enough to call a Muslim spade an Islamic spade. Indeed, among so called “third wave’ feminists, Phyllis is one of a precious few progressives to write about the cowardice of American professional women when the subject is Islamic misogyny and related Muslim human rights atrocities.
Camille Paglia is a notable true sister to Chesler.
I was thinking of popovers because, as a lad, I worked for two prominent New York feminist entrepreneurs, Patricia and Loraine Murphy. The Murphy sisters were the proprietors of several “candlelight” restaurants, the first in Greenwich Village and then others on Long Island and up in Westchester. The final iteration of Murphy sister cuisine was, I believe, in Florida. With all, the featured dish was prime rib with popovers.
Indeed, apprentice female servers (nee waitresses) at chez Murphy in those days were called “popover girls,” the female counterpart of now extinct bus “boys.”
Murphy’s in Westchester
What I recall about the Murphy bistros was a life’s lesson about true professionalism; service, appearance, manners, performance—and good food.
All wait staff started as bus boys or popover girls. The next gauntlet was lunch service after which you might graduate to dinner staff where the tips were better. The Murphy system allowed you, with performance, to give yourself a raise.
On weekends, the Manhasset restaurant was patronized by Q-tips and NYC hoods that often brought their goomahs to the burbs where they were unlikely to be recognized. The Murphy sisters allocated the most generous tippers to their most polished staff. A fifty or hundred dollar tip was real money to a blue collar college kid in those days.
The sisters had a litany of standards on language, dress, skirt length, hair styles, and even eye contact. You couldn’t show up for work with your head looking like an unmade bed. If your table was going to be out of your field of vision, you had to alert a popover girl or bus boy to cover. God help you if one of the Murphys had to leave their hostess station to assist one of your customers.
The standard of dining today seems to be to avoid any eye contact with all customers at all costs. The quality of service today is consistent with the quality of most American formula food, junk on both ends.
Dinner service at Murphys always ended with a staff buffet. Employees would create a banquet table where all the unserved food, including prime rib and unfinished wine, was served to the help.
The Murphys didn’t recycle today’s leftovers into tomorrow’s lunch specials.
Chef stayed too at night, long enough to get feedback from staff. The Murphy sisters insisted that few customers ever provided honest critiques. They fed the help to get employee feedback instead.
What really made the Murphy gals different was focus. They literally never lost sight of the customer where the behavior of the lowest staff member mattered, where good food might be irrelevant if appearances, manners, service and courtesy were lacking.
The Murphy ethic was a little like “broken glass” policing, the idea that attention to minor infractions is the key to preventing worse behavior.
It was understood that chefs, cooks, and wait staff worked for the diner. No cook was too big to be fired. The Murphys would have been appalled to hear some snarky, tattooed, waitress greet a mixed table with: “What can I get you guys?”
“You guy” rhetoric is a symptom of the double standard now cultivated by many women, who demand gender probity and then talk trash as if everybody but moi has a penis. These are the same women who consider cooking for their children at home demeaning whilst assaulting patriarchy, chauvinism, and vulgarity in the commercial kitchen.
According to every reliable survey, women make well over 80 percent of all household purchasing decisions. Those incriminating statistics include packaged, junk, and take-out garbage. Indeed, if the truth be told, the success of the junk food/take out industry at large, and the subsequent obesity epidemic, could be laid at the feet of the fourth wave feminist “choice,” girls gone wild.
You cannot argue, with a straight face anyway, for unrestricted abortion and then abuse the children that survive with packaged, junk, or take-out food.
Nevertheless, fourth wave feminists are now on a misandry tear in foodie columns across the land. Ironically, the most recent service industry whining seems to have been inspired by Hollywood doxies where prominent liberals like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louie CK, and even an NPR executive are in the dock for predation, flashing or creating hostile or “unsafe” (sic) work spaces for women.
Concurrently, you cannot witness a red carpet strut or look at a tabloid, magazine, or daytime TV and not see some lass flashing her teats, ass, or crotch to the cameras. Yet, somehow Louie CK needs to repent for airing his Johnson in a Hollywood hotel room.
How is it that liberal rags like Rolling Stone, Hustler and Playboy are about sexual liberation not exploitation? Is the draw at titty bars and joints like Hooters, really wings and beer?
And who is “safe” at any table where a boob might fall into your clam chowder in the wake of a wardrobe malfunction? Yes, where are fourth wave hussies when the subject is pervasive, if not chronic, “teats and ass” culture?
Flashing beaver, booty and fake breasts is apparently edgy and fashionable. Flashing male genitalia is; in contrast, off limits unless you’re a Kennedy, Clinton, Weinstein, Charlie Rose, or some exhibitionist prancing in a “pride” parade.
Alas, the American bimbo is no longer a minority demographic. One only has to surf through daytime television, a vapid mix of multi-culture, pseudo-feminism, shop-til-you-drop, soap opera fantasies, banal game shows, and chat panels where anorexia, obesity, bullying, slut slang, and double digit IQs have equal pride of place.
The studio and network audience for the daylight wasteland is women. Indeed, 73 percent of watchers are women according the PEW Research, 85 percent of who are not college graduates. AM and PM daylight roundtables are near female monopolies too where hostess cliques mimic the teen bullying so prevalent with girl gangs, those adolescent “bitch posses.”
One estrogen panel calls itself “The Real.” The only thing real about distaff daytime TV is the millions admen, yes men, make from the vanity, cupidity, and gullibility of overweight, over processed, under-educated female nitwits.
A probative daytime laxative advert shows cute little girls straining on the toilet while trying to cut a slice. Here’s a thought, ladies. If your daughter can’t move her bowels, you might want to worry more about her diet than giving her another drug.
The real explanation for feminist foodie angst might be ownership, or lack of it. The Murphy sisters set the tone for their kitchens because they owned them. Women who whine seldom see a dearth of entrepreneurship as their problem.
Food feminists, like their vapid Hollywood counterparts have been mute for a century. Harvey Weinstein has been on the prowl for fifty years. Gordon Ramsay now has a half dozen network TV kitchens where “dick” culture is de rigeur.
Ramsay’s rhetoric makes Ossie Osborne look like a high school graduate. These and other sexist jerks (see Senator Al Franken) aren’t pariahs. They are rich liberal rock stars, sustained by the bimbo demographic that watches and populates the wasteland.
The feminist movement has been around for a century. If the fourth wave languishes in the toilet with constipated daughters, the fault is not in your stars, sister.
Complaining about a “bro culture” in a commercial kitchen is a little like complaining about Hollywood sexism where thespian virtue, male and female, has been for sale since Fatty Arbuckle was courting little boys.
Fornicating your way with or to the top is as American as Martha Stewart’s apple pie. Ask any liberal groupie that ever served in the Kennedy or Clinton administrations. Now comes Trump who finds himself in the dock for using words like “pussy.”
The difference between Trump and his feminist critics is hypocrisy.
Contemporary standards of vulgarity for the American sex circus, were set by the elite left long before Trump came alone. The differences are profound. The Donald is torched for rhetoric while celebrity politician predators, like Kennedy and Clinton, get a pass on real abuse.
The election of chaps like Trump, ladies, is an effect, not a cause.
An alternative explanation for the scarcity of women in professional kitchen might, ironically, be “choice” or tradition. Few men teach grade school or become social workers for similar reasons. They “choose” not to.
A professional kitchen is brutal in the same way that marine boot camp is macho, a space where the drill sergeant is not your mother. In kitchens, it’s the chef’s way or the highway.
Good chefs and good marines aren’t products of group therapy. Like a military drill instructor, few top chefs, male or female, have the patience or time for wimps or whiners.
Withal, fembot angst about kitchen culture is shot through with visions of affirmative action or special pleading, a kind of penis envy meme on opinion pages. Have you ever heard any man who cooks at home complaining about being a stereotype? And the solution to testosterone poisoning in any commercial kitchen is the same today as it was for Patricia and Loraine Murphy.
If you can’t stand the heat, get off your azimuth. Get out of his kitchen, and open your own shop, girlfriend.
Preheat oven to a pizza setting (hot). Lubricate a 6 or 9 puka muffin pan with butter or lard. Sift a cup of flour and a dash of salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, discipline 2 eggs, a cup of milk, and a splash of melted butter with a whisk or immersion blender. Combine bowls gently for just a smooth batter blend. Fill pan holes with an inch or two of mix. Bake for about a half hour then reduce heat to 325 for another 10 minutes. If and when your pudding pops, they’re done. Do not open oven until you see a host of tastefully browned mushroom clouds.
Incise each with a sharp knife. Insert a slab of butter or fill with turkey mushroom gravy.
The author is a former Intelligence officer, a deep state veteran. He worked in a Vermont camp kitchen every summer in high school and moonlighted with the Murphy sisters on Long Island during college. Yes, he is the family cook at home. He bakes cookies too.
Shout out to Hillary!
More by G. Murphy Donovan.
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