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Messin’ With the Kid
-by the Casual Swiss

Free food. Free water. Free sun. All very well and good, but after about three weeks Seth found the whip-its. Working in the kitchen of the Haughty Wench (theme cruise ship for Sunset Seranada Inc.) we made our own cocktail sauce, orange juice, salad dressings, and whipped cream. Nitrous cartridges were everywhere. It was in that gap right after lunch but long before supper. Our jobs (Seth and mine) were to answer any calls for room service. As the other kitchen workers frantically prepared the afternoon sea food buffet, we sat around. There were only two room service calls that afternoon. To increase our slacking-on-the-job was the fact that on a senior citizen’s theme cruise anybody getting room service were sea sick in their cabin and not wanting to eat much.

It’s not like we were manning the helm. So, as I sat reading The Long Walk from the Bachman Books and sipping some cooking wine, (rather dry) Seth helped himself to a whip-it. As he took a full hit from the cracker, our boss (a young man, 26) came bursting in.

A few words now about the dynamics of whip-its. You don’t feel the high after inhaling, it’s after exhaling that your brain reverberates unto its self for 90 seconds as someone takes the cracker out of your hand for their turn. The Mod (what we called our boss) knew this and immediately put his hand over Seth’s mouth, preventing the high.

During this odd act, occurring five seconds after The Mod stormed in, I noticed that our boss was sweating hard. True, the ship was moving parallel with Mexico at the time, but he was sweating a whole lot. Real pale too.

“I need information, Seth!” he yelled, with his hands preventing Seth’s breathing. “Where did you send that steak to?”

The Mod was doing this to find out where we sent a room service steak? He was loosing it. And he’d lost his phony English accent, which I found amusing despite my friend being suffocated. The Mod didn’t want to wait for Seth to exhale, recover after a minute, and then tell him where the steak went. I’m not sure he even knew I was in the room.

Seth thought for a moment, started to shake a little, and with the fingers of his right hand held up two. Then one. Then five.

“It’s in room two-fifteen?” the Mod asked, still with his hands over Seth’s mouth. Seth nodded (or convulsed) and The Mod let go.

Seth let out a mighty exhale, an inhale, then collapsed on the floor. The suffocation enhanced his whip-it high by forty times. The Mod stood dumbfounded that the answer to his inane question was 215. Before asking him why this caused such panic, I approached him slowly and made a little chit-chat.

“You know, whenever I’m feeling low about myself or a little blue, I just say, “Thank God I’m not Seth…or a crack baby. Yessir, Seth or a crack baby, two things I’m glad I’m not.”

The Mod didn’t laugh at my poke on Seth’s bad luck and ‘damned if you do’ existence. Seth didn’t think it was funny either. But, lying on the floor clutching his brain, all I thought he could hear was loud elastic Wah-Wah-Wahs.

“He got that steak from the Menor Mello box!” that was a box, marked as such, in the walk-in freezer that held various meats.

“Yeah, so?” Seth let out a moan and The Mod, starting to spit when he talked, began confessing his sin.

“I…I was gambling during shore leave in April. I lost everything I had.” He began sobbing. “I also lost a rather damned large chunk of the Haughty Wench’s dietary funds for this season. So, I fudged the books and cut corners. I hired guys like you for less pay and bought substandard foods.”

“Menor Mello”

  “Horse Meat! I’ve been serving the passengers, a lot of the time, Mexican Horse Meat!”

“Well, keep your voice down.”

“No, it’s all over now. That’s Peter Schwartzman in cabin two-fifteen.” The Mod flopped across a counter. “I thought I could keep the meat away from the right people and everything would be okay. But Schwartzman, he’s a retired shehitah.”

  “What’s that?”

“A kosher butcher. He’s slit the jugulars…humanely, of probably thousands of cows and whatever. He’ll know what’s beef and what’s what and when he cuts into it he’ll come for my neck next.” He sat up. “Have you ever seen a sohets blade?”

“No.”

“Nasty thing. He’ll behead me, sure as anything.”

“I don’t think he’d travel with a ritual knife.”

“What about when he tells the other Jewish passengers that I’ve been serving them non-kosher food like the brochure promises. Let alone horse meat!”

“Maybe it won’t be so bad.”

The Mod began to pant. “IT’S FUCKING ISRAEL UP THERE! They’ll rip me to shreds!”

There were a lot of Jewish passengers. In the kitchen, we were made aware of those who asked for a kosher meal. No pork, and no lobster or oyster. I was just made painfully aware, no horse meat either. We sent them meat on plates that never touch dairy food, and dairy on plates that never touched meat.

That seemed a bit extreme to us in the kitchen, annoyed that we had to look for the tiny M or D on the bottom of the plates (but, like all the plates on the haughty wench, it had a parrot design to keep with the pirate theme). It was later explained to me by a rabbi that the whole, “No dairy with meat,” was included with Jewish dietary laws way back in the day to put an end to the latest fad in preparing goat meat.

A young goat would be boiled in it’s own mother’s milk. I’ve always wanted to write about this now defunct cooking procedure. It has the perfect ironic insult-to-injury feel that would have been great if compared well to a Life Situation. But I write about it now in explanation of what it was and what it meant to Jews and kitchen workers alike.

I used to take the meat/cheese part of kosher meals seriously, when a mistake could get me in trouble with The Mod. But, after he confessed to the horse meat thing, I figured I was in the clear. But, I do now respect the creation of that rule. If I was a rabbi in ancient times with the power to make an entire monotheist ethnic group quit boiling baby goats in their mother’s milk, I’d damn well do it.

Anyway, a couple of thousand years later, off the coast of Mexico, in a theme cruise ship, we had other food related problems. I tried to calm The Mod down by offering him some cooking wine. That’s when I saw that Seth was gone. No longer doubled over and gasping for air. But I soon would be.

Copyright©2000 The Casual Swiss