I’m just finishing a great book called Sweetbittter, written by a new author named Stephanie Danier. It’s all about the main character’s experience as a back waiter in a foodie New York restaurant, and its prose are at once beautifully crafted and full of reality.
While I was never a super high end waitress (I had a charming personality, but a tendency to forget your fork), I did work in a restaurant in Faneuil Hall during college that boasted three floors–each floor with a different level of formality. I worked in the most casual outdoor dining cafe, but upstairs was a wine bar and fancy pantsy high-priced menu with the kind of service that Danier describes in her book.
Ultimately it’s a coming of age story, and the experience she writes about brought back so many memories for me. Every Saturday night, a line of people stood fidgety and hungry waiting for an outdoor table. I would break down somewhere around 10:00, in the weeds, sweating off my make-up, crying a little and promising to quit at the end of my shift. But the end of my shift would arrive and I would excitedly count out my one hundred dollar bills, and happily bid all goodnight, telling them I’d see them again the next night. Waitressing has a certain golden handcuff kind of allure.
I am going to be sad, when in just a few more pages I will have to say goodbye to Tess, the narrator of Sweetbitter. She tells an engrossing tale, and reminded me of a few summers long, long ago, when I too, was coming of age.