Monday, August 27, 2007

When is a rodent not a rodent?

Well, I wouldn't want to be any number of Boston restaurants after this Sunday's Boston Globe wrote up a number of upscale restaurants for their health code violations. I suspect that  Boston's restaurant-world marketing and PR people will be busy over the next couple of days figuring out just how to position this news.

Fortunately for them, it's a summer weekend and I'm guessing a lot of upscale diners are out of town.

Still, news like this doesn't creep in on little cat feet, it scampers around on little mice paws, and I'm sure that people who go for pizza on Todd English's Figs on Beacon Hill will be casting sidelong glances at the next tables not to see what they're having, but to check out whether there's a mouse nibbling on the left over crust. If I went in for gussied up pizza - think figs and prosciutto - Figs would be my neighborhood pizzeria. Mostly I like pizza-pizza, so I get my pizza at Upper Crust.

Upper Crust is not as pricey or chi-chi as Figs, but it's not without it's own uppercrustiness. They prominently display the page in Jack Welch's book in which he praises the UC pizza as "to die for." I don't always agree with Jack, but he's right about the UC pizza.

(Note to self: just in case you do go to Figs, don't order anything with capers.)

But Figs wasn't the only restaurant with rodents.

Bringing us to the Union Oyster House. Or, as it is sometimes called, Ye Olde Union Oyster House, which was cited several times for "rodent droppings."

Interestingly, the reports seemed to say "remove evidence of rodent droppings", rather than "get rid of rodents," which would, I'm thinking, be more to the point. And it wasn't just the inspectors who were seeing rodents: patrons were phoning City Hall to complain about rodent sightings.

I was certainly not surprised to hear about Ye Olde UOH.

It is, after all, right around the corner from Haymarket, home to some of Boston's food wholesalers and site of the Saturday market free-for-all, which some folks swear by but which I always swear at - swearing that those mold-covered strawberries looked perfectly fresh when I'd bought them an hour ago. 

Walk through that area on a Saturday night after the market has closed and step lively. They literally come in with bulldozers to clear up the rotting produce that gets left behind. And mice? Hah! We're talking rats.

But this is a city, and rats are certainly an outdoor hazard at minimum.

And sometimes an indoor hazard.

Years ago, I worked one summer as a waitress at Ye Olde (whe, I will concede, it was under prior ownership). This was during a time when the place was, indeed, rat infested. Some evenings, when we were cleaning up, the rats would come scampering out. When that happened, we were allowed to go home and clean up in the morning. But who wanted to face clean up in the morning? So we hurled big heavy spoons at the rat holes and that would keep them at bay until we were finished. Occasionally, there were rats in the dining room while patrons were still dining. If you screamed when you saw a rat, you would be fired. So we learned not to scream.

One day, the dish boy found a drowned rat stopping up a sink. Great hilarity followed in the kitchen.

(If you ever come in out of the rain and someone tells you that you look like a drowned rat, I can assure you that you look really and truly dreadful.)

That was over 30 years ago. I can't imagine that they have rats now.

Although they do apparently have something rodent-y.

But when the owner was asked about "the rodent issue", he said:

"I take objection to the word 'rodent.' It's mice droppings." And mice, he said, "are in the same family as squirrels."

So that's the answer to the question "when is a rodent not a rodent?"

It's when it's a mouse. Or a squirrel.

I understand that the owner was really trying to differentiate "mice" rodents from "rat" rodents. Who wouldn't rather deal with a tiny little mouse than a big dirty rat?

But for the life of me, I can't imagine that he would believe that people would be any happier with "squirrel droppings" in a restaurant.

And they say marketing people like to spin!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I guess the only explanation for why anyone who ever worked in a restaurant would eat in a restaurant is the old "triumph of hope over experience." That, or the fact that for the most part the evidence of the rodents is removed from sight. LOL