Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My Summer of Sugar Cubes

My stories of Spain continue today, mainly because writing that flan rant last week brought back all kinds of Spanish sugar memories, and in particular that of my Summer of Sugar Cubes.

As I mentioned earlier, I spent a summer working in a restaurant on Menorca. Before I was relegated to the kitchen and forced to conceal 12 flans per day in my stomach, I was assigned to work the lunch shift as a waitress.

The lunch shift should have been ideal: most people were too busy at the beach to bother stopping by the restaurant, and most afternoons we’d only have three or four tables occupied.

The problem was, Menorca—which was a destination for aliens a thousand years ago, and for cows and English conquerors hundreds of years later—now attracts English, German, and Spanish tourists, all of whom take their lunch at a different hour.

The average Englishman eats lunch sometime around 12 or 1; if he is senile or without teeth, maybe at 11 a.m. But the average Spaniard waits until 2 or 3 or even 4 p.m. before having lunch. This means that I served lunch from 11 a.m. to about 6 p.m., often with little more than a Gloria Estefan cd to keep me entertained..

Come five p.m. I’d start tapping my fingers on the Formica, wondering when the Spanish customers were finally going to get up and leave. I’d clean up the bottles from the other tables, and, if there was any wine left in them, polish it off behind the bar. When I ran out of alcohol, I’d switch to sugar cubes, and would go through about a half box a day. If I got drunk enough I’d tried to see how many sugar cubes I could fit in my mouth and still manage to talk to customers intelligibly. (As a scientific experiment, this was a failure: customers just assumed I had a speech impediment and were therefore very nice to me.)

My time-killer was perfect except for one thing: sugar and wine are not diet foods, and I soon started to put on weight. The second problem: Menorca is nothing but nude beaches, with pale, nudie English bodies everywhere. It wasn’t a good place to be sporting a sugar cube-packed stomach.

One day, the restaurant owner, her daughter, and I went down to the beach for a morning swim. As prude little American me made my way into the water, trying to use my hands as a makeshift bikini, I heard the owner call out to me from the water: “Moko, have you noticed how much our sugar cube supply has dwindled?”

I played dumb and just shrugged. “People have been drinking a lot of coffee,” I yelled back.

She nodded, and I saw her eyes give me a look up and down. “Have you gained weight?" she finally asked. "Everyone else looses weight when they work in the restaurant. But you….”

And with that she did a butterfly kick and dove down to the ocean bottom, her tanned, shriveled, middle-aged bum getting the last word.

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Anonymous said...

do you like the rough cubes or the perfectly cut ones?

Moko said...

the rough ones are much better, but my favorite of favorites are the big rock sugar crystals that take a billion years to dissolve in tea but are excellent to eat.

Ruthita said...

Hey Moko!
I stumbled across your blog by accident and realize that I've just spent the last half hour reading your wonderful, sugary stories. The dozen flans just about made me spit coffee on my monitor. See you again!!!