TRICKS OF TRADE
While the proprietor of a restaurant was standing behind his counter the other day catching flies for currant cake, and wishing that a little of the business wave the papers say so much about would slop over into his restaurant, as it were, a young man with a beaming smile on his face and a big box under his arm entered.
“Don’t want any sleeve-buttons, nor nuthin’,” growled the dyspepsia distributor, glancing at the box.
“No, nor I,” said the stranger, affably, depositing the box on the counter and removing the lid. “But what you do want is the greatest invention of recorded time—the restaurant keeper’s friend—the boarding-house proprietor’s salvation!”
“Roach poison?” said the steak stretcher, contemptuously.
“No, sir,” retorted the young man, taking a handful of singularly shaped objects out of the box. “Something that beats the phonograph and the telephone all hollow. I refer to the American ‘Skidmore chop.’”
“What, it is the most economical device of modern times, and I’ll prove it right here. Suppose you are serving a dinner to say half-a-dozen persons. Now, how many chops do you usually put on the table?”
“Well, about two apiece, say twelve.”
“And how many are eaten?”
“Hum! About four.”
“Exactly—that is about the average, as our restaurant statistic show. As a matter of course, however, you are obliged to cook three times as much as you need to make a show. Now, if you could save six chops every dinner for a year it would amount to—“
“A fortune,” said the man of cutlets, eagerly. “All we can do with ‘em now is to work ‘em over into ashes.”
“Peace to your ashes,” said the agent; “all this ruinous waste is now prevented by the introduction to the same dish of the patent American Skidmore Indestructible India-rubber Chop, put up in packages of one dozen and warranted for five years,” and the food economizer exhibited some lifelike imitations of cooked mutton chops.
“Looks like a good scheme,” said the concoctor of stews, thoughtfully; “but don’t the customer ever—“
“Ever tumble? Not in the least. He only notices that one chop is a little tougher than the others, and finally gets his fork and chews ahead. These smaller ones come higher, as they are made of a little more limber article of rubber, for lamb chops. Can’t be told from the genuine by the naked eye. All you have to do is to grease ‘em on both sides, warm ‘em up a little, and serve them mixed in with the others same as usual.”
“Seems like they are about as tender as the regulation kind,” said the restaurateur, jabbing one with a fork. “Don’t they ever get eaten by mistake?”
“No—no—that is, not now. We did lose a few that way when first introduced, but now we make the material tougher it don’t happen any more unless they swallow ‘em whole. Why here’s a specimen that’s been in use in an eating saloon for three years, night and day, and you can’t see the first tooth print in it yet.”
“That settles it,” said the restaurateur. “I’ll take a gross.”
“I thought you would, “said the chop agent as he took down the order, and emphatically declined an invitation to some lunch. “I will drop ‘round in a few days an show you samples of some soft white rubber lobsters we are getting up especially for the country trade—make the best article of indestructible salad known,” and he shouldered his box and walked off in the direction of the Grand Hotel.
Tit-bits, 17 February 1883: p. 276
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is lost in admiration for the ingenuity of the Skidmore firm. They knew their audience. Boarding-house food was proverbially inedible and the subject of many jokes and much invective:
1884: “Why don’t you ask a blessing?” said a boarding-house keeper to the boarder. He looked all over the table, and gloomily asked, “I’d like to know what for.”
1880: “I think the turkey has the advantage of you,” said the landlady to the inexpert boarder who was carving. “Guess it has, mum—in age.”
1871: “Why do you set your cup of coffee upon the chair, Mr. Jones?” said a worthy landlady one morning at breakfast.
“It is very weak, ma’am,” replied Jones, “I thought I would let it take a rest.”
1896: “I’ve a taste for the antique,” as the lodgin’ ‘ouse boarder said when the landlady asked him if he wos a-enjoyin’ of the nine- year-old chicken.”
1871: The house acquires an atmosphere of its own, familiarly known as “the boarding-house smell”—an atmosphere compounded chiefly of deadly enemies of human life. Meantime, three times a day, there is made a formidable attack on the stomach, in the shape of hard-burned fibre, minus the juices, called roast-meat, vegetables half raw, butter rancid, tea and coffee— familiar names for strange compounds of mineral substances, old leaves, and animal fat—poor bread, and worse pastry.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.