Ordering Cheese(Vignette)
It was Easter. So the wine place was packed. They peeked down into the cellar, sunk below the steep cobblestone grade, where the light that filtered out through leaded glass revealed row after row of tables packed with Germans drunk on fantastic wine. Candles flickered and animated the crowd in their jolly Brueghelesque debauchery.
It was impossible to imagine there was space for the three of them. But anyway he went into the cellar, swinging open the heavy carved wooden door and ducking the low lintel.
“Maybe we can drink in the street” he gestured outside to the waiter who answered “Why not upstairs?”
It was not their first visit to this cellar and they had never noticed an upstairs before.
“Genau. It is open for Ostern”.
And so up the stairs they went. A large round cheerful man in an AC/DC t-shirt took their wine order. When he returned they talked about metal for a bit.
“My favorite is Metallica” the waiter said. “But I also like AC/DC. Megadeath.”
The waiter's first AC/DC concert was the Ballbreaker tour.
“My first was Razor’s Edge. In Atlanta, GA”.
“For me they were in Berlin. I live in Berlin, but every time for Easter I come to help here”.
He looked up at the room, surveying a crowd growing impatient for more wine. They ordered some food, pointing to the table opposite. There lay two platters. One had “Handkäse”, stinky burger sized patties of a semi transparent, springy, strangely processed cheese product*. The cheese sat in a bowl of gravy with onions and rye seeds to soften the blow. The other plate was a lovely pile of white cheese cubes mixed with some vegetables and rye bread.
“Can we have that one with the white cheese cubes and veggies please?”
And off he went to attend to the rest of the crowd. The place was a riot. Everyone was in great spirits, drunk, and talking loud enough to be heard over one another. Periodically something would crash, a wine glass would shatter on the ground or a chair would tip over backwards, and people would just laugh and talk louder.
The AC/DC waiter arrived with our cheese, putting a platter of Handkäse down before us. I looked at the foul, festering plate. I reached up, put my hand on his shoulder to indicate a need to communicate closely, something important. When his ear was close I shouted:
“We can’t eat this! I am sorry, but it is totally disgusting!”
“It is the wrong order?”
“Yes, we want the white cheese” I pointed back at the now mostly eaten plate of decent, reasonable cheese at the table opposite.
From his crouched position he slumped forward, resting his head on the table with arms outstretched. His shoulders shook with the convulsions of some emotion. Was he crying? Was he laughing?
He stood up. He gathered himself.
“I hate this cheese also”.
He turned and tried to offer the platter to the table that had ordered both types. They refused. He walked away with the cheese, finding no takers.
* Handkäse is sometimes referred to more completely as “Handkäse mit Musik”, the joke being that the music comes later. Like it wasn’t already gross enough.