The Spaghetti Factory is one of my guilty pleasures. I know that it’s not high-quality Italian food, but it’s better, faster, cheaper, and more fun than the majority of its competitors. I say more fun because for some reason the folks behind Portland’s world-famous purveyor of pasta decided that they needed to build doors big enough to allow Hagrid entrance to their establishment. Where else can you get to eat spaghetti and feel like you are visiting the set of “The Hobbit”?
I like to order salad with the creamy pesto, an iced tea, the Mizithra cheese or the meat sauce with zesty sausage, and finish it off with a rock hard scoop of spumoni. For my money there’s only one problem with a visit to the Spaghetti Factory.
The Bread Course.
Now it’s not that the freshly baked loaf they bring to your table isn’t delicious. It’s just that there’s absolutely no way to eat it. The Spag Fac’s Achilles heel is delivered alongside your steaming bread and garlic butter.
It’s the world’s dullest knife.
10 minutes before you receive your entrees the wait staff will present you with the world’s hottest loaf of bread and what appears to be a prison shiv. What they should be bringing you is an Ove Glove and a chainsaw. Anyone who has ever been to a Spaghetti Factory before knows not to volunteer for bread duty. Unless there is a Spaghetti Factory newbie who volunteers, the table instantly becomes a high stakes game of “Who can eat their nearly frozen salad the slowest”, while not making eye contact with anyone else.
It’s the same routine every time.
It’s a poker match that involves calculating the amount of self-discipline the members of your party posses against the amount of time that it takes blazing bread to become cool enough to touch, but warm enough to still maintain it’s moisture content… because when that sucker gets cold, it becomes a giant crouton.
The first person to reach for the bread is the loser, because after picking up the knife, every other seated person begins “innocently” asking the same question, “Oh can you cut me a piece while you’re at it?”
You don’t want to be the person cutting the bread.
Obviously one of your hands is going to get blistered as you attempt to grip the loaf, but what isn’t obvious is that the bread is actually going to get hotter and hotter from the friction that builds as you begin rubbing the “toothy”, yet blunt, blade of the knife against the crusty outer-shell at blinding speed.
You aren’t sure whether the rising smoke is coming from your hand or the bread.
Things only get worse after penetrating the crust, since the bread no longer provides any support to resist the weight of your hand. Now you are just mashing the bread into flat, misshapen, nuggets that you must start dealing around the table like poker chips.
Since you have the only “knife” at the table, nobody else can butter their poker chip.
The best part of your experience is yet to come, because before you can sit back to enjoy your frost-bitten salad, you have to use your now bacon-esque hand to to sweep away the bread crumbs from your place setting. Spaghetti Factory busboys can always spot the seat of the bread cutter; it looks like the seat occupied by a 3 year-old with saltines, multiplied by the table saw station at a construction site.
It’s enough to make you bring your own knife to the table.
Which of course is what you think you’ll do the next time that you go to the Spaghetti Factory. Whenever I leave those giant doors, I promise myself that I’m going to return with a whetstone or some sharp shears, but the problem is that I very rarely think of smuggling in my own machete when we’re leaving the house.
Which makes me wonder if “not having the right tools to do a job” is still a viable excuse the second time we use it? I know that I like to point out the inadequacy of my equipment when my performance is lacking, but how often do I begin a job knowing that I’m going to need outside help and not call for back-up?
Because back-up is available at the Spaghetti Factory. There’s no rule against asking for a sharper knife. You know there’s a sharp knife somewhere in the facility, they are opening boxes and slicing up lasagna in the kitchen.
It’s also possible to ask the server to cut the bread for you.
In fact, I think the fastest way to get sharp knives into the Spaghetti Factory is have the servers burn THEIR hands in the cutting process. Even if corporate doesn’t want sharp knives in hands of customers, the workmen’s compensation claims alone ought to get some immediate response from upper management.
Truth is, we like to play the victim, because it means someone else will spring into action on our behalf, especially when we can “prove” that we have been wronged. In reality, we always have something we can do to work through the problems we face regardless of where we believe the fault lies. Because I don’t actually have to burn my hand off to eat bread.
Even the house key in my pocket is a safer cutting alternative.