Serving (1)

There’s a lot of talk in the service industry about standards. These standards, and the implicit assumptions they impose upon “serving” have long sedimented into something hard and jagged: a diamond (or four). We are not meant to mess with “service.” There is a right and a wrong, and the sharp edge that separates them can be deadly, both reputationally and economically.

I have worked in the service world in varying capacities. I’m not convinced that–if we care about the meal–this convnetional stranglehold on the term is healthy.

In reality, serving is unsettling. As a concept, it is troubling, seductive.

How do we begin to talk about how serving is embedded in our reciprocal relationship to food and each other?

“To serve,” according to OED:

– perform duties or services
– present to someone
– deliver in a formal manner to the person to whom it is addressed
– be of use in achieving or satisfying
– hit the ball or shuttlecock to begin play for each point of a game
– bind with thin cord to protect or strengthen it
– operate a gun

This is another instance wherein a dictionary actually obscures a concept.

Serving is just that: a bit of a hidden object. It is an opening and point of danger. I have spent some years now in an in an awkward dance; most roles have involved being appointed to cook, talk, teach, or display HTML. The notion of serving is embedded in all of these activities.

What do we mean when we talk about serving?

The verb has, of course, a slew of connotations, from the vocational to the lofty to the downright geeky. But many of these (especially the lofty) have been choked in peels of empty rhetoric for so long that it’s almost impossible to find a useful concept therein. I’m going to persist here. Follow along, and feel free to fight back at whim.

How do concepts enter our worldview? How does food get to our plate? How does the data we navigate get carved into something perceptible, relatable, or usable?

In other words: of what use is serving as a critical concept?

– In my next post, I will explore some of these questions by way of the concept of “open kitchen.”

Your comments are welcome!

Got to go…Stay tuned for more…

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