Although I was warned repeatedly by various folks not to even consider stepping into the Tarnished Ladle, I had lunch there yesterday afternoon. The Tarnished Ladle rests on a street among depressing furniture stores, cheerful mortuaries, and terrifying ice-cream parlors. The Tarnished Ladle's exterior is old brick and features an electric sign with an animated ladle swinging stutteringly from a 90 degree angle on the right to 180 degrees south and back again, with pulsing permutations in between. I stared at the ladle for a number of hours and then awoke with a start as several patrons brushed past me and through the glass door into the Ladle's lobby, a shoebox-shaped room, poorly ventilated. I remembered my friends' warnings about the eatery, but I decided that they were alarmists and that for the sake of my readership I would press on. I noted the sanitation rating--a disturbing D--and walked into the Ladle.
The host stood at a decrepit particle-board lectern. Dressed in a tattered suit of black crepe, he smiled like a wax figure at my arrival. I realized that this would be my last chance to leave the Ladle, but I know that you are counting on me to give you an honest and accurate review of the restaurants in the area...and you need me to eat even at the horrifying places.
The funereal old-fashioned soap opera sound of an electric organ throbbed as I followed the host into the dining room. The host found me a seat next to a niche in which stood a very creepy ceramic figurine of some 18th century French person.
"Could you do something about creepy doll?" I asked the host. He smiled and pulled down a convenient black shade that completely covered the niche. "Your server will be with you shortly," he said, and tiptoed away.
I rubbed my fingers over the stiffened, mildewed surface of the velvet tablecloth. Disgusting!
My server arrived.
"Evening, sir. I'm Oliver and I will be taking care of you today." As always, that phrase gave me the creeps. Why didn't I listen to my friends? Did I really owe it to my readers to dine in such a horrible eatery? I'd soon find out...
Oliver handed me a menu that looked like it had been rescued from a fire. As it crumbled, I searched it for the safest item available. "I'll have the broth," I ordered. "The clear broth. Just hot water," I said, adding a safe temperature to my order.
"And to drink?"
I requested the wine list and decided on a cobwebby Chardonnay.
The server stepped away. Someone was singing an aria, unaccompanied. The sound was coming from the wall. I put my ear against the shade covering the niche and the singing grew louder. The creepy figurine was singing!
I didn't dare raise the shade. My sanity could not abide the sight of a ceramic doll vocalizing. When my server reappeared with my glass of wine, I ordered him to somehow stop the figurine from its eerie crooning.
"It feeds on your annoyance, Sir," he said. "Just ignore it and it will fade away. I promise you."
To put the sound of the figurine's singing out of my mind, I concentrated on the taste of the wine. I put the smudged, chipped glass to my mouth and tasted something that I would happily splash on a salad. It was positively balsamic!
Thankfully, the figurine had stopped singing and I waited for my broth to arrive. The terrible sanitation rating was still worrying me, but I hoped that the boiled water would somehow be OK to imbibe. How wrong I was!
The broth was tepid and was served in a bowl on the bottom of which was still stuck a sticker stating "Not for Food Use." A bullion cube still in its wrapper floated among little surface-tension puddles of grease on the broth.
And for you, dear Reader, I drank a spoonful--one!--of this dreadful broth.
In a similar vein of self-sacrifice, I went on to order dessert--a Salted Ice Cube with Piece of String...yes, I ordered dessert and got a magic trick!
As I lifted the ice cube to my mouth with the string (attached to the cube by the encrusted salt) I thought of all that I have done for my readers over the years. Do they at all appreciate what I go through for them?
I popsicled the salty, frozen cube until all that was left was the string, which I laid carefully next to my soup spoon.
I hope that you will be good to me. After all I've done for you...! Eating at places like the Tarnished Ladle, an eatery that I give One Salted Ice Cube!