DO SILK SHIRTS EAT SOUP?

Nasreddin Hodja is a trickster known in many places around the world. As it was, he was a folk philosopher from Anatolia whose funny anecdotes got one laughing – and thinking.

One evening, while the hodja was going home, he happened upon a house from which the sounds of music and uproarious laughter were coming. He brought his donkey (which he invariably rode backwards) to a stop and listened closely. Someone at the door invited him in to the festivities inside – a wedding, in this case. The hodja tied his donkey to a tree and entered the house. They had set up tables in the crowded interior garden, where everyone was eating, drinking and making merry. No one paid him any attention; he waited a bit, but when no one beckoned him to a table, he grew tired of the proceedings, took his leave and headed home.

When he arrived home, he removed his normal attire and put on his most ostentatious garb. Sporting a radiant silk shirt, he returned to the wedding. This time, the guests who saw him in such finery crowded around him, bid him welcome and sat him down at the head table. Everyone else at the table all saluted him with respect. The servants, too, immediately brought the hodja some of the choicest morsels of food. With food on his plate, Nasreddin Hodja turned to those assembled, wished them a pleasant meal and proceeded to dunk the sleeve of his silk shirt in the soup.

“Hodja!” they exclaimed. “What on earth are you doing? Your shirt’s fallen into the soup!”

The hodja was well aware of what he was doing. In a quiet voice, he answered:

“My shirt hasn’t fallen into the soup, my shirt’s having some soup!”

“My goodness! Hodja, would a shirt ever eat soup?” they responded.

“It would, it would,” the hodja said.

“Just a moment ago, I came with my normal clothes, and no one looked me in the face. Now, when all of you saw my silk shirt and golden necklace, everyone started to take an interest in me. It seems that the thing that’s worthy isn’t me but my shirt. It follows, then, that it deserves to have the soup and eat the food, no?”

Some restaurants pay a lot of attention to their customers’ attire. Places with lots of stars on their shoulder sometimes take the matter to the extreme. When I’m at a good restaurant, I don’t like seeing fellow diners in blue jeans and T-shirts. But that doesn’t mean that it’s only a jacket and a tie that lends chic and elegance. In the past, those that had the right to enter army-run restaurants were required to do so in a tie. But those that came without ties were furnished with one at the coat check, allowing them to “fulfill” the rule. But that meant that the general scene was this: A bunch of men in T-shirts who had donned ties that had been worn by hundreds of others and probably been stained just as many times by the food!

It might have a Michelin star on its shoulder, but Brooklyn’s Peter Luger Steakhouse is one restaurant that is relaxed on this front with its customers. Diners get to enjoy their food in comfortable attire, while the wait staff offer pleasant service without getting tense, fixing their customers with an icy stare or angering the clientele.

The only problem is the burnt meat. Most of the customers that come there – like most in America – want meat that is seared on the outside. It’s true, the insides of the meat are like cotton, but the exterior is like coal. In the end, I’ve never been able to understand why people insist on continuing to eat food like this and fill restaurants like this to the gills, even though American doctors, as well as the media who have shared their warnings, have implored people to not eat burnt meat and avoid exposing meat on the BBQ to too much heat on account of the huge cancer risk.

What can I say: My God grant everyone good health!