The young server passed over the tray containing the coffee and soup. We picked up napkins as we headed to the tables. It had been a long day but we weren’t very hungry. The soup would do just fine.
As we settled in at the table and selected our portions, the little packets of salt and pepper appeared from under one of the soup bowls. We laughed.
“This soup never needs seasoning, especially salt,” I said.
“That’s for sure,” my husband commented.
We each tasted from the bowls and looked at each other. “No,” we almost said together. Just as we expected. More salt than we use in a week.
“I guess the server has never tasted this soup. Why would she give us so much of this?” He pointed to the packets of salt and pepper.
I counted them, thirteen pepper and five salt packets, none of which were needed for this soup.
“Pop would have been delighted with these,” I said.
“I know,” my husband added.
My grandfather was one of only three children from a large family to escape tuberculosis which also took both of his parents. He and the other surviving boys were cared for by relatives, who already had a large family of their own. My grandfather and his older brother both went to work on the Newfoundland Railway as young teens, more than a century ago.
Pop, as my brother and I called him, didn’t have an easy childhood and was forced to grow up too soon. Later in his life, he wasted nothing.
When I was a teenager, I travelled with him. Pop always took some packages of condiments from the restaurants or diners, such as mustard, salt, pepper, sugar, whatever was available in packets on the table. At first, I was embarrassed by this behaviour, but over time put it down to, “That’s just Pop.”
Sure enough, when you went to his house for lunch, the packets were there on display at the table in case you needed any. I don’t know if he emptied the packets as he flavoured the delicious meals he made, but I imagine he did.
Back in the restaurant, my husband and I debated the disposal of the packets. If we put them in the compost bin, it was a waste. If we gave them back to the server, would they be put in the compost anyway?
Pop would be proud of me!