Birthday Songs. Do people still ask restaurants to sing to the birthday person when celebrating a special occasion?
It seems that about 20-30 years ago that was the thing to do. You could do it one of two ways. When your server came to the table you could just blatantly tell them that it was someone’s birthday. There would be hopes of all of the servers gathering around your table with a plate full of whipped cream topped with a candle to honor the birthday person. The song would be quick, the birthday person would blush and it would be over.
This technique wasn’t always the best because there was no element of surprise. The birthday person would then be able to tell the server that they don’t want a birthday song and that their tip would be decreased if they did such a thing. (No one would ever actually say that but all you had to do is make eye contact and they would know of their financial demise if such an occurrence would take place.)
The other method of birthday songing at a restaurant was my favorite….the ambush. The ambush was an art form. Everyone in your group knew you were there for a special occasion. The birthday person made it clear in the car that they just wanted to go out to dinner and didn’t want all of the hullaballoo.
But there was just that temptation of secretly letting the restaurant know who was celebrating the birthday. I was excellent at this feat because I always had to go to the bathroom during a meal so there was never any suspicion if I left the table.
Most washrooms were past the hostess podium so I could walk by and say “Pssst, it is the person in the red sweater’s birthday. Would you tell the server?” The hostess would slyly look, smile and nod.
When I would come back from the bathroom, the server would put down my food and give that look of being in the know. The twinkle in both of our eyes showed that we thought we were getting away with something marvelous.
After the plates were cleared, it would happen. You could hear the clapping somewhere in the restaurant. It would be faint at first as one server grew into two and then into three. It was a train of clapping wait staff that swerved around tables not stopping at any particular destination right away.
Every person in the place who was celebrating would have a panicked look in their eyes. There would be warning to tablemates that this better not be for them or they would have to face the consequences. (If it was a parent it usually meant withholding an allowance and some sisters were known for stuffing people in laundry hampers.)
Everyone enjoying their dinner would look up and look around for the most red-faced diner in the place and watch their misery. There was an eerie anticipation that would fill the room. (Almost like the shark music in Jaws.)
And then the restaurant employees would reach their goal table. The clapping would increase and if you were lucky there would be a something more than the birthday song screeched from their lungs. It would be fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.
The guests of the honoree would usually be laughing hysterically as the birthday person would feign a gracious smile while muttering under their breath that they were mortified.
I started thinking about this because both of my sisters have birthdays in January and February. I remembered that one of our favorite spots, Chi-Chi’s, had their own birthday clap down to an art form. Plus their song was the best….
Happy, happy birthday.
To you, to you, olé!
It made me miss my sisters and crave a very basic fajita.
The food at Chi-Chi’s was probably the first “Mexican” food that I learned to enjoy. It was probably more “Tex-Mex” than Mexican but I remember it fondly. It was always very lightly seasoned, not very spicy and they seemed to like to put things on the plate with an ice cream scoop.
As I made my fajitas this week, I had kind of fun plating it the “old” way and thinking of all the meals shared with my family and a group of clapping strangers surrounding our dinner table. Happy Birthday Sisters.
Easy Chicken Fajita Marinade
1 pound chicken breasts
Juice from 2 limes
A good sprinkle of salt
2 Tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
2 tsp minced garlic
Mix the limejuice, olive oil, chili powders and garlic in a bowl. Add the chicken and allow to marinade for about 4 hours.
In a large nonstick skillet, add a swirl of olive oil over medium heat. Brown both sides of the chicken. Do this in batches so all of the chicken browns evenly. Remove from pan and place in an oven safe dish for about 7-10 more minutes. The chicken juice needs to run clear for it to be considered down. (Internal temp 160.)
Slice the chicken into strips and serve with favorite fajita toppings.
Use the same pan to sauté up some peppers and onions to put on your fajitas.
This recipe is REALLY mild. It really was just a great excuse to eat chicken on a tortilla. The nice part is that people can build them up anyway they want and when you are done you will want to clap and sing like it is someone else’s birthday!!!