When you order soup, make sure to ask the waiter to hold the hairOr, a parable about soup that's really about printing and gaslighting and greed

affinities, 01/31/24

detail, Cream Soups by Wayne Thiebaud, 1963

The parable: 

A hungry customer orders the tomato soup, the house specialty. It arrives: a bowl of vibrant red, with fragrant steam that fogs her glasses as she leans over to sip from her spoon. She is surprised to find a hair, then as she stirs, she sees more and is—as anyone would be—disgusted. 

She brings the presence of the now flotsam of hair to the waiter’s attention and asks for another bowl of soup. He will bring her one, but he warns her that the next bowl of soup may not be hair free, and she will have to pay for it (or at least the cost of the tomatoes). Stunned, she cannot believe the kitchen is incapable of making hair-free soup (the restaurant came highly recommended!) and will charge her to replace it. But the waiter insists that hairy soup, while it is their specialty, is simply the inevitable result of any hirsute chef at the stove, no matter what precautions the chef might take.

The chef and the maitre’d join the waiter, as the customer continues to insist that, of course, they can make hair-free soup and wouldn’t they want to? They make tomato soup all the time! They do want to help, they say, but she’s making a rather unreasonable demand that they simply cannot promise to meet. She replies that she has ordered soup on many occasions in many different restaurants, and has rarely encountered a hair, much less this proliferation of it. The trio, as a chorus, respond, “Well, you must be very lucky.” 

All three disappear to reluctantly investigate whether the kitchen might be able to produce a bowl of hair-free soup (they think perhaps it might have something to do with the recent shipment of tomatoes). The customer waits patiently—the soup purportedly is very, very good here. Minutes turn to hours then to days, until finally she loudly asks for the waiter. No answer. She cries out. She shouts. No response. She decides that, rather than continuing to wait for what might likely be another bowl of hairy soup—two bowls, now, for the price of two—the extremely hungry customer announces very clearly (she yells, she writes in sharpie on the paper tablecloth, she posts a note on the door, she leaves messages) that she is going to another restaurant and expects her money back (the restaurant charges 1/2 upfront for your meal). 

Almost two years later, she encounters the owner of the restaurant, whom she begged to speak with that day. He smugly tells her (under oath), “Oh, you just should’ve just ordered a bowl of soup, hold the hair.” Ah! So they can make a bowl of hair-free soup. It’s just not on the menu. 🤔🙄😳😵‍💫😖😡🤯🙀


Read the final statement to the court which includes more detail and less metaphor.

see also

✼ ex libris:

“Multiplicity and distance or void wasn’t an affected practice on Johnson’s part; they were the very lenses of his reality.” —Elizabeth Zuba, from her introduction to Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson


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