New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Essen or Fressen

It was sometime in the 1990s, and my best friend was my CPA, doing all my business and personal accounting and tax preparation. At one particular meeting, he looked over some numbers, virtually as Zero Mostel did in the Producers, seeing the possibility for greed. My friend observed that for a particular deduction, there was an opportunity to "double dip," i.e. take the deduction twice. 

The lure of saving money at tax time is a strong motivator, and knowing my friend was very aggressive tax-wise, I asked whether we should do such a thing. He replied with something that neither of us recall exactly but I remember as an English translation of a Yiddish saying: pigs eat and hogs choke. What I am sure about is what he intended: take the deduction once as the law provides, not twice.

I called my CPA friend and other Jewish friends this morning, and there is no such Yiddishism. The only Yiddish phrase that appears to possibly apply is Tiere fressen, Mensche essen (animals eat, people eat). In German, fressen and essen both mean "to eat," but fressen is used for animals. In connection with people, fressen is considered derogatory. In Yiddish, however, it means nothing more than enthusiastic overeating. Nonetheless, pigs eat and hogs choke is what often comes to my mind whenever there is opportunity for greed, and such an opportunity presented itself on February 3rd.

Three of us ate at a local cafe in the Village. Service there has declined - foods are out of stock, things are forgotten, mistakes are made, free WiFi has been eliminated, laptops banned, etc. We love the convenience and live music, so we continue to go.
On February 3rd, I ate dinner there with two friends. Our first disappointment was that they were out of both foccacia and ciabatta bread for the sandwich we chose. It's not that I am a snob and require these breads, but at $9 for a sandwich, it would be nice for the cafe to have the gourmet breads which they advertise. But alas, this is Gizzi's, which is forever out of something. When we received the check, there were two errors. One, a large tea had been paid for previously, so $3 should be removed from the bill. However, we had ordered two slices of cherry pie at $4.50 each, which the waiter forgot to add.

So, this check offered some interesting options. We had three choices:

1) ESSEN: Ask to accurately correct it - take the tea off and add the slices of pie - pay an additional $6.00 (+ $9.00 - $3.00)
2) Pay the bill as is - save $6.00 (+ $3.00 - $9.00)
3) FRESSEN: Ask that the $3 for the tea be removed AND not mention that the two slices of pie - save $12.00 by double dipping (-$3.00 - $9.00)

The dilemma was furthered compounded by the poor service and lack of breads, making it easy to justify short changing the cafe. So, presented with styles of eating and bill paying, what's your style? Essen or Fressen?

Related Posts: The Way You Like It, War Against Disservice (Part 1 and Part 2), Take It, Toches ahfen tish!, Fit-ty Fi, Pick Two


Thérèse said...

Go there and check the originality of the place before it disappears!

Mary P. said...

SOOOOOOO!!! What did you do?

Anonymous said...

Amazing :)

Kendigram said...

Essen Gedainkt! Eat and remember!

GahdShemaya said...

Someone steered you wrong on the Yiddish. "Fressen" is decidedly derogatory, connoting indiscriminate gluttony. Hence the distinction between animals and "menschen", that is, refined and ethical behavior.

Brian Dubé said...

GahdShemaya - Thanks - it sounded a bit that way in my reading.