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The Tuna Fish Sandwich

And you thought a tuna fish sandwich was just something to eat.  Obviously you haven’t lived in a co-op.

Catering your building’s Christmas (excuse me, holiday) party would challenge even Martha Stewart because you must appeal not only to residents’ palates, but also their politics.  I’m glad the planning ordeal is over and I can eat and greet at our party next week.

For years we had a peaceful and ecumenical affair, with food to satisfy every persuasion – rugelach and bouche noel, bagels and lox and baked ham. Everyone went away happy and sated.

Then some grinch-like heretic with a taste for raw fish, substituted plates of sushi for real food, a decision that went over about as well as Obama’s tax cut plan and threatened to unseat the entire board at the next election.

Since then catering our holiday party has been a dangerous undertaking, threatening the jobs – or rather, non-jobs – of board member planners.

In the wake of the financial collapse two Christmas’ ago, the board considered abandoning the party altogether as an austerity measure.

Last year with the economy still in the tank, the board scaled down the party to half its former self (and cost) – except for the tuna fish sandwich.

The tuna fish sandwich?  I only found out when I was designated this year to assume the party catering mantel.  I decided the best way to avoid a cuisinary confrontation was to order pretty much what the board had ordered the prior year.

Only when I checked out the order, there among the platters of assorted wraps and plates of crudite, the six foot long hero and piles of assorted cookies was a single tuna fish sandwich.  I figured it was a mistake and called the super, who in our building  is charged with pulling off the event.

“I’ll just go to Veselka and get one,” he sounded uncomfortable, but like a true diplomat didn’t’ disclose a thing.

“No, no, don’t worry,” I figured it wasn’t worth giving him the third degree over a sandwich.

The mystery was solved as soon as I called the caterer. 

“Should I put that on a separate plate specially for Mr. X?” she asked in a knowing tone of voice as soon as I  placed the order for the tuna fish sandwich.

I hesitated for an instant, recognizing the name of Mr. X as a prior board member whom I wasn’t on regular speaking terms with.

Now I had to decide whether to exercise my own current petty power to deprive my nemesis of one of the apparent perks of his past power, or take the high road and order the sandwich, even though every year I had decorated the building’s Christmas tree, the first thing Mr. X wanted to know was when it was coming down.

I chose the latter course, hoping that in this season of peace and joy the sandwich might be the first step on the road to rapprochement. Who knows?

But remember as you stand munching on some goodie at your building’s party, that in these environs food can be  as much a statement of power politics as an expression of love.

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