The art of the tummler

art of the tummler

Partner and I were down on Cape Cod a few weeks ago, and we ate at our favorite restaurant, Captain Parker’s in West Yarmouth. The bar is always crowded with locals (always a good sign), and the dining room is always crowded with tourists like us (also a good sign), and the seafood is excellent.



I recognized our waiter on sight, as he’s waited on us before. He was a big cheerful guy, who worked the room like an expert; he chatted us up, wanted to know if we were golfers (which flattered us both, as we’re not golfers by a long shot); he got involved in a long conversation at a neighboring table about a recent Red Sox game; he jollied up the nearby birthday-party table by wanting to know where everyone was from, and pretended to know terrible stories about people from those towns.



He was, in short, a tummler.






tummler [toom-ler]: noun

  1. 1.     A male entertainer as formerly employed by resorts in the Catskill Mountains, who combined the duties of a comedian, activities director, and master of ceremonies, and whose responsibility was to keep the guests amused throughout their stay.
  2. 2.     Any lively, prankish, or mischievous man.

Origin: 1930-35 Yiddish tumler, one who makes a racket.



Many of the comedians of my childhood – Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye, Phil Silvers – worked as tummlers early in their careers. Most of the big Catskills resorts have closed down since those days, of course. But the personality type (see definition #2 above) will go on forever.



Our friend at Captain Parker’s is a good tummler: friendly, amiable, and with a excellent sense of when to stop.



Some tummlers, however, do not have this nice awareness of their role. They think of themselves as the lives of the party, and end up being – well – obnoxious.



I think we all know a few of these. They’re noisy, and they never let up.



We like an occasional dose of Jerry Lewis or Milton Berle. We don’t want to live with them.


Fast food

fast food

Partner and I took an impromptu holiday on Cape Cod recently. We had a nice meal at Captain Parker’s in West Yarmouth, which is a terrific little seafood restaurant. We had a couple of nice country breakfasts at the Hearth ‘n Kettle in South Yarmouth, which gives you a nice hot pitcher of coffee with your meal.



And we also ate at McDonald’s and at Wendy’s.



Partner and I normally don’t eat fast food. But on holiday: why not?



Just as a test, I ordered a Big Mac. It was almost as I remember from the 1970s and 1980s: it had the same feeling, and the same squishy delectableness, but they hadn’t put enough of the Special Sauce on it! I was a little disappointed. (Special Sauce, for the younger among you, is a mix of mayonnaise, relish, mustard, and other seasonings.)



How about Wendy’s? I’m not a faithful diner here, but their food is good. I had a double-burger thing, and some fries, and a “milkshake” so thick that I couldn’t use a straw. Very nice, all in all.



Much has been written lately about the fast-food cabal and how horrible their food is nutritionally. So the chains – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s – are making soft and gentle noises about wanting us to eat healthily.



They’re kidding, of course.



They do enormous amounts of research into our natural cravings for sweet and salty and protein, and work until they find perfect combinations. (The Big Mac is one of those perfect combinations.)



They’re devious. They want you to eat there every day.



Don’t do it, kids. Beat them at their own game. Make it a treat, once in a while. It won’t hurt you. It’s really delicious, in its peculiar salty / sweet / protein way.



Just don’t overdo it.


%d bloggers like this: