Why I Giggle in Tex-Mex Restaurants

Every time, and I do mean every time, a waiter in a Mexican restaurant warns me about the traditional hot plate when serving me, I have to stifle a giggle. 

The reason is that I read this Eyebeam cartoon 20 years ago in college and to this day I think of it every time I eat Tex-Mex. I have to struggle not to utter the punch line every single time! My family and friends know this, and now they start giggling as well, much to the confusion of the wait staff. 

6 thoughts on “Why I Giggle in Tex-Mex Restaurants”

  1. That’s an example of utter confusion those of us sans shared cultural context experience every time americans are rolling in laughter.
    There are just so many possibilities…hot plate as an electrical warming device? not likely – more importantly, definitely not funny…the plate is heated? then why the patron appears to put his fingers INTO the food on the plate? could the joke will be in that waitress holds the plates further and further away from the customers, as in she doesn’t want to serve them? Nahr, or gentleman’s reaction would be different…and what the hell is his lady’s saying?

    No, it’d probably will be best just to mumble something “mmm, do you really?” and leave it at that.

  2. Tatyana,

    Tex-mex food contains a lot melted cheese and other ingredients taste and feel better when kept warm. If you plop them down on a cold plate, the dish congeals significantly before it gets to the table. Therefore, Tex-Mex restaurants heat their dishes usually to a tempreture that they will burn you if you just grab them (plus some dishes such a fajitas are served in a sizzling skillet.)

    So every time a wait person puts down a plate they warn the customers with “Hot Plate.” It’s just ritual that everyone here has heard all their life. Unfortunately, the memory of the character Rod’s example of thermal masculinity makes me start to giggle every time I encounter the ritual.

    Sorry for the confusion. It was bit ethnocentric of me to assume that everyone knew the details of southwestern cuisine.

  3. You explained everything but why the man’s remark is funny. Southwestern cuisine does not seem to have something to do with it.
    But never mind.
    Carry on.

  4. Also: in a good restaurant all entree dishes come in warmed-up plates, cheese or no cheese. That doesn’t mean a customer will stick his fingers into the food to check the temperature – was that the joke?

  5. Tatyana,

    You explained everything but why the man’s remark is funny.

    Sorry, the joke is that the plates are so hot that you can’t handle them with bare hands without getting burned. The waitress is trying to interrupt Rod’s bloviating and make him lean back so she can safely sit the plates on the table. Instead, Rod keeps talking and just puts out his hand to take the plate. After the waitress warns him repeatedly he just grabs the plate.

    The actual implied punch line is, “Dammit woman! I’ve eaten Mexican food before and I know the plates are to hot for most people to hold but I am so damn tough I don’t care!” This is over the top because you can’t grab the plate unless you have calluses an inch think on your hands.

    The actual reason I giggle these days is that I find it funny that I have to resist the urge to say the original punch line every time a waiter says, “hot plate.”

  6. Aw. Silly me – I thought it has something to do with a pun; as in “hot (spicy) food” and “hot (heated) plates”.

    Thanks for the explanation, Shannon.

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