Kitchen Shrink: Counter Culture: The tip jar and you

Catharine Kaufman

Catharine L. Kaufman


They’re popping up everywhere from the counters in coffeehouses, sandwich and frozen yoghurt shops to bakeries, bagel and donut joints. What’s the deal with those ubiquitous kitschy tip jars?

Here’s the backstory and some practical tips.

Although ingrained in the American culture, the custom of giving a gratituity to wait-staff in restaurants, actually originated in the taverns of 17th century England. Urns, the precursor to the modern tip jar, were prominently displayed on pub counters throughout the land. The labels plastered on them read: To Insure Promptitude, ergo the acronym TIP.

When travelers returned to America from abroad they brought with them the novel and aristocratic custom of tipping that many found offensive and superfluous. Not until the early 1900s, when tip-worthy positions in the Unites States swelled to 10-percent of the working population, was the convention embraced. Currently American restaurants rake in more than $26 billion a year from tips.

Tipping has become a “backronym” as the gratuity is awarded after the fact, not as an assurance of prompt service. Fifteen percent of the bill total is the customary tip for a sit-down service, 10 percent for a self-serve buffet, and 20 percent for an upscale establishment, provided the server is attentive and there are no snafus along the way.

As for sandwich makers, ice cream scoopers, bagel boys and the like, in many cases the same person is taking your order, preparing your food, and serving you. With that perspective, it seems reasonable to contribute to the tip jar. If you’re given a heavy-handed scoop, a generous portion of turkey on the bun or an ear-to-ear smile with your thousand requests, then perhaps they deserve a few coins or even a greenback tossed into the jar.

Tip-isms seen around town

• “Tipping isn’t just for canoes and cows anymore”

• “Your tip money is our gas money”

• “Tipping isn’t a city in China”

• “Support counter-intelligence”

• “It’s tip to be square”

• “Got tips?”

• “Feeling tipsy?”

My tip of the week is a recipe for veggies in a pickling jar. This makes a great side for sandwiches, poultry or fish dishes, and a terrific dinner gift — more colorful, creative and delicious than a bottle of wine.

Marinated Veggies in a Pickling Jar


1 cup cauliflower florets

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut in bite-size chunks

4 carrots sliced in coins

1 red or yellow bell pepper cut in strips

1 cup zucchini, sliced in spears or coins

8 ounces assorted mushrooms, smaller ones can be left whole

1 fennel bulb with herby top, sliced

For the pickling marinade:

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

4 bay leaves

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

For the pickling liquid:

4 cups each of water and white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sea salt

Directions: In a large stockpot, boil the water, white wine vinegar and salt, and add the cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, fennel and mushrooms. Cook until al dente (slightly tender yet crisp). Strain and cool.

In a large mixing bowl combine the garlic, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oil, herbs, spices and sugar, and toss with the veggies.

Place in large glass jars or several smaller jars (they should be sterilized without any chips or cracks, while the lids should have two parts, including a rubber seal). These can keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Posted by Staff on Sep 29, 2011. Filed under Columns, Editorial Columns, Food, Kitchen Shrink. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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