Nov 1, 2023

Rat-a-Twee? A Lawsuit in Detroit

Who foots the bill? Or bills the foot?

By Ed Goldman

CBS News recently reported that a guy in Michigan was suing the Olive Garden restaurant—the place that promises you nonstop breadsticks and says, “When you’re here, you’re family”—for providing, at no extra charge, a rat foot in his soup. 

“An Oakland County man is suing Olive Garden for more than $25,000 after, he claims, he found a rat’s foot in a bowl of minestrone soup at a Detroit branch of the restaurant chain. Olive Garden denies it.

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Rodent Rage

“Thomas Howie, 54, filed the suit after visiting the eatery with some friends between 6 and 6:30 p.m….

“‘I felt something stab me in the mouth, and I wasn’t sure — the first thought was a needle,’ said Howie.”

Well, I’m not qualified to comment on the case. Not even as an expert witness who once found part of a Stokely Pictsweet frozen green-beans bag in a swank joint in Carmel, California. 

I’ve also lunched at the Olive Garden only once—and in the Sacramento region, not in Michigan, the state whose motto is the vaguely condescending “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” (Why not add, “Like, Duhhhh”?)

For all I know, “rat foot soup” is one of the eatery’s signature starters. If so, I’m sure it would sound better in Italian (“zuppa con piede di ratto”). 

We tend to eat a lot of things that might sound more appealing in other languages. “Pork belly,” for example, is a slightly more appetizing entree when rendered in French as “poitrine de porc.” There’s something about ending a word with a c instead of a k that, if it doesn’t stimulate the salivary glands, at least gives it more class. (This is why French people have a picnic in a “parc.” Why is this better? Don’t asc.)

Face it, you might have happily tucked into your first serving of escargot before being told they were snails. Or that caviar is/are fish eggs.

On the other hand, “mushrooms” is a much pleasanter sounding dish than what the Italians call “funghi”—which in this usage means “funguses,” not someone who’s always cracking you up.

Why do we do this to ourselves in English—make perfectly savory foods sound worse? Does the word “sausage” really need to be modified by “blood,” for example? If that’s supposed to make it seem like a more enticing meal, why don’t we ask our brunch guests if they’re up for some “blood waffles” (served, of course, with “bottomless maimed mimosas”)?

If you were dining in Italy, would you order “casu marzu” knowing it was Italian for maggot cheese?

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When on a transcontinental layover in Iceland, would you wish to try the piscivore’s delight “hákarl” knowing it was decomposed shark carcass?

Since I don’t know if you read this column before or during a meal, I won’t reveal the ingredients in China’s “virgin boy eggs” except to reassure you they’re not scrambled boys. But almost as repulsive.

Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable if, instead of calling the Namibian entrée “warthog anus,” you went with rump roast—though I’ll be damned if that ever sounded appealing to me. (And don’t get me started on “tripe,” a key component of the Mexican soup “menudo.” We can also skip “jerky,” thanks ever so.)

Listen, isn’t “pasta alfredo” just “mac’ and cheese” with a better publicist?

I’m not such a Francophile that I think “pommes frites” and “pommes puree” sound classier than French fries and mashed potatoes—though I do wish to point out that while it’s proper to capitalize French for French fries, it’s unnecessary when you say something is french-fried, like onion rings (which sound and taste great in English). That’s because in the latter reference it’s a particular kind of cut, not a shout-out to national pride. 

Have you guessed why people edge away from me at cocktail parties and sports bars?

Finally, as another for-instance, take another look at that vaguely condescending Michigan motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” In Latin it’s “Si quaeris peninsulam amonenam circum spice.” Doesn’t that sound a lot better? Even a bit tasty? Pass me a nonstop breadstick. I’m family.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, N.A.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


If you’ve been part of the workplace for the past few years, you know that DEI—diversity, equity and inclusion—has become not only a goal but a veritable mantra for companies and nonprofits wishing to improve fairness and justice in their hiring and market practices.

I’m proud to say that this didn’t require much of a stretch for us at Golden Pacific Bank, a division of SoFi Bank, N.A. In fact, was a priority for us before it became a socially moral mandate.

Malcolm Forbes called diversity “the art of thinking independently together.” Mahatma Gandhi believed, “No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.”

Here is what we believe at SoFi:

“We’re committed to creating a workplace where everyone feels welcomed, included, and able to contribute. We respect and celebrate diversity of all forms because it unlocks collaboration, accelerates creativity, and allows us to innovate faster.”

In short, treating people with respect makes business sense as well as being the right thing to do if you want to contribute to the well-being of what used to be called the commonwealth (sometimes, “commonweal”): the society in which we live, work and celebrate humanity.

Golden Pacific Bank is now Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, N.A. Member FDIC 2023 Golden Pacific Bank. This information should be used for informational purposes only.

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