The Hungry Cowboy
Service and Community in a Neighborhood Restaurant
A behind-the-scenes look at the dyanamics of class, race, and economics in a suburban eatery
At a Tex-Mex restaurant in a Minneapolis suburb, customers send Christmas and Hanukkah cards to the restaurant, bring in home-baked treats for the staff, and attend the annual employee party. One customer even posts in the entryway a sign commemorating the life of his dog. Diners and servers alike use the Hungry Cowboy as a place to gather, celebrate, relax, and even mourn. Moments such as these fascinate Karla A. Erickson, who worked for the restaurant, and they make up her new book The Hungry Cowboy.
Weaving together narratives from servers, customers, and managers, Erickson explores a type of service work that is deeply embedded in personal relationships and community. Feelings, play, and emotions are inseparable from the market transactions within the restaurant. Based on extensive interviews and two years of working as a waitress, Erickson provides insights into the ways that people make contact in our society and how they build on the fleeting connections in the service exchange to form more intimate relationships.
Written for readers, scholars, and students interested in American culture, consumerism, and community, The Hungry Cowboy offers a case study in how consumers and producers in the marketplace perform, and how dignity, meaning, and community can all be built at work.