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Senior Member

There is something I don't understand in Havana Harvest by Robert Landori. It's at the end of the 2nd chapter. Fernandez, a captain from the cuban army arrives to Miami Airport as a refugee. He meets his cousin, Reyes Puma. His cousin says:

"Let's have some coffe, and we'll make a plan." His cousin led Fernandez into the cafeteria near the Delta counter and found an isolated table. Reyes Puma ordered coffee, Fernandez a double vodka and soda and a ham sandwich.

My problem is that according to my dictionaries cafeteria means self-service restaurant. Now if it's self-service, why do they order? How? From who? Is that a mistake made by the writer, or does cafeteria has another meaning, of which I'm not aware?

Thanks for the help!
  • kayokid

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Hello. In my opinion, the author is using "cafeteria" quite loosely in this context. Your understanding of the term is the normal one.


    American English
    I'm not sure that I've eaten at a "cafeteria" by that name since the 1960's, but when I did, it was not entirely self-service. The hot food, in particular, was dished up specifically for each eater by staff behind a counter; therefore, it was necessary to ask for, or "order," what one wanted.

    I would still use the term "cafeteria" for such an arrangement if I had to refer to one. Places that I would call a "cafeteria" do have some foods, such as salads and sandwiches, already prepared and wrapped or on plates which each eater takes from a display; that type of food is thus "self-service." In college in the late '70's, soft drinks were dispensed the same way, already in cups, but in what I would now call "cafeterias," they are dispensed by staff behind the counter, so one must "order" them just like the hot food.
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