Midsummer Thunderstorms

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Midsummer and the thunderstorms pile up….thick, beautiful whiteness, greyness, and stagnant air gets thick with moisture…. silence reigns as things too quiet to hear, suddenly are as loud as a cricket in your ear…. slips of blue blue blue fill up pockets of where the white and grey have spread just a little to reveal the serenity above the pounding drums and flashes of quicksilver violin spats…. swirling, whirling way up high, twisting around the needle branches of the pines, swallows spin and dance in the warm air, spinning up up up, to plummet down again….. and every hue of every summer flower is as vibrant as the paint in an artists paintbox, swirled out in extravagant splashes of orange, purple, red, pink, magenta, blue, yellow….. Greeness and yellowness, the grasses waving on the hills and meadows, the spires of seed heads bobbing in the waving winds that have been stirred up by the unsettled air, cut grasses, hay, laying in rows, billowing green rippling like the sea in shades of mint, olive, asparagus green, oh every shade known to man, rippling onward, stopping only by the stalwart blockades of the hills, filled with the resinous perfumes of pine, juniper, cedar, sweet maple of the sugarpines,….. the cicadas have stopped their humming and murmuring, now the raspy grasshoppers take the tune, and the buzz and hum, a perpetual hum of a white noise as bees move throughout collecting nectar….. only a splatter of rain may fall, the drops splatting in the dry dry dirt, kicking up little powderpuffs of dust then filling the air with wet dust dampness dirt….. before the asphalt gets its spicy sweet wet smell, and the grasses and hay are dampened… oh summer thunderstorms are the magic of the year….more magic than the first snowfall, this unstable sweltering explosion of fire and water and wind and earth… all the elements have come out to play……

Photo by John Westrock on Unsplash

So, I’m in bed, but I was out watching some of the thunderstorms pile up. Can you tell I love summer thunderstorms?  I’ve been writing about them in various stages for the past ten plus years. Always different, never capturing what I want to say. I love living where they happen. When I lived in Colorado, they happened almost every day, but they lacked the heat buildup that we get here in northern CA. They didn’t have the sweet hot smell of a burnt out summer and dried grasses.

Last year I had created a character a la B.H. Fairchild’s way of a heteronym, (see Wikipedia’s description) a Wilson Tennu, who comes to CA after a breakup of a love affair and experiences the summer thunderstorms as these giant wars between the gods of mythology. This Wilson guy ‘wrote’ some of my massive and narrative poems that went into the rejected manuscript, and he has become my inspiration for looking at things differently. I am also quite attached to his poetry. He’s rather remarkable in my opinion.

Anyways, viewing thunderstorms from someone that lives in New Orleans (which is where he lives, in an apartment above Bourbon Street) would be an interesting take on how they come about here in NorCal. They seem to just explode out of nowhere. Maybe all thunderstorms are the same way. I want to be on the prairie sometime and watch them form. Far enough away from a tornado, but still see them form. Let’s just say I respect and admire and adore summer thunderstorms.

So enjoy my little rambling description. If you live here, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, well I hope you can picture the magic.

Kate

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Sick Days, Lost Voices

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It’s a very strange thing to go into work and have your boss say, “you lost your voice? What are you doing here? You are sick, go home.”   Probably because I’ve never been in this situation. Sure, I’ve been sick working before, but as a librarian, it’s not that big a deal.  In a kitchen….kind of. So there I was yesterday having Lucifer telling me to get the heck out of the kitchen.  I think he felt a little bad that I had to go, and I really didn’t want to have to go home, but thank god I did.  I actually love my job so much, I just don’t want to have to sit on the sidelines, even though I really want to sit on the sidelines. This virus I have is nasty. A cough, a lost voice, and just an all around “I feel like crap” feeling.  So sick I don’t want to write. Ironic as here I am writing.

This is more just letting the fingers vent a bit and moving. I actually finished a book last night.  I think I am up to three books this year I’ve read.  One that I own. I remember years ago I would read easily 20-30 books a year. My how those days have flown. I don’t have that much time for useless reading, so if I finish a book, it has to be one I really want to read or one that has caught my attention enough to keep it.

I fiddled around the other day and ended up ordering six books from Better World Books, all poetry but one which has to do with cooking. Yeah, like I need more poetry books on my shelf. But I liked what one poet said in an episode of Poetry Off the Shelf. She said that she keeps poetry books scattered on her table like magazines. You can pick one up and read just one thing. That’s what I like about poetry. It can be long. It can be short.  You can take it anywhere.

Right now I’m a little happy with my own poetry as I took three poems into work and posted them on our white boards. Two of them I referenced in the previous post, but one was a quick little ditty about the kitchen and fast movements and in a slant rhyme style. Fun and fluffy, but oh so true. I have had several people at work quite impressed with what I wrote. Juliet was like “wow, we are living this” to me yesterday.  Yes, girl, we are. We (coworkers) are so living this crazy cheffing life; the serving life. We serve. Think about that. We serve. We are placing food out for other people. If you look at it that way, it sounds menial, but it is so not. I have had several people so excited for me when they find out I am a prep chef. Especially when they find that out, and that I am not a waitress (server, as we call them).  They are ecstatic for me. I’m ecstatic for me.

Photo by Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash

There I was on Thursday night, working on a new chocolate frosting for our cakes, experimenting to some degree, but knowing what I wanted. I had the time and the luxury to play around with ingredients and get the input of several people about what we wanted the cakes to look like (now that the menu is about to change…) and it was this great collaborative movement. Having servers walk by and ogling your frosting; let’s just say it did not take any coaxing to get a single one to try it.  Everyone was super impressed. A hazelnut ganache frosting. Yeah, it was swoon worthy.  I want to be able to create more and have that look of hunger cross people’s faces. Like this ultimate desire.  Food is very magical and powerful that way.

I suppose I shouldn’t sound surprised by saying that. Everyone can name someone that moans when they taste something divine. I do it. I’ve done it. Much to Lucifer’s laughter since he does it on a regular basis. Note to readers, chefs do like food. Ha ha. Food is power. Something so primal and relatively simple is at the basis of our being. Eating. And taste, well, there is a reason it is one of the five senses.

So, reading, writing, experimenting with food, are definitely going on right now.  And giving myself a little rest from probably the last 8 months of crazy work. I think my body finally said, “honey, you need a break”. So break it is. Lots of lemon, honey and Alka Seltzer. Thank god for that.

Hope all you dearies are healthy and happy and enjoying the food blogging I seem to be perpetually posting.  I’ve been a little disinclined to submit anything to anywhere because I’m tired. Maybe as the weather cools off.

Happy writing.

Kate

Kitchen Affairs and Poetics

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So sorry, dearies. My life has been a little chaotic, personally, professionally, and writing hasn’t been a top priority. Actually, that isn’t true, it’s been a desire, but the mood hasn’t been positive for writing. I was down in the depths of sadness and frustration with Lucifer recently, but life has changed a bit and my outlook is a lot better. Life is changing again as Lucifer is now no longer my head Chef. Now I have a new boss. A new man in my life. Lol. My new Chef starts today when I’m off work, so I won’t get to know the full extent of what it’s like to work with him until later this week. I met him last week and I already like what I see. I have to come up with a name for him… I’m leaning towards Shakespeare or William from Knights Tale.  I’m sure you can figure out from that what his name is.

But this post isn’t about that at all. That’s just a life update. Now onwards to what this post is about:  The poetry from the kitchen and the affairs of life that create the poetry that is my life. People forget that we are poetry in motion.

Everything in life is an inspiration to me and for my writing. It’s the littlest of things, or sometimes, very large things. It’s the every day, it’s the extraordinary. Needless to say, the Kitchen brings a whole new life to my writing. From love affairs that have not panned out, to friendship, to cooking, heartache, depression, frustration, magic, excitement, creation. Heat, fire, flames, cold, water, air, food…. it all comes together creating this dance of a life that I seriously could not see myself without these days. I can’t imagine not working in this kind of life.   (okay, a little part of me really could, but that’s only if I am married and don’t have to work and can be just a writer. Luxury thinking there)

I read off my ‘kitchen poetry’ to my writing group and it has become a thing where Mels and Dona have both said I need to work on this aspect and focus on it, or at least see it as a chapbook of poetry and such. The work flavors my writing so much these days. I even have a title for my work if it ever goes anywhere. “Field Notes on Kitchen Affairs”  though I think “Field Guide to Kitchen Affairs” works as well.

Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

I write about ‘the dance’ and the life and things that have come together to create this camaraderie of things with people I would have never spent time with had I not been working with them. I love that I am both morning crew and night crew, or night shift as I think of it. I work mornings once a week and the rest of the week I am a closer, being one of the last lines of defense against the scourge that is a dirty kitchen. There is magic in the morning in the silence before the mad dash of the day starts, there is this subtle simplicity of scrubbing down stainless steel at night and knowing you are leaving it as spotless as possible for the morning crew.

Working hand in hand with people you have been with since day one, where one moment you can hate that person, the next you are arm in arm standing firm against the tide of tickets that have just printed up minutes from end of service.  This fight against your own ego and doubt, the fight against the doubt and egos of others. Moving up through the ranks, learning, cramming ideas and techniques into your head, a neverending supply of knowledge. I joked with Lucifer the other day that I have had three different chefs tell me how to make pasta. His reply? “Well, now you know three ways to make pasta!”  Smartypants.  But it’s true.

Here is some of the poetry or more, lines of poetry that have come from work. I won’t share entire poems as I plan to see about publishing but enjoy nonetheless

An Alliance of Gazelles

A flower girl, a pure one, almost,
brazenly attacking and metal clanking,
we are the black white yin yang of the feminine mystique,
she is no demon,
I am no angel,
I am her, she is me,
we are and have become
a whirling dervish,
flesh against flesh we exist in this spatial moment,
an alliance,
this torrid rip of polyvinyl, a film covering over smells and service,
stacking, towering heights,
steel wool buffs out the filth,
the grime sliding down to coat a slick surface of desperate moments,

 In the Evening Quieting of a Kitchen

With the fans off, with just a gentle hum
stainless counters and sinks gleam in their
scuffed patina from scoured scratches of steel wool
red tiles are mopped and grease free
gentle whirs of compressors from refrigeration units
empty stations, empty Chef’s table but for
a single note scribbled on ticket paper
long and lean, blue tape holding it down.
The long, never-ending list of prep on the whiteboard
is cleared off, black half smudges gone,
and new type is written up for the
new day’s prep when morning crew comes in.
Order lists filling up columns, humor jotted down
on the small squared off ‘kitchen blog’ corner,
the night shift in all their exhausted glory
leaving twisted and strange jokes.
Dishes stacked just so in warmers and on shelves,
cambros lined up neatly; nine, six, third, half,
and full hotels are back to rights.

Kitchen Choreography
Not with a fizzle, but with a bang,
the issues are decided here,
silent nuanced double meanings,
the start of every work day where
a Wednesday feels like a Monday.

A pristine kitchen waits to be cluttered,
surfaces waiting to be filled as we
shift around each other, pieces readjusting,
watch-like mechanical movements, tick-tocking.
Time rushing by us. Pans shift, doors open.
The whir of mixing, snap, snap, snapping—
a knife in an onion, hitting a board.
Steel hitting wood, slicing soft flesh.

Fans deafen; defeat normal tones, a shouting match,
a fight ensues to be heard over the gentle roar.
Ovens are blazing, pilot light’s blue flames.
Electrical currents of live wire flow out from
the shifting of bodies, a warning of human placement,
hands sliding across backs,
a warning, a guard, reevaluating each other’s dance space

You can see that there are definitely things that are so kitchen related. I guess being a writer and a prep chef, you get to see both aspects of the world. The writing world and the cooking world.  It has been so inspirational.  I keep writing more and more about it in different aspects. I have one poem about how a knife isn’t just a knife. There is a whole story there. Personal aspects of people. You love and hate your coworkers. One minute you want to kiss someone then next, stab them, smack them, yell an insult. We insult each other all the time. It is what makes us one of the most dysfunctional families around. I may eviscerate a coworker, but I also stand by them.

Anyways, there are my last three weeks. Heartache, working, exhaustion, food, poetry, fire….. Hmm, a sorceress at work here…

Kate

The Wisdom of Your Elders

This last week was challenging. I felt like someone was trying to push me to the breaking point and well, literally break me. Physically, mentally……. personally. Games played, moves made. Life is a chess match. If you don’t think it is, then you’re not doing it right. Because let me tell you, everyone is playing games. Even I play games, though less than others.

A knife isn’t necessarily just a knife. There is a lot more behind that, but I won’t go into it right now.

The breaking point didn’t happen because I didn’t break. I was pissed beyond belief. I was so so angry. So angry that I didn’t even talk to my family for a good 12 hours because I knew once I started talking, like an explosion, I wouldn’t stop. I didn’t want to put that on them. So I went to bed, slept for six hours and went to my writing group.

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

My writing group is mostly women that I would classify as extended moms to me. All older, except two, all wise. All with a collective mind that I don’t think they even talk about but wow are things synced up with them. With me.

I was given the most amazing advice, opinions, and thoughts from those lovely ladies. Their initial advice led me to write some poetry where I allowed myself to be angry. And they even mentioned that I had let the anger out in the poetry and it was so much better to do that then to express my anger through other means. I am kind of a pushover, cream-puff, watering-pot of a person, so I always find it funny to think of expressing my anger in a physical way. Which was what they meant.

The poem was titled “Hurricanes Are Named After Women For A Reason”. Isn’t that great?  Basically, it was about being pushed and me pushing back in my way.  Age does have a way of allowing for knowledge.  Which was where I was going with my title. God, sometimes my blonde, distracted moments really get to me. (I’m more blonde now after an afternoon of lightening)

This card comes from Wisdom of the Crone, a deck of 54 wisdom cards. Click on the highlighted title.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where I started going was how my parents have always told me that your elders are usually smarter. Not always. Age does not always mean knowledge, but seriously, when you have a group of ‘crones’, (that is not a dig, my ladies excel in crone knowledge) and your parents saying the exact same thing about dealing, anger, being pushed, games played, certain people and their personalities, and just kind of all-around advice, it’s so so comforting. I went home after my writing group and my family listened to me vent, then gave me advice. A lot of advice. So much advice that one might think it was overload. At times it has been, but this time, I sat there kind of stupefied that I was hearing exactly what I had heard an hour prior. The collective knowledge of your elders.

I love the Farmer’s car insurance commercial line, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two….” which I’ve used in life recently when people doubt my existence. But it also applies to one’s elders. My family and friends are my elders and they definitely know a thing or two. And after the collective wisdom of them all, I was able to get through the rest of my day perfectly fine. I was even able to mad dash run into work for a few hours when I was needed. I wasn’t supposed to be working, but one line I was able to use, which is really quite true, was “This is my restaurant too.” Meaning, this isn’t a favor to you, but to my restaurant that currently means the world to me. My loyalties run so deep. I can’t even explain it. But I was in such an excellent mood that my time was a fast-paced dream.

I think the only other one thing out of all of this comes from the fact that I am terrible about responding to people in person. Which was the crux of some of my anger. It takes me until I get home and hours later to have the perfect come back. The line that comes to mind comes from You’ve Got Mail.

What happens to me when I’m provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said. What should I have said, for example, to a bottom dweller who recently belittled my existence? – Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

That is me. And that was where all of this stemmed from. Wanting to say something. Needing to say something to a ‘bottom dweller’ who should have known better. But, well again, cream puff.

In conclusion, as I have rambled on. Listen to your elders. Listen to the crones. Listen to the wisdom of years. It really really knows what its talking about. They know what they are talking about. Experience is the best learning tool of life. My experience in life these past 7 months is unexplainable, and I will be able to carry it onwards through life. I value it much more than I ever would.

And I value my elders. Thank you. Moms, ladies, family, thank you.

Kate

Work, Writing, It’s All The Same. It Merges

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Every time I get home from work I have some new thing to write about or think about. The drama alone in the kitchen lends itself to a perpetual existence of creativity. Maybe it’s because I like writing, or maybe my life really has become interesting, but I want to write about everything. I have taken to having a ‘work’ journal, a notebook specific to just work related things. Yes, things there might end up in my regular journal, so long as they become personal related, but for the most part, it’s my way to document random things I feel I should write down. There are a couple months where I wasn’t writing but once here or there and I missed out on a lot of memories I could have had down. I’m more inclined to keep it up these days. It’s also where I can vent about work. And no, I do not ever let this book out of sight because oh man, I suppose it could get me into trouble if work people ever read it. It can be unflattering at times.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Along with the actual non-fiction of life, I have been mentally working on a book of sorts for the kitchen. Be it fiction/romance, which is my plan, or maybe it becomes my memoir at one point or another, but I have started to write down little vignettes of sorts or just things that have happened. I have ideas of them being chapter starters. Written in 2nd person, I think I have been inspired by the book Sous Chef, written in the same style.

Here are some I just wrote down today.

Exhaustion. It hits and there is nothing you can do about it but paste on a smile when everyone is looking then drop it when eyes are no longer on you. You get off of work tears forming in your eyes as the adrenaline fades away. Too tired to eat. Nearly too tired to sleep. Each movement becomes forced. You are ready to snap. Crackle. Pop; and explode at the first insult tossed your way. You grip your knife in a death grip, ready to stab anyone that even thinks about crossing you. Then the chef tells you that you need to stay for overtime. . .

The bruises show up in random spots. A wrist, a bicep, the hipbone. Was it from something you ran into? Or did you lift something too heavy in your arms and the weight left a mark? But out of nowhere a purple hickey forms and you look like you’ve been in a fight. You actually have. Been in a fight, that is. A fight with pans and food, forcing it to be what you need it to be. Very few items are coaxed into becoming an edible masterpiece.

Envy. It forms when someone gets preferential treatment. Maybe a new knife, or a jacket, or even a word of compliment. Somewhere, someone received what you wanted. And you find yourself trying to find ways to collect something, some form of pleasure that comes from all the pain studded days. The wounds inflicted, by yourself(knife cuts, bruises), by others(insults, offhanded remarks). The envy that forms when something, or someone, you wanted doesn’t come to you and goes to someone else. Suddenly you find yourself averting your gaze at the mere mention of something. You can take the pain. But you need a reward afterward.

I suppose these are autobiographical, to an extent. I did find 10 bruises the other day after work. They were all over my body. I’m still trying to figure out the one on each arm and one on a wrist. The envy is there. Mostly with someone. But I can’t go there.  I do, but I shouldn’t. It hurts. A lot. Yeah, I avert my gaze a lot these days.

The exhaustion was at the beginning. Are there good days? Of course. But there are a lot of mediocre days as well. The work lends itself to writing though. I like to think that if I ever publish a poem or something, in my bio it will say, She spends her days as a chef (or something along those lines) but moonlights as a poet, crafting food like she crafts her words….. Oooh, I really like that, not to toot my own horn, but that’s kind of catchy.

Needless to say, my journal has been filled with a lot lately. Dreams have been crazy. Work, again, changed. But as tired and frustrated I am, I’m good. Ish. Are we ever good when tired? I’m never on tip top game.

I do have to extend a note of gratitude to my lovely writing ladies and hopefully occasional newest member Crystal (again, names have all been altered to protect the innocent) for giving me some very valuable support this last Saturday when I was at my wits end about personal aspects of the kitchen. A semi-broken heart, fortunately averted before I delved in too deep with someone, and just perpetual work drama lent itself to a teary moment which came from some absolutely beautiful and spot on poetry. Darlings, you are all rocks to me. I needed your support more than you will ever know. I forget to tell you all personally, but you are all wonderful ladies.

This week is a little less drama filled. A shorter week, and a hope that I can advance my career more next week. Things are a’changing. Ideas are floating around.

Hey, all you lovely readers, do you find your work enters into aspects of your writing? Do you find your writings as a way to vent about work? How does writing help you through your day to day life?

Kate

Moving Through This Rhythmic Groove

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We’ve lost our rhythm.

The kitchen is currently going through a staffing and schedule change and the rhythm is all out of sync. We run into each other, we shout out commands that go unanswered, new staff ignores the more experienced ones…. the groove that once was, while chaotic at best, is now so out of whack, Chef Wildflower and I were groaning today about it.

Lucifer and I have lost our rhythm that used to make sense. Part of it is personal, but most of it is that I have not worked with him under the conditions I am now. I don’t know how he moves and needless to say, I have flubbed up more than once in the past week. I’ve run into him behind twice, while he is on the line (at the stove) cooking for a ticket. That has not gone well. That becomes a moment where I get yelled at and I turn red. It’s mostly my fault. I totally get that and I will take the blame. But it’s hard when the movement is off.

The kitchen has lost it’s dance moves.

                                                                                               Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash                                                                                        I feel this is how Wildflower and I would look if we wanted to create a ‘mood’ picture.

 

Wildflower and I have a system that is unbeatable. If there is one thing that hasn’t changed, it is the two of us and how  we read each other. How we work together.  We have been together from the very beginning. Maybe because we were both the younger ladies of the group, maybe because we were shoved together from the get-go, maybe because we were just meant to, but we connected and we have something no one else has in the kitchen. The two of us can close down the restaurant like no one else.  Just the other night, I’m not sure who said it, but they said that the two of us are kind of amazing.  That no one can break down quite like the two of us.

Now that is rhythm.

It’s too bad that only the two of us have it right now. I would like to have some semblance of ‘the dance’ back in the kitchen. I’m too scared to be myself because for 6 months I was in this perpetual state of fear for any decision made might result in me being yelled at. The previous Chef was, well, scary. So now I second guess everything I do. I second guess myself and want exact directions from Lucifer. It hasn’t gone so well. He trusts me more than I trust myself. At least he has faith.

Back at the end of April I was struggling with relationship issues with someone and we kept banging heads. Dona was sweet enough to give this bit of advice. “Relationships are a dance. Two steps forward, two back, etc. Finding love’s rhythm takes time.”  Granted, that was about love and such, but it applies to working with people. Over time you do find a rhythm when you work in such close quarters.

Michael Gibney, author of Sous Chef, basically said the same thing about the kitchen being a dance. And now the choreography is off. At least we’ve all realized that it isn’t quite on par and that the metranome needs to get back into the right beat. The tick-tocking movements need to be realigned. I’m hopeful. It’s been rather frustrating to feel off kilter and like at any moment you are going to run into someone and end up burned, cut, bruised….. God, the looks Lucifer gives me when I move the wrong way. Murder is almost too nice of a word to describe the ‘evil eye’ I get when I finally move out of the way.  The thing is, previous Chef basically wanted me out out of the way. So that’s what I still do. Instead of sucking it in and just leaning out of the way, I do this whole body movement that ends up making me even more in the way. It is frustrating.

                                                                                         Photo by Michael Henry on Unsplash                                                                                      This is how we should be in the kitchen. A team. Let’s hope we get there soon.

Life’s grooves sometimes just get bypassed and trying to step back into the dance takes time. It is like jumping rope and you are waiting just the right time to jump back into the loop and not get tangled up in the whole darn thing. Spin your partner round and round… Recognizing the issues makes it so you can fix the problems. Talking it over with Lucifer last night when I was so tired helped. I can’t help but feel like having a meltdown. Did I cry? Of course I did. But as much as Lucifer and I can be at odds, he’s sweet enough to let me have a minor cry (all while telling me to calm down) and resettle myself.

It also helped today to sit with Wildflower and say “we had a rhythm before”, to which she replied “there is no rhythm now.” See, she noticed it as well and it was stressing her out. Maybe this next week will be better.

On the plus side, I now know how to make the risotto rice for the restaurant! (this might sound minor, but it’s exciting for me because Lucifer specifically said no one can make it right, and I did….)  I can julliene the scallions just how Lucifer likes. I finished my entire prep list last night, with extra, and had the kitchen cleaned with my crew by 10:30 last night. I get to work with Micha (St. Michael) I have great things and prompts to use for writing. I finished Sous Chef and now have to read it again because it was so good. And currently I have my knives home with me. Oh, I never mentioned that I have my own very pricy chef’s knives. Two of them. And an order for three new chef’s jackets…. I splurged. I can’t wait for them to show up. I needed to order them months ago.

Life’s dance continues to move on. Writing abounds. Kitchen life has filled me up with even more thoughts and days of extra work. Forever writing, forever thinking of food and a world I never thought I would be in. At least, while last week I was about ready to say ‘I quit, I can’t do this anymore,’ this week I feel a lot more inclined to be ready for the week. Okay, I’m not ready for the week; your Sunday is my Friday. I’m just settling in to my weekend. I want to enjoy the next two days off. But I am looking forward to getting back to work and rewriting the symphony.

Yeah, music, dance, rhythm; it’s all there.

Pardon my constant kitchen talk. It has become my life.

Kate

Entering Into the Work

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Life has been incredibly hard these past two weeks. Hard and sad. So sad that at times I wonder what the heck I’m even doing and I don’t even know what to do. Losing my dog has been one of the hardest things I’ve gone through. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to not have him around and to want desperately to be holding my puppy. I miss him so much that it really is an ache that hits out of nowhere.

I’ve also lost the camaraderie of someone I would have classified as a close friend. That person is still a part of my life, but I don’t trust the person, per se. I struggle what to tell this person and how to act around them. It’s all gotten very challenging. It’s led to lots of crying and lots of moments where I am really not sure what the heck I’m doing. I can honestly say I don’t know what to do. I really am at a loss.

I stress about work and succeeding, and today was one of my first days back after a tiring schedule last week. This week is bound to be tiring as well, but at least I have a general schedule. Today, for the most part, I killed it. At least I believe I did. Sure, I had a few scattered moments, and times when I thought I wouldn’t make it through the day, but I did.

Mels asked me what I was going to do to deal with the anger I have inside. Because it’s there. A lot of anger, deep anger. Sad anger. My reply was, “write. And cook. Do the best to my ability to make it happen.”  Cooking has kind of flowed into my blood. Duh,  of course, it has.  I wake up thinking about baking and improving recipes, I finish out the day looking at cookbooks, watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, and just today my new book to read is Sous Chef by Michael Gibney. Lucifer has it in his car and told me he would loan me his copy… I didn’t want to wait, so Better World Books delivered.

I don’t know what I want to do with my life, other than being a poet and published writer, but this cooking thing gives me a bit of passion that is so hard to explain, but I like it. I read this Sous Chef and I drool about the luxury of a well-organized kitchen. I think in kitchen terms: deli containers, 9-pans, cambros, half sheets, whole sheet pans, mis en place, roux, the line…..   I want to yell ‘behind’ at home. I slide my hand along the backs of people to let them know I’m there.

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Today there was this flow that was actually the best I’ve seen in a while. To the point where I was doing things, my head down, but I could duck out of the way as things went past my head to land in the garbage. As pans were passed off and handed off, pots caught as they dropped, things shifted back into place with a well-aimed hip, pilots lit, ovens restarted, butter melted, luxurious sugar-free lemon mousse that went out to a diabetic guest. (I did not make said mousse, Lucifer did, but I did zest the lemons) I like being able to get whatever it is someone asks me to get. To be able to put out a lunch dish that is not my responsibility, and know that it went out looking the way it was supposed to. I’m rather proud of that. Not sure Lucifer actually noticed, even those D-man told him I sent out an awesome burger. (Okay, so it’s not super fancy, our lunch menu, but a burger at our place is an art. I felt pretty proud of myself)

My pies have finally leveled out to looking gorgeous and elegant enough for my tastes. I like that I can make pretty food. I’d like to do more in that department. I want to work with Lucifer in updating and revising our desserts menu. I am classified as the pastry chef. I want pastry to look damn good. I want it to be something you come in and drool over. I may not want to nibble on many sweets these days, myself, but I want you, the guest to fall in love with it and when you see me on the street, think back to that luscious dessert you had.

I may not have any classical training, I may not have a culinary degree behind my name, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be the best at what I can do… all while being a runner, and a closer and a prep chef. I have too many hats right now. I like closing, and I can do that well, but whew, it can be exhausting.  I’m getting off topic.

I hope to god I am important in my hierarchy within the kitchen. I’d like to be invaluable, though not so invaluable that if I need time off they panic without me… Okay, well if they panic without the chef, why not the pastry chef? I’m being silly, but still, I want to be valuable in my job. I like my job. Despite all the stress, all the inconsistencies, all the crazy, all the moods, the romantic interests, the betrayals, the turn downs, the frustrations; despite all of that, I like my job. So I am trying to deal with life by ‘entering into the work.”

All of this came out of reading Sous Chef today and this lovely prompt above from Dona. I want to think the best ideas are going to come out of the work, the process and work itself. So. Okay then, now that I’ve rambled on long enough, I’m off to read more of Sous Chef, and I think I need to pick some rhubarb for work. If there is one thing I have found, you can get the sexiest moan out of Lucifer when food is involved.

Kate

Change And Heartbreak And The sweetBitter

People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened. My store is closing this week. I own a store, did I ever tell you that? It’s a lovely store, and in a week it will be something really depressing, like a Baby Gap. Soon, it’ll just be a memory. In fact, someone, some foolish person, will probably think it’s a tribute to this city, the way it keeps changing on you, the way you can never count on it, or something. I know because that’s the sort of thing I’m always saying. But the truth is… I’m heartbroken. I feel as if a part of me has died, and my mother has died all over again, and no one can ever make it right. ~Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail

Miss Holly and I were talking about change this last Wednesday. By the quote above, can you tell I hate change?  So does Miss Holly. (psst, I knew I was going to need to showcase you in a post, even if it’s not a huge thing) Today was a lot of change. She doesn’t like change. I don’t like change. We talk about how it’s good for us. We still don’t like change.

Change isn’t always bad. Today wasn’t a bad change. But change scares me. I like status quo, unless I’m the one making the change. I’ll make changes all the time, that’s fun. But I don’t like outside powers changing things. I’m rarely ready. Today I wasn’t ready. I knew a change might come, but I just wasn’t ready.

I can honestly say working in a professional kitchen has dropped a boatload of change on my life. Every single time I work, something has changed. Even down to the order of spices. It annoys the heck out of me. I have complained in the past, meaning probably last week, to Lucifer, my sous chef, that I hate change. He always laughs and says it will always change in the kitchen.  “One day!” I always declare. “I want one day where nothing changes.” I actually got that last week. I had one subliminal day. One perfect day where I had a marvelously perfect change free day.

One day.

My sous chef is now my Chef. I have to start capitalizing that. Which is hard because think of my current Chef as the Chef, not Lucifer. Sure, I’ve viewed him as my boss, but he really is the boss now. This is good. This is Sweetbitter. Probably a mixture of both. An even mix. I’m happy. I’m sad…. No, I’m wrong, I think I’m a tad more bitter. Keep reading.

I finally get to work with one person that I have been dying to work with. Not that we don’t work together all the time, but well, he’s in charge now. I’m looking forward to that. But now that he’s my boss, I can’t have him as an on the side friend. “No fraternization with anyone non manager.” is the general rule of thumb. I am no where near manager position. This is the bitter. Very bitter in my opinion. How do you give up a confidant in life? Bitter doesn’t even begin to touch the iceberg here.

Change is hard.

Rugburn, taking a selfie…. Okay, I held up the camera, but it looks like he is.

Last night I lost the love of my life. My baby, my puppy, my Rugburn, my guy for the last 15 years said goodbye last night. You always know your dog isn’t going to last forever, but you always think you have a little more time. You don’t. If someone ever tells you that there will be time, they are wrong. There is never enough time. Not with people. Not with dogs. Never take life for granted.

I fell asleep next to his body last night, curved just right, his front ‘bear paws’ so soft, smelling and feeling just like my puppy, and I woke up this morning thinking just a few more minutes with this. A few more…. A few more never fixes it because he’s not coming back.  At some point I realized that I was prolonging the hurt. Maybe. Because holding his body one more minute doesn’t make him come back. I want to go out and scoop him right up and say “hey, it will be alright.” But he’s not the one that’s in pain. Finally his pain is gone and he’s not suffering anymore. I’m the one that wants someone to say to me”hey, it will be alright.’  I want a hug that won’t stop. I want someone to not let go and suck all the hurt out. t’s kind of hard to feel that things will be alright when so much change happens. The hard kind of change.

Rugburn and I when he was only about 3

I hope anyone else going through change and doesn’t like it, understands that I can completely empathize with you. It hurts sometimes. It’s hard, a lot of the times. And it’s not something we like. I hate when people tell me that change is a part of life.  Which is why I always think about what Meg Ryan said above.  “People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened.”

Kate

You Have Permission To Not Write

Sometimes the words just don’t come. Sometimes they are there, but locked up tight and you just can’t get them out. And being a writer, well I’m going to tell you, you will feel guilty that you are not writing. I’ve felt it. Other writers have felt it.

Currently, I have a writing colleague who is feeling it. She told me the other day that she just hasn’t written. She can’t push it out and she just stares at the notebook, unopened. Hopefully that’s what she said. I thought it was. She was feeling guilty that she has so much to say, but just can’t get it out.

Well, I’m here to tell you, you have my permission to not write. You do not have to feel guilty one bit that you are not writing, because even as you don’t put words to paper, words are still forming in your head.  You still write without writing, by every single experience you have.  Ever little twist and turn of your day to day life is a constant moment for you to ‘write’. You write when you walk out the door and see something interesting. It may not be much, but the weather could spur on some thought. For me, it was hearing the words Orpheus and Eurydice and the letters they sent back and forth via Hermes. It’s from a series of sonnets by Rainier Maria Rilke.

Sometimes my writing well feels dried up. Like I just cannot get another thing out. I feel washed up. A hack…. Oh we writers are so dramatic sometimes. We go three days without writing and the world has ended. Lord, if I only could feel that way about laundry, or dishes.  More often than not, the days I’m dried up come after I’ve pushed myself to the limits and pounded out a 97 line, 16 stanza poem….. that was today. I know tomorrow I won’t be able to write. I’ll be too exhausted. But come two days from now, I’ll be wandering around with my journal or notebook feeling guilty that I haven’t penned anything profound.  Because I was just hacking it the other day. I mean, 97 lines for a poem is no small feat. But I will have forgotten it in lieu of my lack of more.

We writers are a greedy lot.  It’s never enough. We could write till we are blue in the face, our fingers falling off and it still would never be enough. You would think that my two to three poems a week would suffice my desires. But oh no, I feel it’s never enough.

So writer, dear, who vented to me. Don’t worry about it.  In fact, take a break. Drink some tea and watch the spring birds and flowers. Enjoy the sunshine and spring that we are having. The words will come. Probably at the most inopportune moment, such as when you are in the shower or washing dishes…. In fact, I highly recommend doing something where your hands are wet or dirty. Because then, trust me, the words will come, because it is at that moment you won’t be able to grasp a pen, the words do fly.

Kate

The Sweet and the Bitter

Some days are good days, others bad. The sweet and the bitter. Pardon me for stealing that phrase, I literally picked up Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler today and started reading it a few minutes ago. I’m already hooked.

Today was a sweetbitter day. (I think I want to use that phrase now) For me it was a pretty sweet day, with a taste of the bitter; for others, it was definitely bitter. I’m not sure it even had a sweet moment.  Life in a restaurant is far from dull, always leaves an interesting taste in my mouth, and a sense of wonder that I am working in a professional kitchen.

But today had an example of how marvelous our staff is, especially working with them. Thankfully music is almost always on while we are cooking. Today, D-man had a great Pandora channel on, I think it was the U2 one, and Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ came on. I happen to love the song (though I prefer Anna Kendrick’s version from Pitch Perfect best….) and Lucifer was talking with Richard, our new line chef, though we’ve worked with him since the beginning in different capacities.  Richard either couldn’t hear the song or didn’t know what it was.

Lucifer: It’s from the Breakfast Club.

Me: I love the song, but I’ve never liked the Breakfast Club.

Lucifer: (a phrase that is not polite and I won’t repeat)  I bet you were a 16 Candles girl.

I guess my face must have registered an ‘oh crap moment’ because Lucifer clapped his hands and said: “I’m right!”

Me: Yeah fine, yes I love 16 Candles.

Lucifer was not going to let that go so about ten minutes he goes to the chef, who is not really a soft kind of guy.

Lucifer: Hey Chef, can you believe K (me) hates the Breakfast Club?

Chef: I never really quite liked the Breakfast Club. I never quite got the point. [pauses] I was always more of a 16 Candles fan.

Oh my gosh! I shouted a thank you and we were all busting up laughing because if you saw the Chef, you would not think 16 Candles. Ever. He is super badass. I mean he has these tattoos that are just so badass man. He has a mouth on him that would make every one of my girlfriends turn so red. I was one of those girls till recently. I’ve learned to let it go. My mouth has actually gotten a lot less nice since working there.

But it’s sometimes the little things like this that make for a sweetbitter day. This definitely hit in the sweet department. Another exchange I found highly funny is that I looked up the French translation for ‘eff you’ last night. Va te faire foutre.  As a general rule of thumb, don’t sass someone with this if they know Spanish. Lucifer teasingly snarled at me to shut my mouth and I had best watch what I say. Damn him.  But it did make for a funny exchange.

Again, sweetbitter moments.  I wish most days were sweet for all of us. I wish the bitter didn’t crop up so much, but I love that I can joke with my marvelous coworkers. I love that we have this thing that is a pretty sweet working relationship. I love that I love all my boys (all the prep chefs, dishwashers, and line chefs) and that they are so seriously sweet with me. Richard, St. Michal, D-man, Lurch, Lucifer, and a couple others I haven’t come up with names for. I always tell Chef Wildflower to take care of our boys when I leave. She’s 17, nearly 18, but all the guys who are older than her and younger than me are our boys. We couldn’t do it without them. (and I might add we couldn’t do it without Miss Holly who is like the Mom of all of us)

Ah yes, this kitchen thing is an interesting life.

Kate