Chaos, Panic Attacks and Memories

The notebook of memories

I was flipping through a notebook I started early on when working at my restaurant. I found it in a stack of things I was going through. I’m not sure why I stopped writing in it other than for the reason of insane frustration that started being recorded in another book titled ‘Night Shift Notes’. My nights have never been that crazy, but if something of note comes along that is important, I record it.

There were some absolutely lovely and funny moments I wrote down in this glittery notebook, and I honestly need to pick it up again.

This is from July 2018:
“The days are calmer with less stress on everyone, so it seems. Nickelle is still a nutcase and is having too many issues, so she freaks out, and doesn’t know what the fat she is doing most of the time. Poor Chef is like at his wits end with her.

I can do the tart dough just fine. The roulade cake alludes me still.”

Ah Nickelle, she was an interesting one. And Coffeeman came into a world of crazy at the beginning. Her, Lucifer, Wildflower. These were the days before Will Turner and me up on pizza. I was a lowly prep chef. Tackling desserts, but the gopher. Golden Oldie has moved up to pantry, out of dish, and now he’s the new gopher. I don’t envy his job. Laughing.

Here’s another gem from July 2018:
“But I must go back to Saturday. Dinner service was starting and Chef, Twin C, and I were busy with Sunday Prep. I think NY Lady (she is our everything manager) was in and out. Then Lucifer called for all of his squirt bottles to be filled and he was impatient and I was rushing to try and fill them. One I started filling with white wine vinegar instead of white wine and the Chef had to stop me, thank goodness. But Lucifer was super impatient and went and got a bottle himself. Then I went to fill his saffron bottle and said I had to go get the saffron on Chef’s desk, and Lucifer snapped at me that it just needed Hot water!
I went back to the prep sing and slammed the top on the sink and must have let out an exasperated sigh because Chef turned to me and told me to tell him “mise en place!”
“What?”
“Take the bottle back to him and say ‘The Chef says mise en place mother f*cker!”
“I can’t say that to him.”
“Yes you can.”
“But he’ll come back at me.”
“No he won’t. Fill the bottle and I’ll be right behind you.”

So I fill the bottle and walk back up to Lucifer and present it with both hands and say, “Lucifer, Chef says mise en place, mother f*cker.” Lucifer looks at me, then glances behind me and says, “Yes Chef.”

And that was that. I didn’t know till later that Coffeeman had stood behind me crossing his arms where his favorite statement “Mise En Place” is tattooed across both arms so they connect when he crosses his arms. ”

To this day, we still all remind each other to “mise en place!” It’s probably the highlight of one of my memories of working with Coffeeman. I may have talked about it in the past, but I can’t remember. I’m just glad I wrote it down.

Those first months were probably the best time of my job, though this last year’s July and August with Coffeeman on pizza were a dream.

Photo by Jesson Mata on Unsplash

For some reason all of these memories had me remembering my panic attacks that were happening later that year when suddenly I went from being behind the scenes to being out in front. And just the overwhelming feeling of not getting it all done in time. I had a sugar crash yesterday while making lunch, and I’m freaking out because my brain is on zero function, and I’m thinking “Gosh, I do this all the time with the added stress of not being able to get something to eat because I have ten tickets up on my board.” I needed my Hostess Extraordinaire with her glass of Pepsi for me!

I miss work like crazy right now. I have not accomplished half of what I wanted while home, but I’ve got a start. If I could just not collect books…. as I consider ordering a couple I wish I had right now. I need help people.

These are just some musings from pulling out a notebook. I have some good poetry to type up here too, I just haven’t taken the time to post it.

Whoops, I went back and started reading other posts about work. They all make me smile a little ruefully, tear up a little cause I still miss Coffeeman too much, and roll my eyes at myself. At least I can laugh at myself.

Kate

The Scales Tilt

Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash

“Hey Chef, can I talk to you before you go?”

The question is posed after another long Saturday with the exhaustion of Thursday and Friday getting to me. I can see he’s dreading the ‘Talk’ that I have coming, because I have had serious talks at the end of his shift, not always good.

“How do you balance home life and chef/restaurant life? Like how do you get your family to understand the lack of balance?”  The question gets a chuckle, rueful at best from Coffeeman as he flips a milk crate over and sits down on our back dock and I plop myself on the stairs. I’m way past tired, ready to cry, per usual, and that’s not having been working over 40 hours; I still have another two to three before I hit that mark. It’s just the overwhelming feeling of all my focus on work. Picking up after people, stressing over prep not getting done, sugar lows that make me hurl dough at a table and stomp off nearly ready to melt into a puddle of tears and snarling. I could be a puddle of vampire teeth. I know, weird analogy. But I’m a weepy, bitey puddle.

I never balance things well. Relationships, work, poetry, writing. I go all in. I thrust myself into the fray and sink my heels in; grasp with sharp talons. Moderation isn’t my best suit. I have a lot of flaws. I cultivate bad habits…. Okay, not totally, but I’m far from the person I present myself at work. I think everyone there thinks I am a certain way, and I’m betting they wouldn’t quite recognize me on my off days or at home or when I’m in a comfortable setting. I’m me at work, but not. Which is why I cultivate the name ‘K’ at work (psst. people, it’s not Kay. It’s just the letter…. lol) K is a focused individual, a little messy, but put together, dedicated to the point of ocd-ness, passionate about her work, what her guests think, what her coworkers think, etc. It can be exhausting. I’m nice to a fault. I’m not as assertive as I need to be, yet. Much more passive.

But at home I am cluttered, distracted, emotional, snarky, tired, always tired, prone to starting too many projects and not finishing them, a reader, a dreamer, a writer. Writer me is rarely visiting work, and when she does, it’s while making a pizza on a slow day when the clouds are forming to the south and I stare out at the fields, meadows, and mountains, writing about Wilson Tennu, or what he should be writing about…

I guess in that way I’m balanced. A balanced wreck, but balanced nonetheless.

“Twenty plus years in the industry, and I still haven’t got it all balanced,” says Coffeeman.

“How do you unwind? I find myself getting off at 11 and awake till three in the morning,” I say.

“I still do that.” His replies help (and don’t help) because I don’t feel like I’m the only one dealing with it. I know he gets it. He has it seven days a week with ordering or being at the restaurant, family life, a wife, kids, a long commute. I have at least the two days off, which he says to be thankful of.

“Don’t drive past this place, (course you get your mail at the post office behind…), don’t think about work. Don’t plan recipes or menus or specials. Do it at the last minute. Do it on the fly. Don’t talk about work. Let it go for the two full days you are off and the morning before you come to work.”

It’s all easier said than done. Coffeeman… I failed this week, as I sat there discussing work and thinking about hand pies and do we have puff pastry in the freezers still? Do I want to run a special this week?

It’s currently Tuesday evening, my Sunday night, and yeah, I’m thinking about work. It’s one of those bad habits.  But I don’t feel as stressed other than I wish I would have had more time to watch a few things filling up the dvr. I wish I could sleep more. I feel like I don’t get enough sleep. This balance thing is hard.

But again, balance isn’t my strong suit. Nor is patience. I want it to happen now. Drama queen that I am.

I like to think that maybe the scales are shifting a bit though. I took a long walk and hike yesterday by water, which I love. Saw plants and wildlife and just got away from the house. And not just to town, or to the city. Just away from the generals of life. It was nice. Summer is rapidly progressing and I feel like it’s going to be all over before it even began!

I found myself feeling kind of weird about how much of a struggle last summer was, but right now it feels very far away. Some things are not far away, having animosity towards people still, months from when it happened, but it seems ages ago. This year is a struggle as well, but in a different way. Other problems creep in, others fade. I’m still too emotional about things. I don’t think that will ever change, but each day might bring something new and a new perspective.

Coffeeman left me with a hug of serious proportions. The kind that says, “I get you” which I needed because I was so tired and need to find balance. “Just be thankful you don’t have kids,” he says on a final note. And to that, I am fortunate. My immediate family wears me out. I’d hate to think of kids in the picture. And that’s the rueful me talking there.

Kate

Back to Basics

Everyone always goes back to the basics. The tried and true. The first. Working with pizza, having grown up on “American’ pizza, it’s hard sometimes to remember that not all pizza is the same. I work with Neapolitan pizzas. Thin crust, hardly any ingredients. Or at least that is the way it’s supposed to be. It’s hard to not want to fall back on old habits when they are familiar. New tricks aren’t as easy to master as old habits. I’m sure that would make a great Zen proverb.

Asparagus bacon stromboli

So my new challenge to myself, my craft, my pastries, my life, and my restaurant, is to… go back to basics. I am researching classic Neapolitan pizzas. I had an IG picture one of my strombolis ‘liked’ by a pizza place in Philly, of all places, and a now I’m paying attention to the finer details. Fewer ingredients, hardly any sauce, thin it down, bake it fast… taste the dough. “It’s all about the dough.” So says Coffeeman. I wish someone would have told me that from the beginning. No one has explained that Neapolitan is more about tasting the dough. So now I’m forcing myself to light, light, light on ingredients. And I want to try three ingredient pizzas. White sauce, spinach, mushroom. Bacon and spinach. Asparagus and feta, or ricotta.

I played with a new Margherita the other night, where the sauce was not all over the pizza. Just dotted on, along with the cheese. No pesto, just basil. It was divine. Fresh. Alive.

Basics are good. Simple is better. Right now the simple life is taking over. Okay, right this minute it is the ‘not doing anything’ life, but whatever. It’s my Saturday, sue me, I’m tired.

With desserts, I want to try my hand at some simplistic things that are high in flavor. Partly after Mr. B was on my case, the restaurant’s case, etc., about needing a thin cookie with the pots de creme. Whatevs, dad, but he does have a point. I don’t always have the luxury to create, all the time, but Coffeeman gives me lots of leeway. I am thankful for that.

I need simple in my life. (‘I need corny in my life,’ says Iris — The Holiday) I am trying to step back from irritations at work. The boys being brats, grumpy moods, the monthly PMS of every single female in that place (including me) and trying to let it slide off my back. One of the servers tells me frequently, “Miss K, you have to let it go.” I don’t let go, I grab hold and then it eats away at me.

We have three new people in the kitchen, so I am having to relearn new moods and new people. Miss Luna replaced Twin Bear. She is good. But she isn’t Bear. I miss Bear a lot. At one time we were at odds about everything. She drove me nuts. I thought she was going to make me rip my hair out in insanity. Then I just kind of fell in love with her as a person. She’s off learning new things. I’m happy for her, but I miss our jokes. No one quite gets my statement, “I love the game of everyone standing in the pass!” Bear would. By the way, there were a lot of people in the pass the other day. I had to just walk through the bar, much to Fancy Pants perpetual annoyance. (not really, but really. He’s such a drama queen. I think it’s why we work so well together. We both excel in drama queenness.)

Not getting so involved with people’s drama frees up my life and simples things down.
I’m working to scale down my life. The clutter and things I don’t use are getting to me. Like a lot. I want a room that doesn’t look like I’m there much. Or maybe clutter and stuff free. I wish I didn’t collect books like a fiend, but well, I have issues.
Let’s all pair it down and get back to basics. The basics of living and being. (maybe living in the country lends a way for this to happen.

Kate

Eighty-Six the Cannelloni, There’s Mashed Potatoes in My Ear

Photo by Benjamin Zanatta on Unsplash

Restaurant life is weird. Like really weird. Like you get to work and you ask your coworker how many reservations (res) you have, they say eighty-six reservations,  and you say, “so no reservations then”.  To ’86’ something means to get rid of it, you don’t have it, or you are out. Only one other person got my 86’d reservations, but go with me here.

I asked Elizabeth Swan (William Turner’s wife, of course) how she was today. “I got mashed potatoes in my ear,” she replies. This isn’t a euphemism. This was actual fact. In a funny twist of life, she reached to scratch her ear and didn’t know she had gotten mashed potatoes on her finger. Go figure. But that also kind of summed up the day.

I find the strangest things sift down and fall onto my head. Currently, it’s ash. A lot of ash. I pull the metal paddle out of the oven and stand it up and think “oh crap” as I feel things sift down onto my arm, my head, my face. People are forever saying I have something on my face. I have to ask if it’s white or black. White is flour, duh, since I work with pizza dough, and black if it’s soot. It’s a common occurrence.

Tonight (December 29th) three of us were tired and hungry. I had told my parents I was going to sit and get a drink then be home. So there we sat, Will Turner, D-boss, and me. My “drink” was a cup of coffee and a bowl of cold cereal, D-boss was eating a microwaved cheese sandwich, and Will had a beer. A motley crew to say the least. (everyone was in a weird eating foods mood tonight.)

I have read books where people are out back of the restaurant in the frigid air smoking and bs-ing. A fair amount of the kitchen staff smokes, I love the smell of cigarette smoke (much to the confusion of my coworkers), and will follow them out to their smoke breaks just to stand with them. Tonight one was smoking while I waited for my ride and I stood there leaning against the brick, breathing in the most frigid air possible, and cigarette smoke, bs-ing about nothing important, and I realized, I have become a book setting.

My life is one giant plotline. Heck, I was writing in my head today as I worked. I can’t quite remember what I was writing, though the title did come to me along with the line from You’ve Got Mail via The Godfather “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” Though I was using cannelloni because that is on our menu and gosh darn it if we don’t have to 86 it a lot due to its popularity and time consumption in prepping it.   Also, isn’t this like the greatest blog title? Bizarre enough that you just have to keep reading. Pardon if my post isn’t the most exciting.

I actually sat there realizing that this full time job is my job. Sometimes if I think really hard about it, it becomes this weird out of body thought and I am left wondering how I got here.

Currently I am out for the count due to a nasty virus or something that gave me a horrible cough and ear infection. I missed three days of work this last week. A week that came on the heels of New Years Eve and a tasting menu that was to die for. I am going to finish up this post then sit down and write about that….

The strangest things delight me at work. Or about work. It’s the little things that make you feel closer to a coworker and you suddenly realize that you are a fairly strange misfits of a family. It may not be a perfect family, but it’s family non the less and you know they get you, for the most part, and you get them, and you can say weird stuff like, “I got mashed potatoes in my ear” and that means a whole host of somethings.

I told Elizabeth that I got over a panic attack, and she was like, ‘well at least you got over it’, which was code for “I’m not doing so ok myself.” We all have our moments where we lean on each other, poke daggers at each other, but hold each other up. We manage to keep afloat somehow.

But seriously, let’s stop 86ing the cannelloni….

Kate