Missing Random Writing and Christmas Season

I have spent the last year and a half focused solely on poetry. Hardly doing any free writing. Just this poetically possessed individual. Well, I have had enough of that!

Driving up the mountains through the sugar cookie encrusted snow engulfed pine trees today, with a milky sun trying desperately to burn through the fog, I realized how much I missed writing bits of flash fiction and free writes. I wanted to write so much about the snow and the Christmas season and the light and dark and shadows.

We Have Visited Narnia

I get in this obsessed atmosphere where I hyper focus on one thing and then I sometimes miss the big picture. Poetry is pretty micro-ed down. And I am more tired these days where poetry doesn’t come out as easily. Partly as I am too wired at night when I get off of work to write poetry. I probably need to start forcing myself to try. Especially when I get off of work, sit at the bar for a quick drink or last cup of coffee. I have a new Field Notes notebook, my first ever, that I am filling with “Night Shift Notes” at the end of the night.  But that is non fiction. I could sit with a small notebook and just start working on fiction and fun things.

I am in a Hallmark Christmas mood. Like, every night we watch one, at least, and on my weekends, two, sometimes. Thankfully I have a family that likes them as much as I do. Some are horrible. Some are marvelous, and some, well, just barely make the cut.  But much to the chagrin of my coworkers (men, Coffeeman….. I’m looking at you, and a couple others) I love Christmas, Christmas music, and all things Christmas. Thankfully Awesome, Extraordinare, Superwoman hostess loves Christmas as much as I do and we were giddy last week when the tree went up at work. Tinsel and glitter and gorgeousness. 

So I have lots of festive things to write about and have fun. A Christmas party in a few weeks, prom-esque style. I never went to my prom. And I have this super cute LBD with embroidered kittens coming… I could have gone more glamorous, but heck, this will be a fun one to have for other events.

So, as I rambled off of that original train of thought. Basically, I miss writing. I miss the fun things I could come up with even if they didn’t go anywhere. So, clearly I need to start playing around with words. Recently I was playing a drinking game after work, don’t worry, I only had one beer, and I was called the resident ‘wordsmith’. So I must must must use words.

Kate

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I Have Loved You Like A Fool

I sit there apologizing to my writing group, the critic inside of me trying to shush what I’ve just read. “I’m sorry, I was really nasty with that,” I say, the ladies all staring at me as I have just eviscerated a newly broken relationship and the person in it. Burnt up in gasoline and flames, the car with the new her in the passenger seat going off in the sunset, him driving with flames chasing after him.

As a writer, the best way to deal with emotions, anger, a relationship that didn’t work, is to curse and write heated things that will tear up or destroy the feelings. For me, I broke the relationship, took a step back, said wait. I thought the two of us would dance around each other at work, and maybe step into something that was good because I still adored the guy. Then he had to go and mess it all up with spending a weekend with another gal I know, one week after I stepped back and we were still flirting like mad. One Week.

Needless to say, I was angry. So, so angry. Sure, I stepped back, but wow. Hurt doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt, partly because I’m looking at the idiot going, you want her? Really? (I have actually had a couple other people go, oh god, when I tell them who he’s with)

I just watched Begin Again, a marvelous film with Kiera Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine, and in it you have two song writers, one becoming famous (Levine), the other (Knightley) puttering around with it and in love with the famous one.  So you have a broken relationship and anger and such and girl songwriter writes this utterly cutting song to guy idiot. It is such an amazing part of the film, partly because it hit me this week as I was dealing with the issues above. And I realized that one of the ways writers deal is to cut down the person we are angry with in our work.

“I have loved you like a fool” is an amazing line. Needless to say, I have some very nice poems that my ladies have sat back going, “It oozes anger. We can just hear your anger.” They also told me to stop apologizing for being a bit nasty. To hogtie and gag the critic in my head.

Granted, writer’s liberties and all, I can exaggerate more than I actually feel. I sometimes want what I write to be more dramatic than it probably is. Am I wounded by the idiot? Nope. In fact, I’m doing really good as I have progressed in my work with him being gone from my life and work.  I have had a chance to find myself a bit more. I’ve even found myself more inspired with cooking and life. It has been really amazing. Everyone has told me I can do so much better and I deserve so much better, so that has been crucial. Especially with two amazing people at work, and two really important ladies in the writing group. These people are my close confidants.

‘If a writer loves you, you can never die.’ These words are classic to the memes world for writers. Seriously, you won’t die if a writer loves you because they will have you at some point in all of their work, or you will inspire them, or something. But…. if you anger a writer, well, darling, prepare to die. Or be killed off in some gruesome manner. Or tortured.

Coffeeman has this thing he does at work where he slams his fist into a wall or a counter. There is always some force in it, not enough to leave a mark, but you can see he’s irritated. I always picture a knife in the fist when he does it, partly because that’s how I feel about a lot of things. I do this motion with my hand, sometimes with a pocket knife in it, and out to the right and side, I stab air. It is this motion of stabbing, or would like to stab that is the feeling. No, I don’t want to murder anyone, but… as Robert Bly says

Our veins are open to shadow,
and our fingertips Porous to murder….   Robert Bly

Because I work with knives, it’s so much easier to write about it and use the motion when I’m frustrated.

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Now there is a flipside to this whole story. The first part is me getting my digs in. But downside to a writer dating a writer… the other writer has the same opportunity to put in his own digs. One week after idiot guy spends weekend with another, he comes to my writing group as he has been doing for a couple weeks to write. He’s a poet as well. Yeah, that was a hard because one, I was too close to the subject, too angry and couldn’t read out what I had written, angry as it was, and  he wrote something that pierced me. It was a dig of his own.

So rule of thumb, which I’ve had is, don’t date a writer. Two, if you are with a writer, prepare for you being written about, at some point. Good or bad.

I’m still angry, writing about lack of constancy and holes being dug with words, creating nasty hurts. Dua Lipa’s IDGAF song is marvelous right now to how I feel. Along with the song above from Begin Again. I highly recommend the film if you can handle the language. It is incredible, and ends marvelously. And the music is great.

But as the song goes… “I have loved you like a fool….”

 

Kate

Being There, Being Gone

I was recently reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and in it she quoted Hemingway.

“Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I coudl write about Michigan. I did not know it was too early for that because I did not know Paris well enough.”   — A Moveable Feast

I found this section on “Composting” and having to take in life’s experiences rather apropos this week. I found myself struggling to write about an experience at work, only a few hours after being in the experience and I just was dumping words on the paper. I couldn’t get my voice out. I couldn’t separate myself from the pure adrenaline rush I still had going on. They say there is afterglow after sex; well adrenaline rushes have the same afterglow. It’s rather heady but killer on writing about it.

Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash That’s Exactly what our pizza oven looks like. This is the brand.

This last Friday night our regular man up front was down for the count, he’d called in sick, and Chef Coffeeman was only doing a half day and Lucifer was the only chef on the line. Mr. T and I were literally dumped right into being on the line out front. I’m not kidding. It was a “well, you wanted to learn. Here you go. Either sink or swim.” There was a bit of floundering at first. Making pizzas that do not fall apart, rip, and come out looking good, is harder than it sounds. I mean, I’ve worked with all of the ingredients before, and I’ve even worked with the dough, made it a bunch too. But it’s very different when you are right there on center stage and you have to make it. But make it we did. Mr. T and I swam. Maybe it was dogpaddling at first, but swam we did.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

We got into a rhythm and a fairly decent groove. It became our dance. We were left to our own devices at one point when Lucifer had to show us a bit better how to make things work, but then he was gone and we were on our own. And when he came back at one point and looked down at what I was pulling from a 700 degree wood oven and said “that’s perfect,” well if you think I didn’t get a glow, then you don’t know me.

Supposedly our pizzas were the prettiest things that guests had seen. The servers were ecstatic we were up there (me specifically because all the ladies have thought I should be up there) and the night went well. I was solo for about an hour and a half and it was so amazing.

But the next morning, I could not write about it. I tried my darnedest but it just was being forced out. I realized I was too close to the subject. I needed to give it some time. I got the bones out and closed the notebook with a slap and a chuckle from my writing group. Dona was able to hear the start of my voice at the last third of the poem, but it needed work.

I worked Saturday, a little more on the line and by Sunday, I could gel more into the poetry. But even so, I’m still too close to the subject. It’s going to take the week, or at least days to let it settle in my mind. I keep thinking that I have to get it out now! If I don’t I’ll forget it in a flash and I’ll never get what I want to say out. I panic a lot about losing the story. It’s that feeling of an idea in your head that you spend minutes repeating it, rushing around to find paper to only not have it come out right when you finally have found a piece of scratch paper, a receipt, and a pen that finally works. It’s never as good as that first thought. I always worry that I will lose it.

I hate that feeling. It’s a feeling like I’ve missed out. Gosh, right now I feel that panic as I type. It’s a frantic feeling that makes me super agitated. I haven’t figured out how to calm that Crazy. Lucifer was good at getting me to do that sometimes, but I don’t have the luxury of Lucifer. I need a crazy calmer. I’ve always had a feeling like I’m going to miss out.

But anyways, back to being there, not being there. I need to step away from the writing subject sometimes. I always think I need to be in the season to write about it. Granted, it’s easier to remember how to write about thunderstorms when they are happening. And winter snows, and such, but sometimes I don’t need to be there to find myself in my mind’s eye, traveling to a place and being there in my head. I can sit here right now and be driving up the highway at my grandparent’s cabin, and I probably feel it more than if I were there trying to take it all in. Getting distracted by everything else.

Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash This is that afterglow feeling. Right here.

Right now I can feel the rush in my blood as I finished out the night swinging pizza and feeling like this super bad-ass chef. It’s as heady as  kiss on the neck. Which I know from experience. I can actually make the adrenaline rush come back. Whew! I think I should go write about it.

Do you find yourself needing to step away from a place, situation, season, to write about it?  Tell me about it. And also, who has read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway?  What about Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg? Have you got a review of those books? I’d love to hear it.

Kate

Ravenous, Feverish, Insomnia Passions

I sit here late at night… Actually it is just after 2 AM and I’ve been home for work for hours, but I’m still wired.  I came upon this amazing quote Dona posted from Ray Bradbury.

“You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can’t sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.” ~Ray Bradbury

That is how I feel sometimes. A lot of the times. Right now.  My mind is a whirlwind of a cyclone of a storm brewing of a magic bubbling up. I have ideas and thoughts and fevers rising.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

It’s not often I get off of work this exhilarated. This content. This happy. This just please stay like this. It’s not often I can say I have the most amazing team/crew/family of people I’m working with. Lucifer, Wildflower, Chef Coffeeman, the Twins (because despite them looking nothing alike, their names are used interchangeably) Mr. Dish, Astro D, and our new Mr. T, are my team. They are freaking amazing (Miss Holly is our morning lovely so she didn’t get the night experience). We are just a wow factor, to me at least.

And this doesn’t include the ladies that make up the front of our house and are spectacular in themselves. I’m just talking my crew. Tonight we were in rare form, being entirely inappropriate with our conversations. We are not afraid to make everything totally dirty and about sex and it’s all a suggestive nature, but entirely funny and personal and so us that pulls us closer together. I say this because the night before, while still being amazing had a drama filled scene. Lucifer dealt with the brunt of it and after he came back to clean he was like “oh damn guys, you did it all, I’m sorry I wasn’t here to clean.” I looked flat out at him and said “knock it off. We are your team. This is us. We will take care of you and cleaning. We can insult you to your face (which we do) but nobody outside of our team messes with you. ”

 

This is so true. I may come home and vent, but honestly for the most part, my team is my team. I don’t relay half of the things that go on to anyone because it is between us and besides, I really can’t explain how some suggestive totally inappropriate comment directed at me is said in entire jest and I love it.  I can’t explain these things to non kitchen people. I get now why there are memes for us.

 

Work creates insomnia. Work creates inspiration. Dreams and desires bubble up constantly and I just crave a little bit more each day. I want to be the effing best at my job. I want to grow, and become more. I want  to move up. Coffeeman seems to be adding more to my plate with this and that, and little things, but I want as much as he can toss at me. If he gives me a job, I want to do it to the best of my abilities… no better. I may make mistakes, like this last week where I burned something kind of expensive. But then like yesterday where I made luxurious chocolate mousse and lemon curd that had people’s eyes rolling back. Oh yes. Now that is sexy. That is so full on what I want. I want a plate to come back completely scraped off of its dessert design. I want a server telling me that a couple’s 4 week vacation’s best stop was our restaurant. Right on.

I write a lot about the kitchen. Do you see why? Do you see the passion I have. I’m passionate about a lot of things in life. Poetry for starters. Music next. But my kitchen is such a passion. I wish I didn’t get so tired that I could work more. I wish I could work a 40 hour work week and not be drained. But then I wouldn’t be a writer.

So, with everything in life, there is a bit of moderation. Work when I can, write when I can, and fill y life with passion.  I have new things brewing and cooking and desires and hopes and fun things happening.

This is this cheffing-writing-amazing life. And Mr. Bradbury, you said it best. I am ravenous and I have a fever.

Kate

And The Books Are Taking Over

via Pinterest

There they lie. On the sofa, next to the love seat; piled up, a stack by my chair at the kitchen table. On the stairs leading up, next to my bedside in three stacks, under a pillow, on the bathroom vanity.  Leading up to the point of Mr. B stating emphatically today, “You have books everywhere.”

Currently, I do. I literally have books on almost every surface of my house. I have found myself wandering around with books and setting them down, only to come back later and pick up where I left off. Most are poetry books. I ordered a slew of them (meaning 5, from Better World Books) last week, and I currently have several different books floating around at various stages of being read. Course, then I went to the library today and came home with three more. Not poetry this time, but nonetheless, there are books everywhere.

I have not had much time to read read, as in, delve into a novel or whole book. I have been able to focus on a poem here or a spat of poetry there, but actual focus for a book has been nil since I finished Bittersweet a month or two ago. I’m a little lost as to when. Pardon, I am rereading Sous Chef for the third time (this time I’m underlining crucial parts I feel I need to remember)

via Pinterest but links to etsy

But poetry, oh poetry is lovely in that you don’t have to finish it from start to end. Pick one book up, flip through, read a poem, and put it down. Bam! Done.  My writing has taken on new flavor lately, dabbling in slightly lighter prose and poetry. Heck, even prose poetry, or is it prosey?  Either way, I have had some better days.

There has been a few things I felt I should write about, but they hit me like a sucker punch, or that feeling when I was hit in the sternum by a hardball when my dad was teaching me to play catch and I lost my breath. But sometimes it’s just too hard to write about. You get hit so hard you are still kind of having an out of body experience a week later. (side note, my playing catch and throwing a ball days were bad. Seriously bad. My dad says I can’t hit the broad side of a barn and that I throw like a girl. It took a 9 year old boy two years ago saying “but you are a girl…” to really not care if I can throw right)

So, instead I’m reading poetry. And submitting. I sent off six poems today to a place that was having open submissions. And I’m working on a document to send off to the New Yorker. Whew! I feel very brave taking that step. I’ve been saying I’m going to do it for months, but then I just put it off. I felt this driving desire to submit in the last few days and so here I am. I think part of it comes off of a poem I wrote about the steam explosion that was in the Flatiron District a week and a half ago. Or a week ago.

There was something so fanciful about that, for some reason, that I had to write something about it. I may not know much about New York, but it was fun to play around with things after going above in a bird’s eye view of the district, then going down to street level and looking at the aftermath.

It has been fun to write about lighter things. Work and some of the dramas at work have been dragging me down a lot, even though I’m happier. Much happier. But for months I have written a lot about relationships and the dramas of life and it’s exhausting. I need happier things in life. Having a good boss has helped. A different work load and a new menu and excitement has helped. I may be tired, but it’s a good tired.

So, now that I’ve rambled on, here is a list of the new books on my ‘Reading’ shelf.

  • The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton
  • Lucifer at the Starlight by Kim Addonizio
  • The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert Hass
  • Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins (finally I own it!!!)
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • A New Geography of Poets compiled by Edward Field
  • On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
  • When We Were Young by A.A. Milne
  • Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne
  • 99 Poems: New & Selected by Dana Gioia
  • Poetry: The Golden Anniversary Issue edited by Henry Rago
  • Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora
  • New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich
  • Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

And a slew of New Yorker magazines for the poetry aspects. I might be a little insane. I might be trying to overwhelm myself. All while adding in plenty of Poetry Off the Shelf podcasts and a new food/chef podcast called The Emulsion Podcast  by Justin Khanna.

Cooking, submitting, writing, staying super busy. I didn’t think my year was gonna be like this.

What are you all reading and into this summer?  I’d love to hear.

Kate

Midsummer Thunderstorms

Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

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

Sick Days, Lost Voices

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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

Photo by Luo ping on Unsplash

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

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

Writers Need Thinking Space

Recently, it’s come to my attention, most writers don’t spend as much of their time writing as they do thinking. Though I already know this about myself, I have only just given it some thought. Although it is crucial that the keys on a typewriter are being pounded out, thinking is important. I was watching a marvelous documentary, California Typewriter; if you love typewriters you need to watch it. In the film, writer David McCullough is showcased as one who uses a typewriter. He was talking about how he goes out to his writing shed, and many times people could walk by the window and wonder what he’s working on, considering he sits there thinking. Not typing, Not writing. Thinking. But to a writer, thinking is writing.

I read an essay by Naeem Murr about his poet wife, Averill Curdy.  For those interested in a poet romantically, read this article.—> My Poet.  How as a poet, she spends a lot of time reading or not writing. Staring out a window thinking. Spending a morning madly scribbling ten ‘hopeful’ lines of poetry. I can completely relate. I am a fairly prolific writer, or so my friends and writer colleagues tell me. This last week I wrote 4 good poems, though I swear it was five. Even Lucifer was impressed at the amount since he says he gets out about a quarter of that. It might have actually been a quarter of a poem, but I can’t remember. This is actually unusual for me. One poem a week is grand; two extraordinary. Most of my time I’m dabbling in random lines. A journal entry. Reading. While I don’t have as much time to read, nor the patience, there is almost always a book in my hand. Be it poetry or, hopefully, some fiction. I spend most of my time working out things in my head. Days later I’ll come back to paper and jot it down. I could easily sit out in the sun with a scrap of paper, just in case, and think for ages.

This is why writers need their own writing space. Where they can’t be judged for not pounding out the words. Where, if they spend an hour shooting a rubber band at the ceiling and catching it, no one will say a thing. (I’ve never done it for an hour, but I have done it.)

This last Thursday, I spent the entire day working on a 43 line poem. The whole day to not even fill up an entire page. I’d work on it for a bit, get stuck, go wash the dishes, work again, fix lunch, back and forth. There was a lot of time not writing. A lot of time staring at the page, or pages of ideas, flipping things around until they worked. At one point I asked the family to give me a synonym for a word. The thought was expressed that the reason writer’s needed their own space was so they didn’t have to ask such questions of non-writers. They can go out to their own space and be far away from the ordinary person. I could take the mocking the other day because the thought of my own writing place over a projected garage, sounds ideal.

While I like being around people, and I need it, I also need far away. Or like on Saturdays, a place where other writers gather and are quiet. There is something about being with writers that is calming, even when chatting. It always goes back to quite and writing.

This is ideal…

Lucifer mentioned recently that he loves to go fishing and for the most part, I could do without that pastime. However, I’m going to have to see if he’ll let me tag along once the weather is conducive. He can fish and I can write. Or read. Or, gasp, that glorious feeling of being in nature with the sun, sky, water, and trees around, and think. Now that sounds divine. Granted, when I get with Lucifer, I don’t shut up much, unless he shuts me up. (He’s actually good at it) But I’d like to have some space and peace and quiet. No distractions. . . .Okay, that’s actually conditional as nature distracts me constantly. As well as Lucifer, but it’s the kind of distractions that all us writers need. The power to think. And some distractions are better than others.

…. and this is a bit of an exaggeration, but still….

Non-writers, (there should be a word like ‘muggles’ for non-writers) will never understand the not writing to write ratio. I can’t even fully explain it, but without it, I know I would never write very good things. It’s just one of those factors you can’t explain. This was something I tried to explain to my Chef when I said I needed more time to write. Working over 40 hours a week does not leave time to write, and by write, I mean thinking as well! That was before my crash, but still. Even my family doesn’t quite get it. It’s okay. So long as I have space, and the time to get away here and there, it works for the most part. I could use my butler, Sven, but since he’s constantly not working, well, I guess I’ll have to tackle house work on my own.

Now I need to get my writing place! And it needs to be comfy! Preferably one with a table for my typewriter (and the other one I want to get), my laptop, windows, and lots of bookshelves. A couple nice chairs and a love seat or couch… I’m really dreaming here. Oh, and a good sound system. So I can blast the jazz. Picture it. A hot summer night, windows open and the light is on in the garret as the sounds of trumpets float out of the open windows…. Don’t forget the crickets and the sweet smell of hot summer sun baked pine trees.

Kate