It’s been a few months since my last post. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t been cooking up a storm, or that I’ve forgotten about you. But I wanted to have something real to say for my first post back , something not just about the food but about the life and stories surrounding it.
I have a brand new job in a brand new city. It’s a pretty prestigious place that even has its own cafeteria. The last time that I worked in a place that had a cafeteria dialup internet was the new thing. But the cast of characters in ‘the caf'(as we used to call it at Morehouse) never change. In my case the staff has always been all black and mostly middle-aged. The elder lady of the crew works the register while the young guys mop up and take out the trash. It’s service with a smile, which goes well with the typical assembly line menu. So when I walked in there, knowing that the local choices weren’t too great, I was just hoping to get my belly filled.
The Grill Lady is a tan color and talks to me as if I’m her son sitting at a kitchen table. Channeling Jules Winfield in Pulp Fiction I’m craving “the taste of a good burger.” I’ve decided to give up red meat again for New Years after a good four years of indulgence that followed a good twelve without it. So I’m making these last days count.
The Grill Lady slaps the angus beef pattie onto the griddle with both apathy and precision. Her internal clock tells her exactly how long it will take to flip sides. She reads my face and knows that I want provolone and not pepper jack. She knows that I want fries.
I ask her questions while I’m waiting and she tells me all about her shift. 7 in the morning to four in the evening. I tell her about my New York experiences with cafeteria food and she grunts like any Southerner would when hearing about the way they do things up north. She gave me a smile just before she move her eyes toward the customer behind me. And that was that.
For a awhile now I’ve thought about giving up the pen and replacing it with a pair of chef’s whites. But I had this dream where I was in the back of a kitchen fielding thing a billion orders being handed to me. People were yelling at me. The demands increased. It was never over. Never done. For me, that was a fate far worse than poverty and late checks. That was the kind of thing that would have me drop dead of a heart attack…at 35.
I always want my cooking to be a personal thing. I picture myself grinding away at the stove like a slave during the nine-month stretches that the mother of my children and I are expecting. I think of my kids excitedly begging me to make their favorite things on the weekends. I think about manning the grill at birthday parties and cookouts and making meals for as much family as I can pack into my dining room at one time, just like my parents and grandparents and my Uncle Tony have done for my whole life. I think that debacle in August came about because my head wasn’t in a loving place when I made said chicken. And it showed.
As I ate one of the best burgers I’ve had in awhile, I thought about all of the culinary things I haven’t done that I dream of doing before this life is over. I picture myself passing my book of recipes on to whichever child might have the aptitude. I see myself taking my time as I travel to the fish market in some foreign land and bringing back the goods to my lady and my grandchildren during one of their vacation visits. I can see those things far ahead but I have a long way to go. Sorry for my absence here, but as this is now my only blog there’s much more to come. Stay tuned. Out.