The Gathering Storm  

Posted by Dave

As I sit here in the dark, with just a faint glow lightening the east through the rain, I try to reflect. It is 6am, and I have one kid gone on the school bus and another to get moving shortly. We have a good hot breakfast each day and now I have to cook twice. I still have dishes to do before I leave for work. I can't believe it has been so long since I have posted. I can't believe I have strayed so far from my original mission in writing this blog, which was to share my experiences with the great food available locally and in season, hence less expensive and healthier for my, and hopefully your, family.

I am still passionate about that. So passionate that cooking for my family has been taking precedence over writing. Writing is a joy and a release, but with the frenetic activity of getting kids back to school, a new town job, and looking for new digs, I haven't been able to allow myself that pleasure. We have had some exceptionally wonderful meals lately as the produce right now is killer, and the new ideas and experiences I am getting with Chef Dato continue to inspire.

I have lately been remembering what I love about the restaurant business. Even when I had left the business for a few years and worked in the corporate world, I found myself in the kitchen whenever a client lunch had us in some fine dining place. I was fortunate that my business partner and friend Tony was also a foodie, though he never understood how I could end up in the kitchen and leave him to entertain the clients.

A restaurant kitchen is a war zone, a dinner rush is a battle, the ultimate adrenaline burst. Pure testosterone. The pecking order essential to operations and etiquette be damned. The customer in front are almost superfluous as their orders and the perfection and timing of each dish a foe to be dispatched. I imagine the great medieval battle, with men rushing at each other in awful waves of humanity. Dealing with the immediate foe, the one in front of you, while simultaneously preparing for the ones in your peripheral vision. Your station, your duty reigns supreme. There are no friends during battle. A friend who impedes your progress or timing is the same as an enemy. Often I have seen hot pans deliberately thrust across the forearms of cooks who impeded another's progress, razor sharp knives dangerously close to another's fingers, airborne stockpots the size of cannonballs. A kitchen is full of hot objects, sharp objects, heavy object that can be thrown. More to the point, it is full of people that are serious about their mission and woe to anyone, even a friend who gets in the way. After the battle and after the cleanup and aftermath, when the dead have been buried and the weapons readied for another day, then is the time for camaraderie.

After closing many cooks gather in bars to decompress and to share war stories, to plan strategies for upcoming battles. Besides, who can sleep when the adrenaline is still coursing through your exhausted, aching body? With the long workdays, with hours that necessarily coincide with the rest of the world's leisure time, cooks have no time for a "normal" social life. They generally associate with other cooks. Or not at all. I myself have always preferred more quiet reflection. I like to sit in the dark, alone, and lick my wounds. I swallow a couple of aspirins for my aches, then fall into bed, dead weight until morning, my last thoughts the promise of coffee.

I am drinking that coffee now, as I prepare to awaken my son for school. As I head out for another battle, thinking about my mise en place, my place in the world, I know it is a young man's game and I am not young anymore.






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This entry was posted on Friday, September 12, 2008 at 6:38 AM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

1 comments

Regarding the straying of your blog from its intended mission- that's the most interesting thing of all. I often have a story in my head, and I know what its message is going to be, but once I start writing it for the blog I find that I see it completely differently from the original point. Sometimes I thought something was funny and I write and realise it's actually a reflection of life and quite serious, sometimes the opposite happens and I find humour in a very grave matter.
I started off my blog with the subject of simplicity, namely that of clearing the excess from our lives and detailing the progress. I find, however, that mostly anything can be related back to simplicity, whether its humour or the people you meet or the mishaps you have along the way. Likewise, food is such a pivotal and central element in all our lives that everything can relate to it in some way or another. I like M.F.K. Fisher's writing very much, and as much as I'd like to call it 'food writing' I know that it's about the very essentials of life, and she is one that manages to draw the connections between the preparation of food and the ordinary parts of our daily lives.
Very apt descriptions, too, of the battle that goes into cooking meals for people- I've often thought that cooking is like writing- nobody sees how much work went on behind the scenes, or how much fretting was done- all the customers see is the finished product, clean and presentable, and it takes maybe three minutes to read what took hours to write.
"men rushing at each other in awful waves of humanity"- that's a great line to describe the rush that goes into such work.
Didn't mean to write so much but food and writing- impossible to be concise!

September 12, 2008 at 3:48 PM

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