Monday, January 14, 2008

Day thirteen...Order up!

Hi again. It's me.

I realized last night as I was publishing my post (oh that sounds so dirty) that I may have slipped into the second person (dirtier still) without meaning to.

I started this blog on day one as a testimonial to myself and myself alone. As I have noticed that people are actually reading it and enjoying it, I guess I started to tell my day-to-day adventures into the world of sober living by talking to you, the reader. I know, it's a vanity thing, can't just type to myself. I'm not trying to create a self help book. But then again...

So, anyway, as I outlined a couple of days ago, the snow makes me want to type. It's snowing. The proverbial Hustler is lying open on the table and I'm staring directly at it. So here I go.

Speaking of porn, let me tell you a little story about my 14th birthday.

But first a bit about my dear Aunt.

My Aunt is an amazing woman. She has been through a lot over the years. Not only with me and my destructive tendencies but with my Mom's sickness and other troubles which I'm not at liberty to discuss. And she has bounced back even stronger from each of the battles life has thrown her way. I am constantly surprised and happy she still talks to me. She is also a very funny person and has been since I've had the pleasure of being her nephew. Let me explain.

In the Johnson household, when a boy came of age (in this case 14) he was given a special gift. This gift came wrapped in brown paper and was the size and shape of a Playboy.

Because that's what it was.

Now bare with me here people (ugh!).

This was no ordinary Playboy. This playboy had been altered. Most of its trademark adult photos had been removed leaving nothing but Lorne Michaels and Malcolm Mclaren interviews, new car previews, suggestive comics, and plenty of self-help ads. Kind of like a TV guide without all those pesky listings.

But one portion had been left in.

The centerfold.

As you could imagine, this centerfold (in this case Miss May '84) was altered as well. Over the naughty bits on said centerfold were taped cutout circles of paper.

Upon lifting the paper circles from said naughty bits, the mischievous eye was greeted with messages written on white pieces of paper where the 'dirty parts' used to be.

These messages ranged from "Shame on you!" to "Not until you're 18 mister" to "Even when you are 18 you should be reading 'Popular Science'."

As I said. My Aunt is a very funny person. She also cooks quite a bit and loves to go out to eat. If anyone has a 'Dine Out Tonight' book they aren't using please contact me asap.

She asked me an interesting question last night.

She asked me how it was that a chef can get all the food on a customer's order to come out at the proper times? How is the perfectly paced meal constructed when each item cooks at different temperatures and the time each dish takes to make varies from plate to plate?

Good question. To which my answer was, "After a while it becomes second nature."

I tried to explain that after you've worked with food long enough, you get a feel for how long that lasagne will need to be in the oven. It becomes second nature as to how long a flipped fried egg will take to be 'over easy', 'over medium' et al. You don't have to see the progress in the oven or frying pan, even with 20 orders going at once. You just have to do it enough.

Addictions are very similar.

I spent 18 or so years in the restaurant business. Each day I would have to compile a prep list of all the things I would need for that day. It is essential in that line of work as any good chef will attest to.

Mix in with the actual work I had, a separate list of goodies that were necessary to keep my head and nervous system happy.

'Gotta get a pint.' 'No, make it a .750.' Gotta stop by ( ) and get some ( ) and let's see...what day is it? Maybe ( ) will be around and I can get some ( ).'

And if I could acquire all these ingredients, plus a movie I wouldn't remember, then I could open up for dinner.

The perfectly paced buzz was not always easy to produce. It took work. It took trial and error. It took plenty of money and it took practice. But this was my restaurant and I wrote the reviews as well. They weren't always good but it certainly wasn't going to drive away business. Food cost however was sometimes staggeringly high and I often wondered how long I could keep my doors open.

I learned from my mistakes how long ( ) would take to kick in. Add some ( ) to the pan and garnish with a little ( ) on top. Pop in the movie, lay back, stretch out and wake up 7 hours later.


If I was lucky there would be some ( ) left over to put in a to-go container. Because you know you'll be hungry again in a few hours.

These days my life is a bit different. I'm constantly walking by places where I used to acquire the ingredients I used to stock my shelves with. The TV is incessantly blaring ads for former choices on my drinks list. I have to admit I really miss the days (which aren't really that long ago) when I could have my 'usual' and then regret the inevitable bellyache that followed. It's a wonder that I was so good at what I did.

But like I tried to explain to my very funny, compassionate, resilient, and courageous Aunt on the phone last night:

After you've worked with food long enough, you don't have to see the progress in the oven or frying pan, even with 20 orders going at once. You just have to do it enough.

Right now, I work at new restaurant. I'm only in charge of shredding the carrots and making the salads but I suspect a promotion is right around the corner.

Bon appetit.

Coming soon: Fewer metaphors.


1 comment:

Running Hard Out Of Muskrat Flats said...

What disturbing imagery regarding the Playboy. Wow.

As far as your prep list...remember these three words

Mise en Place - A place for everything and everything in its place. A constant state of readiness. Knowing where your back ups are knowing who can best stir your pad Thai sauce and delegating them that task. Knowing where your dishwashers have wandered off to, whether they are in the corner twanging on a jew's harp or sitting on the sidewalk playing the wood flute. Just in case you need them to bring you some freshly sanitized bowls for the 20 orders you have on deck. (Yes they are still in the dirty bus pan in the dining room. If the two dishwashers did not choose to work on their budding music careers, you wouldn't have to deal with your least favorite "problem customer" who is sifting through the debris in the bus bucket and about to ask you to box up someone else's discarded food.

Yep you never know what is going to be thrown at you when you are on the line, and you are in the mode - "You don't want what I got, cuz i got NO TIME.

But It looks like these day you have something that other people want. So you might as well be ready for it. Mise en Place, Freddy, Mise en place.