Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Cook's Life #5 - Calling In Sick

when i used to work in an office, it wasn't uncommon for people to call in sick. some did it more than others, and it wasn't a big deal. no one else wanted to get sick, and honestly, they didn't want to see you hacking up a lung, surrounded by moldy tissues, sweat pouring down your face, with snot and saliva everywhere.

then, there's working in the kitchen. i remember one of my first classes in culinary school, one of the Chefs said that you NEVER call in sick and that you got mad respect from the other cooks. it showed true dedication and hard work, and that you didn't let your team down, no matter what.

you may think that, hey, if you are sick, you shouldn't be working in the kitchen where you are cooking for people, but there is an intense pressure to not call in sick. last week i started to feel under the weather, and although i debated calling in sick the whole of Friday morning, i settled on asking if i could leave after the rush, that way i would at least be able to help prep for the weekend, and help out with part of service. they were thankful that i came into work, and i was able to leave around 8pm. however, i forgot to make a double batch of pasta dough before i left, so i returned the next morning around 10am to finish. it was okay because i didn't really get to sleep because i couldn't breathe, and because i had the damn pasta dough on my mind.

did i mention that it was also my birthday, and that i had to cancel my party on account that i was feeling crappy and didn't want to get anyone else sick? well, now it's Sunday (a lot has happened this weekend, you don't even know the WHOLE story) and i am wondering if i should go into work. i suppose it would help me keep my mind off of things, as whenever i get sick (it doesn't happen too often) i can't rest because i keep thinking of the things i need to be doing or should be doing.

you may think i'm a workaholic, and that i'm crazy, but if you are a cook, everything i've written just sounds like a regular day at work, sick or not. i think i feel some pressure because i know that help is needed, and i also want people to take me seriously. it also doesn't help that the kitchen is a fickle place; you are only as good as your last plate and even though you've put in a lot of work, once you fuck up, people will be moaning and groaning about how they have more work to do and how everything is harder because so and so couldn't handle a little cold and that they should stop being a big baby BLAH BLAH BLAH!

used to hate it when people under estimated me, but now i like that i have the option of surprising the lucky few! i'll probably mull it over tomorrow morning, drinking my morning smoothie, while i'm doing laundry, after i'm walking the dogs, and...i'll probably go to work.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Manifesto #5 - Hiatus

Dear Readers,

as of late, it's been a very busy and difficult time at work.  i was having some issues, and over the course of a week, they were being addressed by my superiors.  yesterday i was able to gain some sense of closure, but honestly only time will tell if the situation gets better; one day does not a year make, but it is at least a start.

i will not go into detail of what happened.  you might think that this would be perfect writing material, however, i find that it would be in poor taste for all parties involved.  as far as i know, only six people know of what's going on (including me) and i hope it stays that way.  although i know that working in a kitchen automatically means that everyone already knows what's going on, i hope people, out of respect for all parties involved, do not talk about it.  i already know that some of front of the house saw me in tears yesterday, and they gossip like wildfire.  only god knows what they've come up with.

so, i haven't written a whole lot on the blog, as my mind has been elsewhere, but hope to get back into it as means of de-stressing.  

on a lighter note, i've hit over 200 profile views, so i'm glad people are actually reading (when i write, that is).  i think the next few posts will be very introspective and when i'm feeling more jovial, i will be back to my (as my co-workers call me) wacky self.

so thanks for those of you who've kept checking in.  read some of the blogs i follow on the right side as they are great.  i'll be back up and running, hopefully very soon.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Philosophical Musings #2 - Nullum Gratuitum Prandium

today is All Saints Day and i decided to attend mass (it's been a LONG time) with my dear friend, PJ.  we went to the beautiful Our Lady of the Angels, and afterwards went to the cathedral store to search for saintly items, namely patron saints for, oh i don't know...cooks?  

it seems to be a running joke about how many different kinds of patron saints there are for a wide variety of occupations and ailments, such as bus drivers and alcoholism, computer users and venereal disease.  a full list can be seen here, and although i don't take this sort of thing seriously, it's kinda nice to think that there are these saints that represent important aspects of everyday life.  i had been doing some research prior, and found the patron saint of cooks to be St. Lawrence, however, upon visiting the cathedral store i found that there was indeed more than one patron saint for cooks.  i will list them as follows:

1.  St. Lawrence (also Patron Saint of archives, armouries, brewers, butchers, comedians, confectioners, deacons, fire, glaziers, laundry workers, librarians, lumbago, paupers, poor people, restaurateurs, Rome, school children, seminarians, Sri Lanka, stained glass workers, students, tanners, vintners, wine makers).  as the story goes, he was slowly burned alive on a gridiron, his death sentence by Emperor Valerian in 258 AD.  it is claimed that he told his executioners ,"Turn me over, for I am cooked on this side!"  he usually depicted holding a grid iron (gotta love that catholic sense of humor).

2. St. Martha (also Patron Saint of butlers, dietitians, domestic servants, housekeepers, servers, single laywomen and travelers).  She was sister to St. Lazarus and St. Mary of Bethany, and acted as a hostess to Christ and the apostles.  inventor of bouillabaisse.

3. St. Paschal Baylon (also Patron Saint of Eucharistic congress and organizations).  a Franciscan lay brother of the Alcantine reform, serving as a cook for his brethren.  inventor of zabaglione.

4.  St. Macarius the Younger (also Patron Saint of Pastry Chefs and Confectioners).  was first a merchant of fruits, candies and pastries in Alexandria, Egypt.  he left his successful business to become a monk, living a life of extreme poverty and asceticism in the desert.  for seven years he ate only raw vegetables and water, and on feast days ate crumbs of bread dipped in oil.  he later spent six months in marshes, exposing himself to mosquitoes and flies that left him permanently disfigured as an attempt to rid himself of earthly desires. 

5.  St. Radegund (Patron Saint of Female Cooks/Chefs).  a Merovingian princess and later deaconess and found of the monatery of St. Croix du Poitiers of the 6th century. known for the caring, clothing and feeding the sick and poor, namely women and lepers.  

while at the store, they had a wall display of small patron saint figurines to choose from.  i found myself wanting to get the saints that weren't food related, but instead were the cooler looking "action figures".  St. George was on horseback with a lance slaying a dragon, and St. Michael was brandishing a sword and had his foot stomping on Satan's face (his FACE for christ's sake!  you're going DOWN satan, and you're going to eat my feet on the way!).  the only food related patron saint in tow was St. Martha, and all she was doing was holding a cross.  i later read that while in france, she was supposed to have slain a dragon by sprinkling it with holy water, lassoing it and killing it in a river.  and this is while she invented bouillabaisse?  why couldn't the figurine be her holding a pot of bouillabaisse AND smiting a dragon?  that would have been, the BEST!

i decided to hold off on the figurines and instead purchased some refrigerator magnets of St. Martha and St. Paschal.  St. Lawrence is on the way by special request, and i plan to post this "Most Holy and Venerable Triptych of Gastronomy" in my locker at work, that way when it's time to shine, i can see my saints and have a moment of focus and meditation.  why am i doing this?  simply put, work is getting harder, the numbers are going up, the pickups are getting larger, the prep is disappearing faster, Chef is getting LOUDER, and i'm going to try ANYTHING that will keep up a sense of positivity, hope and concentration.  

i know they are just magnets, and i'm not praying to these saints to intercede.  i focus mainly that the message and sentiment behind them is real and a lesson that i can take heart.  i don't plan on subjecting myself to a volley of arrows (St. Sebastian), or be sentenced to death in the coliseum in defense of my virginity (St. Agnes), but i do plan on meditating on what these saints did, and how me cooking food, is of infinitely less importance.   i should be able to go for the gold and cook food and do my very best because honestly, it's just food and my life isn't on the line.

see, who ever said self deprecation was a bad thing? 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Cook's Life #4 - Oh My Michelin Stars and Garters!

so the 2009 Michelin Guide for Los Angeles came out yesterday. from their website they state the following:

What is a classic?

The Michelin Guide uses a system of symbols to identify the best hotels and restaurants within each comfort and price category. For restaurants, Michelin stars are based on five criteria:
  • The quality of the products
  • The mastery of flavor and cooking
  • The "personality" of the cuisine
  • The value for the money
  • The consistency between visits
Every restaurant listed in the Michelin Guide is recommended by our team of professional inspectors. The ones listed below have earned stars that reflect their exceptional culinary achievements, regardless of cuisine style. Stars, represent only what is on the plate. They do not take into consideration interior decoration, service quality or table settings.

One Star Restaurants

Asanebo - Ventura Boulevard
Bastide - Hollywood
CUT- Beverly Hills
Dining Room at the Langham - Pasadena
Gordon Ramsey at the London - Hollywood
Hatfield's - Hollywood
La Botte - Santa Monica
Mori Sushi - Westside
Ortolan - Hollywood
Osteria Mozza - Hollywood
Patina - Downtown
Sona - Hollywood
Sushi Zo - Los Angeles
Trattoria Tre Venezie - Pasadena
Valentino - Santa Monica
Water Grill - Downtown

Two Star Restaurants

Melisse - Santa Monica
Providence - Hollywood
Spago - Beverly Hills
Urasawa - Beverly Hills

i am happy to say that my restaurant has retained its one star rating. however, i am also vehemently impassioned to get that second star. in fact, i didn't really sleep last night because i was thinking, "Why didn't we get a second star? What does it take to get better? I WANT THAT SECOND STAR G*D !(*%#@&^#*@!&#@%*$@&#^@%$^^&$#*@!!!!!!!!!!!!

ugh. i honestly feel like some sort of kung fu character whose family was killed and now i've grown up dedicating my life to the martial arts and have found the people to exact revenge upon. and i want to taste that blood flowing from the corner of my mouth so i can tear off my shirt and deal my special killing move taught to me by my old blind master (who was also killed by the same people that killed my family), doing it all in slow motion with over dubbed sound effects and wind machine. and at the end of the movie, the credits roll, AND I GET THAT SECOND MICHELIN STAR!!!

as far as i know, they don't even tell you how to improve. i wish they would, because then it would show that they are truly concerned with the advancement of fine cuisine, but then again WE should know what fine cuisine is in the first place, and i will have no reprieve until things get better. I can't even enjoy my morning because i want to get to work right now and try to do something; oversee the stock making, work with the new cooks, tell certain cooks on the hot line to use less oil when they are frying fish because it's too oily, examine my own weaknesses, shave my head and train myself so i can hold hot coals with my bear hands and get those tiger and dragon brands on my forearms (shaolin-style, baby!).

i wonder if anyone else feels the way i do. i am a bit intense, especially when it comes to goals and rising to the occasion. i'll talk to the chefs today. i am ready and need to try and blow off this steam. i can do borderline genius/crazy for a year. it's going to be fun.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gastronomic Concepts #4 - A Field Guide to Cooks

back in 2003, i picked up a great book called The Hipster Handbook . it's a humorous, tongue-in-cheek reference guide to identifying common, everyday pop culture and sub-pop culture personas, namely hipsters. for example, hipsters are always wearing some combination of american apparel, aviator sunglasses, corduroy, cowboy boots, and some sort of ironic thrift store t-shirt (that is always skin tight). they also live off their parents as they don't have jobs and sit at sidewalk cafes all day smoking cigarettes.

i thought it would be a great idea to write a field guide to cooks. the following descriptions are EXAGGERATED stereotypes, but if you're a cook, you'll either find yourself or co-workers as a mixture or as dead-on depictions.

1. Culinary Student/Extern (aka Fresh Meat) - you'll know them by their smile, super-white school uniforms, new pens/thermometers stuffed in their coat pockets like 80's nerds with their packed pocket protectors. they have full sets of brand new shun knives (that they don't know how to sharpen) and you could publish their enthusiasm as it is a desperate re-hash of what they've learned in school and are trying to prove themselves. they are like lambs to the slaughter, deers caught in headlights; unknowing polly-annas ripe with inspiration and soft hands and fingers ready to be nicked, burned and cut off. they call themselves "chefs" yet despite their training, don't know how to cook, and quickly learn this after the first day at REAL school.

2. Veteranos (aka Grumpy Old Men with Knives) - these guys don't mess around. they aren't there for show, but to work and make money. a lot is riding on them for families back in the homeland (mexico, guatemala, southeast asia) and most have worked in their same jobs and restaurants for at least 15 years. their work is perfection, as they've been doing the same thing over and over to the point that doing it blindfolded wouldn't be a problem. they are full of machismo, are mad prep machines, gripe about the whipper-snappers that work at night and how they don't prep anything, and usually leave once the lunch rush is over.

3. Crack Pots - no station is safe from these cooks, as every service is complete meltdown with dirty towels littering the floors, product in half cater-wrapped nine pans spilled on cutting boards, while they literally swing pans and curse as they cook. they also have a habit of making a lot of noise by smashing their pans on the burners and grunting as a way to pump themselves up and help work off the coke (with red bull/rockstar chaser) they did in the bathroom or car before starting the shift. they run around like chickens with their heads cut off, and are sometimes capable of great work, but it is never consistent.

4. Food Monks - if Bruce Lee was a cook, he'd be a food monk. much like veteranos, they aren't in the kitchen to socialize, but to work. however, it's how they work, quietly, deftly, dynamic and efficient in their movements almost like a dance. and you don't need to tell them what to do. they are already gliding over "crouching tiger, hidden dragon" style to the station that's in the weeds to help out. they never complain, and usually take up bigger responsibilities as they can be counted on. you don't know when they've arrived or when they've left as the work is always done and the station is left immaculately clean. calm and serene, their work is always consistent.

5. Pastry Princessas - patisserie. even the name sounds prettier than hot line. and so are the pastry cooks. immaculate uniforms, perfect makeup, they even smell good from all the baking, vanilla and sugar they are covered in. mostly women, these goddesses grace us with their presence and make short work of the bumbling runners and busboys that try to engage in conversation. it's not that they're rude, they're pastry (cue angels singing in the background). they provide a stark contrast to the rest of the kitchen that is sweaty and oil-stained. they also provide some interesting gossip as they are constantly having girl talk.

6. Class Clowns - just like all class clowns, all they do is disrupt the environment with their concern for funny stories, making animal noises during prep time (i've heard monkeys, donkeys, whale song, you name it) and outright dancing and singing on the line. there's a time and place for such things and sometimes we all need a little breather, but for class clowns, it's ALL the time. less disruptive class clowns tell their whole life stories during service to everyone and they don't shut up. even though they may be disciplined, it never lasts long and the "shenaniganz" quickly ensue.

7. Kitchion Biotch - women who have been working in kitchens long enough that they have good cred and reputation. they also have an attitude that would make most mothers hide their sons at home to keep them safe. often intimidating, straightforward and crass, they have no problem cutting down Fresh Meat with a mere look. they are ball busters as they've had to work harder to prove themselves, yet they can also get away with more by using their feminine wiles, whether they be the "Don't make me come over there and beat you like yo' Mamma did" or the "wouldn't you like to see what i look like, out of uniform? NOW PEEL THOSE POTATOES!" approaches. never get into an argument with these women as, like all women, they are always right. these women would also do well as a dominatrix. the less civilized and sophisticated version resorts to screaming at any given moment to get whatever they need done and done fast. needless to say, all Chefs (regardless of gender) fall into this category.

8. Rock Stars/Poseurs - these cooks never wear hats, as they interfere with their hairstyles (usually mohawks or some elaborate dye job), always have the top buttons of their chef coats undone, have numerous tattoos (sometimes food or pirate related) wear sunglasses (for that added bit of mystique) and sport some sort of bling (one pierced ear, leather wrist cuffs with studs, pinky rings). it's not important that they know how to cook (but it's THE BEST when they do as then they are true rock stars and not poseurs); they're just so bloody gorgeous and charming that you'll want to either sleep with them or give them money to start their own restaurant. in fact, they do a lot more talking than actual cooking, kissing ass in the dining room while the rest of the kitchen is working. young sous chefs, especially when not in the presence of the exec chef (never steal the boss' thunder) fall into this category, as they have the bump in pay, title, and pussy notches to prove it.

9. Hacks/Shoemakers - for a complete description, see this previous post. it is important to note that hacks can fall into any of these categories (especially the culinary student/extern), making them the most insidious kind of cook. there are also two kinds of hacks: the ones that don't know what they're doing (aka Fresh Meat) and the ones that know what to do but cut corners anyway (Shoemakers). i find the latter far worse than the former. don't be mistaken. no matter how much veterano cred, crack pot intensity, food monk zen, pastry princessa perfection, class clown humor, kitchion biotch attitude or rockstar finesse, hacks are ALWAYS found out.

popular combinations are:

Fresh Meat + Hack
Veterano + Food Monk
Kitchion Biotch + Rock Star
Crack Pot + Class Clown

i happen to be a good combination of food monk/fresh meat (especially now with concentrating on learning the new station) + class clown (in moderation, although i do a mean roger rabbit) + hack (even though i have experience, i'm still learning) + kitchion biotch (when i've lost patience for the runner that comes and eats my mise, i let the whole kitchen know that i'm not happy with a nice loud "GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY STATION!"

i currently work with a rock star and kitchion biotch, both of whom can back it up, a new sous chef which makes him fresh meat (HAHAHAHA), two food monks that i used to see only on the weekends, a crack pot desperately trying to be a rock star, a food monk who can't stop talking on the line, a pure hack, and some good fresh meats that are learning really fast. i miss the veteranos, and morning food monk, but i still see them.

if i've left anything out, let me know and i'd be happy to add to the field guide.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guilty Pleasures #2 - Cadbury's Chocolate Recall

back in late September of this year, my co-worker Sereyrith returned from a month vacation in Australia.  i was happy to see his return, as he is a great cook and person to work with.  he came bearing gifts of  boomerangs and luscious Cadbury's chocolate dairy milk bars.  if you've never had real Cadbury's that is made in england, seek it out.   you can buy them online or if you are lucky enough to live near a shop that sells everything for the anglophile, such as the London Food Co. or Ye Olde Kings Head Shoppe (which is also connected to a pub of the same affiliation) you can find them and eat them immediately.  i had read a great article about British chocolates from The New York Times not too long before, and was excited to get a real Cadbury's from Australia.  mine had hazenuts and when i got home from work that night i ate about half the bar.  

the next morning i woke up and decided to have cadbury's breakfast while reading my internet blogs and email.  i decided to read more about cadbury's and did a search which lead me to this article  on how the cadbury's chocolates in the U.S. were safe from being recalled for possible melamine additives in the milk (which can cause renal failure) and that they were only being recalled from Asia and Australia.  I finished reading the article, took another bite of my rich and creamy cadbury's, then realized that, yes...THIS BAR WAS FROM AUSTRALIA!  i looked at the packaging and, yes...THIS BAR WAS FROM AUSTRALIA AND MADE IN HONG KONG!

i ate another piece.  

i thought about the article and how renal failure would possibly manifest itself if i was affected. kidney damage, huh?  irreversible?  would i need a colostomy bag in the future?

i ate another piece.  

i re-read the article and was pleased that the recall was only a precaution and that the chocolate was probably fine (yeah right, they only write things like that to prevent mass hysteria).

i ate a chunk.

i realized that i was either really stupid or had no fear of food as i've had food poisoning many times (hmmm, for one to have had food poisoning so many times, is that not an indication of stupidity?).

i wrapped up the chocolate and put it back in the pantry.  that was about two weeks ago.  five small little squares are left.  i haven't thrown it away and i don't want to.  i want to eat it all. i'm even thinking about eating the last five little squares after writing this post.  the possibility of it being lethal, deadly, poisonous, has given it an irresistible taboo status.  all i need is to eat fugu and have this chocolate as dessert.

but hey, it's been TWO WEEKS and i'm FINE!  that chocolate is damn tasty and it was a gift.  a very sweet gift. yum.  i want to eat it, but now i'm relishing in denying myself the gratification. leave it to the british to make a food that could incite Victorian Repression; i am a depraved chocolate maniac with a fetish for melamine poisoning, but it's so wrong to eat it, to taste it, but i want it and that makes me bad, very very bad so now i must go and whip myself and lace my corset too tight as punishment....

ahem.  got carried away there.  i better go to sleep now, but there's one more thing i have to do....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Manifesto #4 - Reference and Links, What I'm Eating Now and Pics


I am happy to have logged in a total of 25 (and now 26 counting this one) posts on the blog since starting in late September this year.  Just a few updates:

1.  If you've noticed any sort of references or definitions in the posts, i most likely will have found this info from wikipedia.  love it or hate it, it works for me.  any other writing not my own will be cited.

2.  As an example from the above, anything in light green will be a link to click on for more information.  It may seem redundant, but I was asked why the text was a different color by some less tech savvy readers, so just wanting to be clear.  

3.  I added a "What I'm Eating Now" section on the right side of the page as a kind of homage to the book Everything I Ate by Tucker Shaw.  I don't have the patience to photograph every meal I have, so most likely whatever is posted will be my breakfast or after work meals.  I find it to be a very intimate portrait, as I do believe that you are what you eat.  It will be interesting to see what I come up with.

4.  Most of the pictures I have to accompany my posts have been found on flickr or on the internet.  There have been some photos I wanted to use, but opted not to as they were copyrighted material.  I will never use any photograph that requires permission.

on a side note, i had my busiest night as lead cook so far and with the help of the crew, we had a successful night.  we have some great teamwork and it's getting to the point that everyone is able to jump onto every station to help where needed.  we also have an all female hot line, and i can't think of another restaurant that's the same.  there has already been talk of getting some cat ears to wear halloween night while working.  looks like we'll all be able to handle this coming busy season after all. hopefully the prep work won't be too bad coming in the afternoon, but we all know once it's busy, it's already gone.  c'est la vie!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Cook's Life #3 - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

there is an old adage "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." it originated as a nautical reference, and according to the International Maritime Dictionary by Kerchove, the devil is the seam in a wooden deck which bounds the waterway or a seam in the planking of a wooden ship on or below the waterline. if you imagine yourself standing at the top mast on a footrope under a yardarm, and are at the risk of falling, you'll most likely land on the deck within the devil's plank or in the water outside the devil's plank, and be killed.

this sense of being between a rock and a hard place has dogged my steps ever since i changed careers. a lot of people don't realize that once you become a cook, your life is completely different from most of your friends. unless you're a veterano, you will work at night and put in your dues. this means working from 2pm til closing and breaking down, which could mean 11:30 pm or if particularly busy past midnight. you'll also get paid around $8 or $9 an hour which means that you'll get a second job to make ends meet. if this surprises you, know that this is the standard. even working for a hotel may get you $12 an hour, but it doesn't get much better. most culinary students after graduating have a debt of at least $50K, and after working in a restaurant for a short time, change careers because they can't pay their loans. i did this for around seven months, working at two different kitchens a lunch and dinner shift, sometimes only getting one day or staggered half days off. i only ate the food provided by the restaurant (couldn't afford regular groceries and i was never home anyway) and had as many butter sandwiches to keep my energy going. i only saw Matt because we lived together, i never saw my friends, still barely made only enough money for gas and rent, and lost my mind.

thankfully, i have only the one job and with some careful lifestyle changes (getting rid of the car and walking to work, not much) i am...still barely able to make ends meet, but at least i am more rested and in a positive work environment. i had been working the lunch shift at my restaurant for a year, and once i quit the night job, took some time and enjoyed getting out of work at 3pm, and having weekends off (two full days in a row off? incredible), and seeing my sweetie. i made the conscious decision to start working double shifts, at a moment's notice, and 6 day weeks because after working two jobs, you start to feel kinda lazy, or at least i did. this eventually turned into a split work week where i had three nights and three days as the kitchen suffered a major cook shortage, mainly due to the cooks not being able to earn a living.

i've now been working solely nights for the past month (maybe longer) and am being trained as lead cook. this means i set the pace for the other cooks and need to be on top of everything as far as knowing what's going on, communicating with Chef, and i have the most intricate and highly technical dishes to deal with. as of this week, i've been lucky to have the lead station for four nights in a row, so i'm really starting to get it. it is a marked change working at night vs day, as the cooks are hungry with ambition, and menu is more extensive with a tasting menu and longer service. just last night we had a special tasting menu and it was amazing to see Chef in action.

this is where the devil and the deep blue sea come in again. i am lucky to have a support system with my wonderful boyfriend both financially and emotionally, but i do miss him terribly. the schedule change is being tolerated, and the recent mini-break has eased tensions, but it will get harder as the holidays come around since i will most likely be working. i'm lucky to even have a relationship because a serious cook's life forsakes everything to the point that you are selfless, and are working for an intangible, far off, and sometimes unrealistic goal. however, because i have started working nights, i have become that much better. cooking is a craft, and i believe a cook to be an artisan, one who is skilled in making food into art. it is the only form of expression that engages all of our senses, and no matter how breathtaking the sistine chapel is, you can't eat it so it doesn't interest me ;P.

the conflict is that if i could, i would work at night, but still be able to see my boyfriend and have a day schedule, and make hmmm, $20 an hour would be fine, i'm not greedy, and not get yelled at by Chef EVER because every service would be easy and nothing would go wrong, or better still would win the lottery (i'd be happy with $6 or 7 million) and that way i could still cook, but afford to eat at restaurants and travel and stage at other restaurants around the world and then buy some land up in portland or new zealand and run my own organic farm and attached restaurant with only 30 seats and make sheep's milk cheese.... i know, 'tis a fantasy. i've also been looking into becoming a culinary instructor, and while it would give me the financial freedom and schedule i desire, i would be away from all the amazing things i learn EVERYDAY at work. i also believe that if i'm going to teach, i need to be responsible to my future students and learn as much as i can, just i hope they would. i'm not ready to give that up just yet, but i also don't know realistically how much longer i can afford to NOT make ends meet.

so, the devil is every selfish desire for normalcy in my life like dinner with the family and weekends off, while the deep blue sea is every selfish desire for culinary greatness, and i don't mean getting my own show on the food network, but becoming the best possible cook i can, and in turn understanding Food so that i can write about it responsibly, and eventually teach new cooks that it's not just a job but a way of LIVING.

the devil whispers in my ear every afternoon when i walk three blocks to work, and i think of the time when i was able to put in a good day's work, come home, relax and read, cook dinner for Matt and i, perhaps meet up with friends that night or on the weekend. the deep blue sea whispers to me every night when Chef says to break down, and i realize i've done a good job, and i could keep going, and how i want to have such a noble sacrifice and purpose, and reach a true goal after many years of dedication and become a real chef, like the Chefs i work with who are so exceptional and so fully realized in their faculties that sometimes it makes me weep; they have become the EXTRA-ORDINARY, and chose to do what many others could not, and perhaps what i cannot because i refuse to give up those things that i need in life to be happy. thus, i am a knight of infinite resignation and not a knight of faith.

i have made compromises, but all this treading water wears on the body and soul. at least i've reached a sort of balance; as if the lesser of the two evils have cancelled each other out. i do have faith that ultimately things work out. no matter how horrible a service, things get fixed and are worked through, and no matter how terrible this busy season may be with at least 200 on the books every night, it will pass.

i can only do my best, and until i no longer feel that, i will keep on keeping on. today i woke up at 9 am, tidied up the loft, put in three loads of laundry, loaded the dishwasher, walked the dogs, written this post, and now will be off to start my day (night) at work. i'll get home around 11:30 pm, eat SOMETHING, then sleep (if i'm good) at 2 am. this is my life, every day, until it changes again, hopefully for the better.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Food Consciousness #2 - I'm Back!

i returned last night from a mini-break (four days) in San Francisco/Sonoma.  my boyfriend Matt and i and the two dogs embarked 11pm thursday night and arrived (ugh) about 10am friday morning in Sonoma.  yeah, it was a rough drive, and there were a lot of stops, especially for the dogs.  our first stop was D's Diner where i ate a delicious burger, and Matt had their famous breakfast burrito. consequently, that was not my first burger.  after watching the numerous in-n-outs that were flying past on the I-5, i demanded that we stop at the next and i had my fave #1 with onions and a dr. pepper.  no animal fries this time as it was 2 am and a road trip. afterwards, we finally made it to see Matt's brother, girlfriend and their new baby girl. after sleeping most of the day to recover, i awoke and we all had a delicious persian dinner of rice, braised chicken, ground spiced turkey, steak and yoghurt.  

the next day we woke early for some delicious scones (strawberry, ginger and white chocolate and plum, nectarine and honey) and tea at the Wildflour Bakery.  afterwards we headed to Doran Beach, where the dogs got to run in the waves, eat seaweed, and dig little holes to hide their heads in.  it had been cold up until this point when the sun started to burn off the clouds.  once the dogs were thoroughly salted, we headed for a quick burrito and then back home.  after sitting on the deck and getting some sun, we headed into town for lunch at East West Cafe where i dined on a delicious salmon benedict.

then we headed to San Francisco to meet up with another brother and his family.  they have two boys and one in particular went crazy for the dogs.  we all chatted and made a great dinner of burgers, grilled vegetables, and salad.  afterwards we walked to the nearby store and got some ice cream.  we opted to stay the night.  now here's where it turned bad.  the next morning, Matt wasn't feeling well, so much so that he was throwing up and stayed in bed the whole morning sweating and shaking.  the only strange thing was during dinner when he felt his lips tingle while eating the eggplant.  no one else felt strange.  he wanted me to have fun anyway, so i headed off to the castro street faire where i walked and walked and god that's a big street faire.

i came back and proceeded to read A Year In Provence by Mayle in its entirety while Matt recovered.  i love perusing people's bookshelves, and this happened to be on my, "i'm supposed to have read this already," list.  by this time it was afternoon and we walked to a nearby pet store for dog food.  once the dogs were fed, we walked back through the street faire and had crepes at the Squat & Gobble.  we people watched, ate, people admired the dogs, then we walked to Dubose Park and had the dogs run around.  at this point we made dinner plans with Matt's friend Eric, and we headed back.  

after a nice nap, we met up with Eric at Osha Thai in the Mission.  We dined on spring rolls, pumpkin curry, chili basil beef, and coconut rice.  we had one of those great catching up conversations, talked about where we lived now, how SF is changing, new projects we're working on, and just enjoyed the atmosphere, food and company most of all.  upon leaving we noticed the 826 Valencia store (of Dave Eggars fame) and Paxton Gate, a store which had a full size taxidermied African Lion on display in the window; we would be back the next day.  we said our goodbyes and went back.

we awoke to our last day in the bay area, and met upstairs with the family for a last breakfast.  the kids were off to school, parents off to work, and we decided to go to Tartine since those two stores wouldn't be open until noon, and we'd have to be on the road by then.  Tartine is probably the best bakery i've ever been in.   while Matt waited outside with the dogs, i stood in line and made my choices: shortbread, chocolate oatmeal cookie, coconut macaroons, pain au chocolat, croissant, soy chai latte all to go.  once we got into the car we started eating, and that croissant was so flaky and buttery, i will never have to eat one again until i go back.  the chocolate was the good kind of dense and bitter, and the shortbread melted away as i swallowed.  mmmmm.

the road trip back was quiet.  we stopped by Pea Soup Andersens for the traditional pit stop and a "pea" then made our way through the grapevine, and back to LA.  

it was a much needed trip; a return to normalcy and simplicity for me, and the realization that again i want something MORE.  i am quietly plotting to move to the bay area, SF in the next five years.  working here is too important to both of us to just pack up and leave at the moment, and so it will be time well spent career wise.  by then i hope to be teaching, and perhaps Matt will be running a satellite design house.  goals are good.  


p.s.  while we were in SF for those two days, we didn't have anything with us, as we left it up north.  it was only supposed to be a day trip, but with Matt getting sick and wanting to catch up with friends, well, we ended up wearing the same clothes, no dog food (which we later found in the car anyway) and no camera (iphone died) to take pics.  please note all the photos are from flickr, but are authentic to the subject.  

p.p.s. THANK YOU to Dan, Ziba and Sepideh and Mark, Emily, David and Benjamin for being great hosts!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mood Food #2 - End of Summer Pig Out on Fried Chicken!

after writing my post on crew meal, i was happy to find a few pounds of chicken legs in the walk in and decided to make fried chicken.  i don't know how many times i've made fried chicken crew meal, but i remember the first time was at the beginning of this summer.  the main reason was that we had gotten our first real week of heat.  i remember telling my co-worker, Steven, that i made fried chicken because it's hot and summer, and i want fried chicken!  who doesn't think of fried chicken when it comes to summer picnics? everyone lays out a blanket, music is playing, the kids are throwing a ball around, kites are flying, the ice cream truck has just pulled up, blue skies and hot, green grass, the ice is melting but the drinks are cold, and out comes the potato salad, biscuits and fried chicken.  

everyone loves to eat fried chicken.  when i was growing up, fried chicken came to me in the form of Kentucky Fried Chicken, with biscuit and mashed potatoes and gravy (including spork). later on it was the stuff of late-night college eating binges, where we'd pool our meager funds and buy a few buckets nearing closing time; i think it was something like 15 pieces for $5.99.  i even had friends who would sometimes eat nothing but the deep fried batter.  since then i have moved up to chicken and waffles and eventually making my own fried chicken recipe.  

eating my fried chicken the other night, i realized i didn't really have a summer.  i didn't get to go out and enjoy the sunshine as much as i'd liked, didn't get to sleep out on some lazy hammock after trying catch up on summer reading, and i didn't go out to one picnic or the beach (sigh). what can i say? working can do that to you especially when you work nights, get to sleep at 2 or 3am, then wake up at 11am and only have enough time to throw in a load of laundry before heading off to work again.  sure i had days off, but that time was spent always doing "other things".  i haven't had a summer vacation of my youth in a long time, and don't think i ever will again.

but at least, there's fried chicken; one of those foods strong enough to evoke a sense of nostalgia and take you back and away to somewhere, someplace else.  so, in honor of the last days of summer, i give you my recipe for fried chicken.  eat it outside while you can because before you know it, it will be November and TURKEY TIME!



5 lbs chicken legs and thighs (preferably organic)
gallon of buttermilk
1 bunch fresh mint 

take these ingredients and let soak overnight.  when you are ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 F and then get a tall pot (at least 5 qt.) and fill with some soybean or peanut oil (these oils have a high smoke point and can be reused) at least halfway.  you'll need a kitchen thermometer to gauge the oil until it reaches  325 F.  while the oil is heating, assemble the coating:

12 cups all purpose flour
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup smoked paprika
1/2 cup curry powder
1/4 cup ground black pepper

mix all these together in a large baking tray.  taste it.  you should be able to smell the spices and taste the salt.  remove chicken from buttermilk mixture and reserve the liquid.  take the chicken and place it the flour mixture to coat, then re-dip it into the reserved buttermilk.  after this, re-dip it into the flour mixture for a final coat and place it on a sheet tray with wire rack. do this until all the chicken has been double-floured.

at this point your oil should be ready (remember 325 F).  take the chicken in batches and deep fry until golden.  depending on the size of pot and how much oil you have, just remember that the chicken pieces should be deep frying, hence floating in the oil, completely submerged, not crowding each other and bubbling.  if this means you can only fry three pieces at a time then do so, otherwise you'll end up with a soggy coating that won't turn golden.  take your time with this step, otherwise all your hard work up until this point will be for nothing. also, you aren't cooking the chicken at this point, but sealing in the juices and creating the foundation for a crispy crust.  just make sure it's golden, then place it on some paper towels to drain the excess oil.

once all the chicken is deep fried, place it in an oiled baking dish, cover it with foil and put it into your oven for 30 minutes. if you are anal like me, you can place the thighs and legs in their respective baking dishes, as they do have different cooking times.  legs can take a little longer, especially if they are much larger than the thighs, and if the thighs have the back bone/ball joint attached, these can take longer also.  after this, check for doneness (poking it with a knife to see if the juices run clear is a good test) and take off the foil to brown to desired color.  if you fried it to the kind of golden color you like in the beginning, then there is no need for this step and the chicken is ready to eat.  all you need is a picnic basket and a group of hungry friends.  



Monday, September 29, 2008

Hack of All Trades #2 - Pasta Pergatory

Dear Umami Mama,

I was cooking pasta the other night and had a terrible time.  First when I put the pasta into the pan, it wouldn't fit, so I broke it in half and then when the water started boiling, the pasta was all clumped up and i couldn't stir it, so then I added extra virgin olive oil to try and break it up, but then it just became gummy.  What did I do wrong?


Confused in Camarillo

Dear Confused in Camarillo,

YOU STUPID HACK!  Unfortunately, it sounds like you did everything wrong.  Whenever you are cooking pasta, you need to have a big enough pot to accommodate the pasta and already BOILING salted water.  When you add food to boiling water, the temperature of the water is immediately lowered because the heat is transferred into the food.  If you add too much food and there is not enough water, the water will stop boiling.  This will also cause the pasta to taste starchy and clump up.  If you are cooking a standard package of pasta (16 oz) then you should use at least 5 quarts of boiling salted water.  When the water is boiling, put the pasta in the pot, and as it softens gently ease it down.  You'll also want to stir the pasta so that none of it clumps together.  You'll want to cook it al dente, and the best way to test this is to take it out and taste it.  It should have some bite, but not be underdone.  Once it's al dente, drain immediately, and add to your pasta sauce (that should be hot and ready to go in another pan that is big enough to also hold the pasta).  From here you can have the pasta and sauce combine, give a final seasoning, and finish off with some good extra virgin olive oil and cheese. Remember, when adding cheese to pasta, you should take it off the heat, otherwise the fat will separate and you'll end up with oily instead of creamy.  

Also, since you are using the correct amount of boiling water and pot, there should be no need to break the pasta in half.  You might as well just overcook the pasta so that when you are trying to twirl it on your fork, it breaks up into those little pasta pieces, and then you'll realize that you should have just cooked some rice and added pasta sauce.  Also, never add olive oil to your cooking water.  The very best pasta you can buy will have a rough texture.  This will ensure that when it is tossed in a sauce, that the sauce will cling to the pasta.  If you add olive oil, the sauce will not cling.  However, if you are making pasta that will be used at a later point, drain it and put it on a cookie sheet, then drizzle with some olive oil so that the pasta cools evenly and doesn't stick together.  

If none of this works for you, chef boyardee may be your best bet as hamburger helper may be too advanced for you.  May the Pasta Gods have mercy on your pasta-less soul.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Cook's Life #2 - Crew Meal

"What's for CREW MEAL today?"

this question has elicited complete joy AND ran shivers down my spine, as it could mean a period of zen cooking or hellacious hospital experiment in a pan. the last two kitchens i've worked in, i have been responsible for making what's called staff meal or crew meal. basically, it's a meal provided by the restaurant for the employees. sometimes it's for front of the house (wait staff, hosts, managers, bartenders), back of the house (cooks, chefs, dishwashers, janitors), or sometimes both.

where i work now, i've consistently cooked crew meal for the lunch crew (roughly 25 people everyday) as long as i've worked lunch shift, and now i cook crew meal for the dinner crew (front of the house, at least ten orders) two nights out of the week. the reason for such extreme reactions to crew meal is because i never really know what i'm going to make. sometimes, i've been able to plan a day ahead with my sous chef Ted, and we've made some killer meals, but most of the time, i cook what we have, and that usually means whatever needs to be used up because it's going bad, whatever fish or beef scraps we have, or at worst, eggs and bacon with rice. this also has to be done in addition to the work that goes along with the station, and well, it's tough to put up something nice when your station is in the shits. of course you try to do your best, but sometimes, it's just really, really bad.

at this point in my career, i've got crew meal down, but it wasn't always so. in the beginning, i had some major disasters, like spaghetti sauce that was more like wallpaper-tomato paste and horrific beef stroganoff that NO ONE wanted to eat. believe me, cooking for cooks holds a pressure all its own, because we get hungry AND we know what good food should taste like. i had to find my niche and thought back on my life and realized, i'd been cooking good, simple food for lots of people all my life. i started cooking family meals when i was nine. back in college while living with so many different people, i'd always cook a huge pot of something, and since then i've always loved cooking for roommates, housemates, friends.

so, i started cooking comfort food: fried chicken, meatloaf, shepherds pie, chicken fried steak and eggs with grits, chicken and dumplings, hamburgers with fries, garlic herb roasted chicken with potatoes and veg, fish and chips, Portuguese sausage and fish stew with grilled bread, chili with garnish of red onion, cilantro, and cheese, goulash, beef stew, steak and eggs with grilled tomatoes and bearnaise, grilled lamb sausages with tzaziki, cous cous and greek salad, and probably my most popular (next to the fried chicken, meatloaf, and hamburgers) chinese kung pao beef or mongolian beef with plenty of rice on the side.

now, if you're a cook reading this, you know that most kitchens have a heavily latino based workforce, and most veteranos work en el dia. i've felt it an honor to work alongside these men, most of them far away from home sending money back to their families, most working two or three jobs full time, but when they get in there they get it done. sure, there's some horseplay, and i've learned all the bad spanish words i can stand, but when it's time for business, these men take it. and it's because of these men (and my sous chef Ted) that i've learned how to cook mexican food: tacos, enchiladas, cochinita pibil (i once made this using some pork that i shouldn't have, and although i was reprimanded, Chef still went back for seconds AND told me great job!), fajitas, chile quiles, cocido, chile con carne, real guacamole, real salsa, and some chicken and potato stews that i learned from my co-workers (mostly through stunted english, my broken spanish, and lots of hand gestures) who in turn had learned the recipes from their mothers or grandmothers.

i've learned from these men, that's it's important to do a good job, whether you want to or not. most of these men chose a culinary profession because its a trade in high demand that would guarantee them skilled work for a paycheck many times over in their own country. you pit that intense drive for survival and responsibility for others (wives, children) against the pollyanna-naivete of the starched-white culinary student (most of whom haven't worked a day in their lives) and the results are laughable. it's the classic Professional vs. Enthusiast, which i will get into on a future "Philosophical Musings" post.

Being a cook means that you are making something special for someone to eat, and that is given a monetary value (for the customer) but, an ethical and spiritual value by the cook; we want to do a good job, but also know when we aren't, and although it's very hard and humbling work, we THRIVE from it. we cook for hours for COMPLETE STRANGERS, and we are tired, and we get hungry. so, when i approach crew meal, i think of my co-workers, and how i know them, have befriended them, and love them. it's important to me as a cook to make something good, but even more so to make it good for my kitchen family.

crew meal is that point in the day, even if it only lasts five minutes (most of the time it only lasts two) that we can have a moment to ourselves, and ironically, eat food. it's a sacred moment, when we can stop to sit, take a breath, and enjoy something warm. it's one of the only comforts we have, because other than that, we are moving constantly, always standing, always alert, always working, always doing SOMETHING for something or someone else, except for when it's crew meal time.

since i've moved to nights, i see the lunch crew when i get in, and they are always happy to see me and i them. they always ask me,"Comida?" and i always have to tell them, "No mas." some of them even point to their stomachs and make frowny faces. yeah, i miss feeding them, and they miss eating my food. now when i make crew meal, it's mostly been fish scraps, rice and salad, with the exception of a killer shepherds pie, meatloaf, and chili i was able to make with sous chef Ted's help (ahhh, the good old days).

so, if you've ever wondered if cooks get to eat at work, or had this idea that all we did was eat all day and get fat, it's really much, much more. this is how i've run with it, and i've tried to make it the best food experience possible.


p.s. props to Steven for pancakes, candied walnut french toast, and maple syrup butter...OH YEAH!

p.p.s. i miss you all: samantha (aka mariposa), felix (aka chupas), sal, javier (aka pitallas), chago, ray, abel (aka blueberry, chiquita), eutemio (aka tortuga), humberto (aka chapin), pancho, christopher, and all the cochos from front of the house!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gastronomic Concepts #3 - Dinerese and America's Lost Counter Culture

when i was a kid, i used to watch this show called Reading Rainbow with the host Levar Burton (of Roots and Star Trek: Next Gen fame).  there was an episode where he was in a diner, and the waitress was calling orders to the cook in this weird code.  she explained that it was Dinerese (DYEner-EZE), a kind of shorthand for food orders that came about in the U.S., mostly in diners, lunch counters, and casual eateries.  Levar wanted to learn dinerese, so tried his hand at interpreting what the waitress called back.  his interpretations however were literal, and many of the customers sent their food back.  after some explaining, he got the hang of it and the customers were happily fed.

i never forgot that episode, and in doing my research, i found this fantastic list on wikipedia under "Diner Lingo".  i find it fascinating how some of the entries make absolutely so sense, yet still managed to spread as common culinary knowledge among short order cooks and waitresses.  in the modern kitchen, some terms like "on the rail", "marry", "86", "pittsburgh" are still in use.  

so, if you're like me and love reference lists, dive in and enjoy!  i especially love the definition for "Eighty-Six" and "Zeppelins in a fog."  my dinerese order would sound something like this: "Burn one, take it through the garden with Jack Benny and pin a rose on it. Frog sticks and hemorrhage in the alley.  One on the city. Dusty miller, and put a hat on it!"


A blonde with sand: coffee with cream and sugar
A Murphy: a potato, so called because of their association with the Irish diet of potatoes, Murphy being a common Irish name
A spot with a twist: a cup of tea with lemon
A stack of Vermont: pancakes with maple syrup
An M.D.: a Dr Pepper
Adam & Eve on a raft: two poached eggs on toast
Adam's Ale: water
All hot: baked potato
Angel: sandwich man
Angels on horseback: oysters rolled in bacon on toast

B & B: bread and butter
B.L.T.: bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich
Baled hay: shredded wheat
Balloon juice/Belch water/Alka Seltzer: seltzer, soda water
Beef Stick: bone
Billiard: buttermilk
Birdseed: breakfast
Black and white: chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream
Bloodhounds in the Hay: hot dogs and sauerkraut
Bloody: very rare
Blowout patches: pancakes
Blue-plate special: a dish of meat, potato, and vegetable served on a plate (usually blue) sectioned in three parts. This can also refer to the daily special.
Boiled leaves: Tea
Bow-wow/Bun pup/Tube steak/Groundhog: a hot dog
Bowl of red: a bowl of chili con carne, so called for its deep red color.
Break it and shake it: add egg to a drink
Breath: onion
Bridge/Bridge party: four of anything (from bridge the card game)
Bronx vanilla/Halitosis/Italian Garlic: garlic
Bubble Dancer: dishwasher
Bucket of cold mud: a bowl of chocolate ice cream
Bullets/Whistleberries/Saturday night: Baked beans, so called because of the supposed flatulence they cause.
Burn one: put a hamburger on the grill
Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it: hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion
Burn the British: toasted English muffin

C.J. Boston: cream cheese and jelly
Cackle fruit/Cackleberries: eggs
Canned cow: evaporated milk
Check the ice: look at the pretty girl who just came in
Checkerboard: Waffle
Chewed with Fine Breath: hamburger with onions
China: rice pudding
Chopper: a table knife
Clean up the kitchen: hash
Coney Island chicken/Coney Island bloodhound/Coney Island: a hot dog, so called because hot dogs were popularly associated with the stands on Coney Island.
Cow feed: a salad
Cow paste/Skid Grease/Axle grease: butter
Cowboy Western: a western omelette or sandwich
Creep: Draft beer
Crowd: three of anything (possibly from the saying "Two's company, three's a crowd")
Customer will take a chance: hash

Deadeye: poached egg
Dough well done with cow to cover: bread and butter
Drag one through Georgia: cola with chocolate syrup, probably a reference to the fact that the headquarters of Coca-Cola is in Atlanta, Georgia, and dragging anything is likely to get it muddy, i.e., darker, which would be the same result as adding chocolate syrup. Carbonated drinks such as Coca-Cola were originally served by pouring concentrated syrup into a glass and adding soda water, so they could be made to whatever strength the customer preferred.
Draw one/A cup of mud: a cup of coffee
Draw one in the Dark/Flowing Mississippi: a black coffee
Dog and maggot: cracker and cheese
Dog biscuit: a cracker
Dough well done with cow to cover: buttered toast
Dusty Miller: chocolate pudding, sprinkled with powdered malt

Eighty-six: "Do not sell to that customer" or "The kitchen is out of the item ordered". "To remove an item from an order or from the menu". Article 86 of the New York State Liquor Code defines the circumstances in which a bar patron should be refused alcohol or '86ed'. The Soup Kitchen Theory: during the depression of the 1930s, soup kitchens would often make just enough soup for 85 people. If you were next in line after number 85, you were '86ed'. The Eight Feet By Six Feet Theory: A coffin is usually eight feet long and is buried six feet under. Once in your coffin you've been 'eight by sixed', which shortens to '86ed'. Chumley's Theory: Many years ago, Chumley's Restaurant, at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, had a custom of throwing rowdy customers out the back door. During Prohibition, Chumley's was a speakeasy owned by Leland Stanford Chumley. When the cops were on the way, someone would shout "86," and they would all exit through the back door.
Eve with a lid on: apple pie, referring to the biblical Eve's tempting of Adam with an apple. The "lid" is the pie crust
Eve with a moldy lid: apple pie with a slice of cheese

Fifty-five: a glass of root beer
First lady: spareribs, a pun on Eve's being made from Adam's spare rib.
Fish eyes or Cat's eyes: tapioca pudding
Flop two: two fried eggs, over easy
Flop two, over easy: fried egg flipped over (carefully!) and the yolk is still very runny. That means the other side is cooked for a few seconds
Flop two, over medium: turning over a fried egg and the yolk begins to solidify
Flop two, over hard: fried egg, flipped and cooked until the yolk is solid all the way through
Fly cake or Roach cake: raisin cake or huckleberry pie
Foreign Entanglements: plate of spaghetti
Frenchman's delight: pea soup
Frog sticks: french fries
Fry two/Let the sun shine: 2 fried eggs with unbroken yolks

GAC: Grilled American cheese sandwich. This was also called "jack" (from the pronunciation of "GAC")
Gallery: booth
Gravel train: sugar bowl
Graveyard stew: milk toast; buttered toast, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and dropped into a bowl of warm milk

Hail: ice
Heart Attack on Rack: biscuits and gravy
Hemorrhage: tomato ketchup
Hen Fruit: Eggs, typically boiled
High and dry: a plain sandwich without butter, mayonnaise, or lettuce
Hockey puck: a hamburger, well done
Hold the hail: no ice
Honeymoon salad: lettuce alone
Hot top: hot chocolate
Hounds on an Island: franks and beans
Houseboat/Dagwood Special: a banana split made with ice cream and sliced bananas
Hug one/Squeeze one: a glass of orange juice

Ice the rice: rice pudding with ice cream
In the alley: served as a side dish
In the weeds: a waitress/cook that can't keep up with the tables. Refers back to chefs' military roots, where being in the weeds would cause your army to be slaughtered.
Irish turkey: corned beef and cabbage

Jack Benny: cheese with bacon (named after the famed comedian)
Java/Joe: coffee

Keep off the grass: no lettuce

Ladybug: fountain man
Let it walk/Go for a walk/On wheels/Give it shoes: an order to go, a takeaway order
Life preservers/Sinkers: doughnuts
Lighthouse: bottle of ketchup
Looseners: prunes, so called because of their supposed laxative effect.
Love Apples: tomatoes
Lumber: A toothpick

Machine Oil: syrup
Magoo: custard pie
Maiden's delight: cherries, so called because "cherry" is a slang term for the maidenhead, hymen
Marry: bring items together for cleaning up, i.e. marry the salt and pepper.
Mayo: mayonnaise
Mike and Ike/The twins: salt and pepper shakers
Million on a platter: a plate of baked beans
Mississippi Mud/Yellow paint: mustard
Moo juice/Cow juice/Baby juice/Sweet Alice: milk
Mully/Bossy in a bowl: beef stew, so called because "Bossy" was a common name for a cow.
Mystery in the alley: a side order of hash

Nervous pudding: gelatin
No cow: without milk
Noah's boy: a slice of ham (Ham was Noah's second son)
Noah's boy on bread: a ham sandwich
Noah's boy with Murphy carrying a wreath: ham and potatoes with cabbage

On a Rail fast, as in "Fries, on a rail!"
On the hoof: any kind of meat, cooked rare
One from the Alps: a Swiss cheese sandwich
One on the City: a glass of water

Paint a bow-wow red: a hot dog with ketchup
Paint it red: put ketchup on an item
Pair of drawers: two cups of coffee
Pigs in a blanket: a ham (sometimes a sausage) sandwich
Pin a rose on it: add onion to an order
Pittsburgh: something burning, toasted or charred, so called because of the smokestacks once evident in Pittsburgh, a coal-producing and steel-mill city. In meat cookery, this refers to a piece of meat charred on the outside while still red within.
Pope Benedict: an eggs benedict, but fit for a pope
Put a hat on it: add ice cream
Put out the lights and cry: an order of liver and onions, "Lights" is a term sometimes used for the edible, mainly internal organs of an animal

Quail: Hungarian goulash

Rabbit food: lettuce
Radar Range: microwave oven, from the Amana Radarange, whose parent company, Raytheon, was the first to manufacture and market the microwave oven.
Radio: tuna salad sandwich on toast (a pun on "tuna down," which sounds like "turn it down," as one would the radio knob)
Radio Sandwich: tuna fish sandwich
Raft: toast
Run it through the Garden: any sandwich, usually a hamburger, with Lettuce, Tomato and Onion added

Sea dust: Salt
Shake one in the hay: strawberry milkshake
Shingle with a shimmy and a shake: buttered toast with jam or jelly, hence the reference to 'shake'.
Shit on a shingle/S.O.S.: minced dried beef with gravy on toast, mostly because it was a reviled standard fare in army messes
Shivering Hay: strawberry gelatin
Shoot from the south/Atlanta special: Coca-Cola, probably a reference to the fact that the headquarters of Coca-Cola is in Atlanta, Georgia.
Shot out of the blue bottle: Bromo-Seltzer
Slab of moo--let him chew it: rare rump steak
Sleigh Ride Special: vanilla pudding
Smear: margarine
Soup jockey: waitress
Splash of red noise: a bowl of tomato soup
Stack/Short stack: order of pancakes
Sun kiss/Oh jay (O.J.): orange juice
Sunny-side up: the eggs are fried without flipping them, so the yolk looks just like a sun on white background
Sweep the kitchen/Sweepings/Clean up the kitchen: a plate of hash

Throw it in the mud: add chocolate syrup
Twelve alive in a shell: a dozen raw oysters
Two cows, make them cry: Two hamburgers with onions
Vermont: maple syrup, because maple syrup comes primarily from the state of Vermont in the U.S.

Walk a cow through the garden: Hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion
Warts: Olives
Wax: American cheese
Well-dressed diner: codfish
Whiskey: rye bread, as in rye whiskey
Whiskey down: rye toast, the 'down' part probably comes from the action of pushing down the handle on the toaster
White Cow: vanilla milkshake
Windmill Cocktail/City juice/Dog soup: glass of water
Wreath: cabbage
Wreck ‘em: scrambled eggs

Yesterday, today, and forever: hash
Yum Yum/Sand: sugar

Zeppelin: sausage
Zeppelins in a fog: sausages and mashed potatoes