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?