Throwing it Together

My kitchen manager could not have been more supportive of me. When I walked in last evening, he said, “I know your work ethic. What happened?” I said, “I would have stayed until everything was put away, but I got kicked out of the kitchen because it was so late.” He said, “I knew it must have been something like that, because it never would have happened under your watch.” And then he hugged me. I’m paraphrasing because I don’t exactly remember the words, but that’s the gist. So, everything worked out despite my stomach being in knots and practically tearing up all the way to work. There was just one slight problem.

I couldn’t explain it in Spanish. So, the person who had to come in at 9:00 AM and see all my mistakes couldn’t possibly fathom why I’d “fucked everything up.” I was completely speechless because I was all up in my head trying to pick a phrase I actually knew that would help. I had nothin,’ and no one to translate for me. My kitchen manager speaks better Spanish than me, but not enough to express everything I wanted to say. So he made up for it by letting her off early. I hope it was enough.

I would have been home pretty early last night if the dishwasher hadn’t decided to dump water all over the floor. Though technically, it wasn’t my fault, I am still taking one for the team on this one. I emptied all the traps as I’d been shown, but what I didn’t know is that you had to use a shop vac to get out all the water, too. That part of the training had been left out, through no fault of anyone’s, just an oversight. So, the kitchen manager and I stayed a little later with dry (at first) mops and got up everything we could, then turned on big fans. By now, it’s dry… or here’s hoping, anyway. 😛

By the time I left the kitchen last night, my mood had lifted, because I got fired up listening to Eminem and got it handled, as if Olivia Pope (Scandal) worked in a brewpub. My shift drink was a Mexican-style cola, one of the few things I attribute as a gift from God directly. Beer is one thing. Sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and a heavy syrup to soda water ratio that brings one right back to the drug store (that reference ages me) is quite another. As I have said before, it is on my “chef’s game” last meal list.

This morning, because it was after Eid, I made real Irish imported steel-cut oatmeal for my roommate, Abdel, and me… along with homemade coffee. And by this, I do not mean that I brewed it myself. I mean that one of my friends buys green beans and roasts them herself. It is insane.

I asked Abdel about something I’d always wanted to know. During Ramadan, do children fast? He said that unofficially, fasting begins at seven, but officially, it begins after puberty…. but that most of the time, children compete to fast so they can be just like Mommy and Daddy.

It reminded me so much of both Christianity and Judaism. In the Catholic church, seven is “the age of reason,” when you are accountable to God for your sins and start confession. In Judaism, puberty is also the sign that you are an adult. Dear God, we have so much in common, all children of Abraham. I just wish more people could see it.

Don’t get me started on Israel and Palestine, and the unwavering USG support of Israel. It just makes my blood boil, especially with one word- settlements. Never mind that Israel has a fully-functioning army (possibly a nuclear weapon, definitely chemical assault capability) AND a world-famous intelligence agency, Mossad…. Palestine has homemade bombs and rocks. They can barely sit up to Israel, much less stand. I realize that atrocities have been committed on both sides. I am not immune to the news. But the whole thing is ridiculous. Not our circus, not our monkeys…. mostly because the United States is such a young country that we legitimately have no concept of tribal wars that have been going on for centuries, and yet, we have unilaterally decided that Israel can do no wrong. And yes, I realize that the state of Israel is young, but the concept of an Israeli is not, and neither is the concept of a Palestinian.

I told you not to get me started.

All I can say now is “thank God for Ireland,” because without them, I would not have had the good breakfast I need to be happy enough to let go of this and move on to something else.

Lindsay is coming to town tonight, and this is my Friday, so we’ll have two evenings together before she goes back to Houston. I got her an amazing birthday present- I hope it scores big. Lindsay’s birthday is on June 17th, which often lines up with Father’s Day… so she still gets him a present, even though she is the ultimate gift.

I got my dad Eric Ripert’s autobiography, 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line, and a multi-tool he’d forgotten he’d put on his Amazon Wish List. I was going to get him Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook for home cooks, Appetite, but unsurprisingly, it is out of stock…. or at least it was before Father’s Day. Thanks, Obama.

The Kindle version was available, but a Kindle cookbook seems somewhat useless. I mean, what is a cookbook without notes in the margins and stains that make some of the pages stick together? How ELSE would you make a ground beef trifle (that reference ages me)? It might have been okay, I guess. A few Christmases ago I got my dad a cutting board that has a slot for a tablet in case you’re cooking with a YouTube video. Still, though, not as good.

I am not a fan of cookbooks, because I won’t use them. First of all, I have no place to store them except my Kindle, and secondly, I trust my own palate and can throw together pretty much anything. The only time I ever need a recipe is when I’m baking, because cooking is an art and baking is a science; it’s a totally different skill set.

In cooking, though, I know innately what something needs to make it pop, and how to correct mistakes (acid balances salt, etc.). I remember fondly the days when Dana would make soup, taste it, then look at me and say, “fix this.” It is not that either of us is a better cook than the other, we just have different strengths. For her, it’s technique (unsurprisingly- Cordon Bleu trained). For me, it’s palate. One is not more important than the other.

For instance, I could beat the pants off Karen’s potato salad.

Oops, My Bad. Should I Leave a Note?

Last night was the absolute busiest I’ve ever been in a restaurant. I was weeded before I even walked in. I would have been in the kitchen until 2:30 AM if someone hadn’t stepped in and said, “it’s time to go home.” I was sad and almost crying when I left, because I’ve been that morning person who’s walked in and said, “what the hell happened here?” I was on dish pit, and would have stayed until everything was clean and put away, but there was just too much. I know I am going to have to beg for forgiveness, because the person that discovers everything I left undone will probably be livid. I just couldn’t work any faster with a two minute dish cycle. If it was legal to wash everything by hand, I could have had some help. But lest we get three more dish machines, it’s a one woman operation. Between prep dishes, an insane Saturday night, and a huge catered party which has a completely different set of dishes, I had more than I could say grace over. I even felt bad about taking a 10 minute break to stuff down food quickly, but I shouldn’t, because I worked for nine hours straight without even sitting down.

I just felt so much empathy for the morning person. I don’t know who was scheduled, but it doesn’t matter. I still feel like a sack of shit, even though my situation was unavoidable.

I can’t today. I just can’t.

 

Embrazos

We’ve changed kitchen managers, and the result is overwhelmingly positive. Now, we are all being cross-trained on every station, from sauté to dish pit. This is because if someone calls out (rare, which means they are really sick), anyone can cover for them. It will make all of our lives easier, because we can switch shifts with anyone on the team, rather than calling the one other person that knows what to do. [Editor’s Note: You rarely get a day off in the restaurant business. Most likely, you are allowed to recuperate and just work on a different day. It keeps people’s hours up, better than just not getting paid when you’re out if your vacation hasn’t kicked in yet.] I am enjoying being switched around frequently, because there are different sets of movements for each part in the ballet, so different muscles hurt in the morning, rather than injuring the same ones over and over (and over, and over, and over #sisyphus).

But, there is something even more important to me now. One of my coworkers walked in and hugged someone (I think it was her cousin), and I jokingly said, “donde esta mi embrazo?” (where’s MY hug?). She laughed and hugged me, too. Now, she hugs me when she comes in every single day. She doesn’t know it, but she’s my lifeline to contact comfort. Let me repeat this… I am now being hugged almost every single day. If you don’t realize how huge this is, you’ve probably never been single and touch-starved. We rarely have different days off, another plus. I would never tell her this, but it just means so much. First of all, I am being hugged. Second of all, I have a coworker that actually likes me enough to hug me. 😛

I’m also taking on a new project, being an editor for one of my friends who’s trying to get published, either though a publishing house or self-publishing as an e-book on Amazon. I’ve read the first couple pages, and I like it so far. I’m on the first pass, which is reading it for fun so that I understand what’s going on before I take out my absolutely ruthless red pen. If you’ve never been through an editing session with me, know that you have to have a thick skin. I will murder your darlings (phrasing, not characters- “killing your darlings” means taking out sentences you form in exactly the same way because you like it so much), but I try to do it with kindness, or at the very least, no bullshit. If I sugar coat, I’m not being a very good editor.

For my services, I am being paid partly in money, and partly in barter for things I really, really want. I don’t want to tell you what they are, because it might “out” her in some way. Just trust me that they are manna from heaven.

I have also had a lesbian attorney say that she read my opinion on the cake mess, and liked it. I was over the moon that she separated her feelings from her JD.

Cutting this short because I played “what’s that smell?” and realized it was me. Service, for me, starts at 5:00, and I need coffee and a shower before then. It’s difficult to make a priority on that one.

It’s enough to make me waste time as I am unable to make a decision. I’m way too tired.

Wait, that did it. Coffee it is.

Turned On

When I go a few days without writing, I honestly don’t even know where to start. So much has happened… more than I remember, actually. My job is physically difficult and leaves me spent, so I don’t have as much time to re-live my life as I used to. I don’t have the brain power for it.

As I have said before, that’s the point. Life is meant to be lived forwards, and taking time each day to overthink about what happened is nailing one hand to the past. I intentionally chose this job to get out of my head and back into my body. I feel every cut, bruise, and ache. I wake up completely ataxic, lacking basic coordination because my muscles and bones need time to start working together again, particularly without pain so I can hold myself up. My feet and hands have it the worst, which is why in the mornings, my movements are “wonkier” than usual. There is no cure for this, as I have a palsy in my brain that’s been there since I was born. But I can treat it to bring myself up to almost normal with naproxen sodium and arthritis-level acetaminophen (1300mg time release). I buy huge bottles off of Amazon that are Costco/Kirkland brand, which means I can get (facetiously) 80,000 pills for a dollar. My movements have always been a little off- movements being a lot off is caused by pain…. and not a little bit. You would think that this would make me think this is not the job for me.

But by the time service starts, I am out of pain and my muscle memory takes over, a kind of out of body experience in which I feel nothing physically until we get the all-clear that the kitchen is closed. Cooking and dish washing are also great jobs for people with ADHD, where that type of multi-tasking is celebrated. Being physically tired also slows my brain down enough that I can function without medication, because there’s only 26 channels on instead of 102, all blaring at once.

Although I will say that I have come to a crossroads, even though I don’t know any more than I did last week. University of Maryland did indeed call me back, and they want to schedule an interview. But, in terms of “the road not taken,” I am wondering if I am capable of walking both paths at once, cutting my hours down at the pub and working full time. The money is not the issue here, Dude. It’s that I’m having too much fun to quit, and this company has been more than amazing to me. There is a part of me that thinks I flat belong in a kitchen, and I make enough to support myself. But I will not and cannot ignore a job that, as part of its benefits package, comes with tuition waivers. It’s the type job I’ve been trying to get since I arrived on the DC scene, because I know it’s one of the only ways I’ll be able to pay for school without owing the government or a bank an absolute shit ton of money once I graduate. My fear is that working at a pub makes going to class easier, because I have all seven days free. However, I haven’t even interviewed yet, so I’ll cross that time bridge when and if I come to it.

The feeling of pride I have in myself is palpable and lights me up from the inside. External validation is nice, but absolutely not necessary, a change in my mental state that has made all the difference in the world. For someone with a litany of mental illnesses for which I take medication to correct (which it does), feeling proud of myself goes just as far as popping pills to even the chemical imbalances in my brain. For instance, every time I get paid, I remember just how much blood, sweat and tears went into every dollar.

However, I still haven’t gotten first blood from my knife to make it mine. All of my cuts have come from sharp metal corners on pans, or a mandoline that is of the devil. Every time I have to use or wash it, I’m just like, “not today, Satan.” I’ve also kept hurting myself on the line to a minimum. The worst injuries have come from prep, because my work station is right next to a convection oven that I always hope is turned off, but rarely ever is.

Perhaps I should just turn my energy inward, and hope that I stay turned on, rather than the oven.

It’s working out pretty well so far.

Parts Unknown

It was 0745 Friday when I got the news that Antony Bourdain killed himself. Even though Central Time is an hour earlier, I couldn’t think of anyone to call but my dad. We’ve both read all his books, we’ve both been fans of the TV shows, and I broke the news to him. He told me it was awfully early for a cook to be up. I said that I was asleep until the news dinged on my phone (I get alerts from Apple News aggregator). I went back to sleep as visions of old No Reservations and Parts Unknown episodes played in my head.

As it got closer to service, at first I didn’t want to go. I just wanted to stay in bed and mourn. But then I realized that there was no better homage to Chef than getting my ass into the kitchen, mourning with everyone else. The weird thing is that everything was normal. I’m not sure my coworkers had ever seen him, and I couldn’t have explained the concept of my grief in Spanish if I tried. “Triste y llorando” (sad and crying) were the actions, but not the reasons. They didn’t know how hard he fought for them. I am not sure whether my coworkers are illegal immigrants or not, and don’t care. What I do care is that whether their immigration is legal or not, Tony fought for them. In Kitchen Confidential, he said that there was nothing better than a Salvadoran line cook. He believed that illegal or not, immigration was key to the melting pot of culture, even if they were on the line at Les Halles, exclusively French food, because it wasn’t always about the line- it was about eating where they eat or having them cook authentic dishes from their homes.

All locations of Les Halles are closed now, but in New York, the building is still there. People are crowding the doors with flowers and memorials. The DC location of Les Halles closed in 2008, so I never made it. But Tony wouldn’t have been there, anyway. If he had, he would have introduced me to the real chefs- the Central and South American sous chefs (assistants to the executive chef) who really run the place. I know this because he did this on an episode of No Reservations, where he exposed the real manpower of the restaurant in New York.

Everyone knew something was up with me, because I was not the usual “Bob Esponja” I normally am. Thankfully, someone else closed for me, and I was home by 11:30. That gave me plenty of time to sleep off depression and anxiety, for which I feel no urge to kill myself in turn, it’s just that grief is its own situational depression, especially if it dogs you in other areas of your life and you just happen to hear something terrible.

I have an old, old picture of Argo and I couldn’t help but stare at it last night. The reason I did this is that she did something for me that is different than the traditional wisdom of “reach out,” although she did plenty of that, too. She reminded me that I had power in the situation, and I wasn’t using it. It’s so important for friends to remind you that you are loved, but what worked for me is reminding me that I was not powerless. I had agency. I had the ability to help myself. It was a strident, pull yourself up from your bootstraps, no crying in baseball kind of love. I can’t help but think it might have worked on Tony as well, because if there’s anything that Tony appreciated, it was no bullshit conversations.

Because often what happens is that when you are really down in the shit, you forget that you have the ability to dig yourself out of a hole, and someone reminded me that I was more powerful than my illness. That my illness was not my personality, and my personality was not my illness.

I have a feeling that the only reason it worked is that we were low-key fighting at the time, and the cortisol from it gave me an “I’ll show her” attitude. Cortisol gave me the short-lived strength I needed to get myself to a hospital, where I collapsed once I realized someone else was in charge now, and I could stop being strong. So, even if those words were designed to say “I’m tired of your crap,” that’s not what came across. What came across is “this is the only way I know how to help you, which is hopefully kick your ass into next week so you provide yourself with options instead of relying on others to do it for you.” I remember that the nurses were going to take my phone in two minutes, and in those two minutes, I took the time to send Argo a voicemail by attaching it to an e-mail, thanking her and telling her that I’d indeed checked myself into a hospital. I was so scared, and the voice mail reflected that. Because it’s stored on my Google Drive, I’ve listened to it since, my voice rushed and a different pitch because of fear that I wouldn’t get the voice mail done in time and even though I wanted help, asking for it was tantamount to a black mark on my employment history, especially in DC, where in terms of working with databases, you generally need Secret and Top Secret clearances- not because the work itself is hard, but because of the information you could possibly run across. I will not say hospitalization was a bad move, or short-sighted, just that it is unlikely that I’ll be able to get said clearance. My only move, should I get a job like that, is to disclose everything up front so that the government doesn’t find it on its own.

So, in short, I understand Tony’s demons. I understand what it’s like to go to that place, to feel like earth would be better off without you so that you are not a burden on your family and loved ones as they watch the roller coaster of your emotions, completely helpless in the process.

The thing about depression is that talk rarely works. Checking in on your friends is key, but unless you’re the type friend that is glued to them at the hip and you’ve been through a depressive scare with them before, they don’t want to be seen. I could be honest with Argo because she’d already seen how bad it gets. To everyone else, I was “fine.” If you’re not in the inner circle, it’s hard to fight your way in. It also helped that she was not in my inner circle physically, because the wall of anonymity across the miles allowed me to write the truth into the night, open and vulnerable in a way that I couldn’t be daily. Without ever seeing me in three dimensions, it allowed for the stranger on a train feeling that allowed me to communicate just as I was. Angry at the world, confused, needing her love, counsel, protection, and all the things mothers do. I am not extrapolating this into Argo acting as my mother in this situation, only that mothers love differently than everyone else. They have experience at carrying a cub through the mountains in their mouths, and no problem with tough love as it’s required.

If you are in the inner circle of someone who struggles with depression, don’t ask how you can help. It is too much energy for the person to try and figure it out on their own. Show up with trash bags and an offer to do the laundry. Get them out of their hole, because the likelihood is that they’ve stopped taking care of themselves when nothing matters, anyway.

If you are not in the inner circle, they won’t let you see that gigantic mess, anyway. Don’t say, “I’m here if you need me.” We don’t have the energy to return a phone call, and we don’t want to talk about it. As much as we’ll hate you for it, knock on the door or text and say, “I don’t care what you look like, I don’t care what your house looks like, I’m coming over in ten minutes. We’ll figure it out.” Don’t worry. We’ll be home. Some of us can make it to work, some of us can’t, but when all social commitments fall by the wayside, it isn’t that we don’t care. We don’t have enough energy to leave the house. Or interact, in any way, at all. Even if the text goes unanswered, there’s your indication that it’s even more important to ring the doorbell, and hope that they live with someone else who’s willing to come downstairs and open the door.

But this entry is not about turning Tony’s tragedy into my own story, it is about empathy and sympathy. I feel like I understand more than someone who’s never felt what depression and anxiety can do. It always knows the very best lies to use against you, like the planet still spinning for your family if you’re gone. It is truly my mother’s death that convinced me suicide was never, would never be the answer, because I got to see the planet turn upside down, never the same, as it never will be again for Eric Ripert.

If there’s anyone I feel truly sorry for in this garbage dump of a situation, it’s Tony’s best friend, Eric Ripert, who had the awful job of finding him hanging from the belt of a bathrobe. When people say their hearts go out to his loved ones, I wish they would say his name specifically.

We often try to make sense of the senseless. Maybe his addiction came back. Maybe he never pictured himself as an old person. Maybe he wanted to go out on top, rather than withering away. Maybe he’d just received some incredibly bad health news. But that’s just spitballing and the truth died with him. As far as the news has reported, there was no note, unusual for a suicide…. but my hope is that there is some explanation, some note, and the reason it hasn’t been reported is out of privacy, the press is allowing Eric, his girlfriend, and his daughter to read it first.

As a member of the service industry, even though my restaurant wasn’t ensconced in grief, save the pallor I put on the place, I imagine that there were thousands of others bogged down, serving covers as fast as they could not because they felt truly capable in their grief, but because it’s what Tony would have wanted.

As my friend Drew so eloquently put it:

Great service chef. You clocked out, now get your shift drink and head on home. We got you covered.

Where heaven is Parts Unknown, and you need No Reservations.

The Invisible Hand

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

-S. G. Tallentyre (Evelyn Beatrice Hall)

We are in a moral morass thanks to the SCOTUS ruling that a baker does indeed have the right not to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple due to religious beliefs. It would have been a totally different case had the baker just posted a sign that said, “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” and kept his mouth shut. But, he didn’t. He brought in the phrase through counsel that “decorating cakes is a form of art through which he can honor God and that it would displease God to create cakes for same-sex marriages.” Here’s where that gets tricky. It was masterful to bring in artistic expression…. probably the only reason that this became a SCOTUS case in the first place.

Let me be clear- these are the ramblings of my legal brain, after completing a course in Constitutional Law (in which I did very well) and becoming a paralegal in the state of Texas, which does not give me license to either claim understanding of Colorado law or dispense legal advice, but does prove that I understand rules of civil procedure. It has nothing to do with how I feel morally about being treated like a second class citizen. I am talking about jurisprudence, which often departs from morality.

The truth is that the ruling was sound. I’m sorry, it’s terrible, and it’s the truth. One paragraph in a news article regarding Kennedy’s opinion stands out to me, and apart from anything else, it is the question at issue on which the entire case rests:

Kennedy, the author of some of the court’s most important gay-rights rulings, began by explaining that the case involved a conflict between two important principles: on the one hand, the state’s power “to protect the rights and dignity of gay persons who are, or wish to be, married but who face discrimination when they seek goods or services”; and, on the other, the “First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.”

In that vein, I find for the baker as well. Again, artistic expression is key in this First Amendment ruling. It is also important to note that this case began before Kennedy’s landmark gay rights rulings occurred, so some of the ruling reflects being “grandfathered.” On the other hand, the state of Colorado did itself no favors:

The Court concluded that the [Colorado Civil Rights] Commission’s actions violated the State’s duty under the First Amendment not to use hostility toward religion or a religious viewpoint as a basis for laws or regulations. Under the facts of this case, the Court determined that Phillips’ religious justification for his refusal to serve Craig and Mullins was not afforded the neutral treatment mandated by the Free Exercise Clause.

This conversation is not over, but it does not begin and end with this SCOTUS ruling. It begins with the American population. An overwhelming majority of Americans support gay marriage, and, in fact, its sanctity. It is time for the hand of the market to reflect it. More powerful than any court decision is not giving money to businesses who discriminate against anyone, and to fight like hell for sexual orientation to become a state and federally protected class.

I understand both sides of the issue- wanting to correct a wrong, and also being skeptical of wanting to give a raging homophobe your money in the first place.

And if you are a liberally religious person, it is time to stand up and reclaim Jesus as your own. Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, so as theologian Jim Rigby proclaims, it cannot be essential to his teachings. I personally believe that because Jesus was all about widening the net of acceptance, he would be horrified at current Biblical literalism. As in all things, I could be wrong, but I doubt it. If we are to have true religious freedom in this country, the Religious Left needs to do more to make itself known- not that they are not fighting the good fight, but they do not have the clout, basically controlling an entire political party, of the Religious Right. It is not my goal for the Religious Left to control the Democratic Party, because I believe that separation of church and state should remain intact.

I do believe, however, in protesting all of the freedoms that the Religious Right says we should not enjoy, because they are trying to create a theocracy…. As in, you can have religious freedom as long as it’s the one we believe, too.

Never forget that we also have the right to fight like hell for freedom from religion, as well. Even as a liberal Christian, I am on board with this, because again, separation of church and state should remain intact. Religion can and should influence how we vote, but as a result of going into our closets to pray and meditate, not trying to subvert the entire political process.

We were warned a long time ago, and we didn’t listen:

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

-Barry Goldwater

It has become so prevalent that the word “Christian” is associated with bigotry and literalism that it sometimes makes me sick to my stomach to admit I am one, because I don’t want to be lumped in with the uncompromising Word of God™ that needs no translation after thousands of years, becoming stagnant and not the ever-living document it was meant to be. For instance, I think that we are constantly adding to the Gospel, that our words are no less important than the ones set forth for us by the writers of the Old and New Testaments. They were just regular people, like us, who felt divine inspiration…. and not only that, it was a regional council in 1546 which resulted in the Canon of Trent.

Furthermore, the King James edition was specifically made to reflect the views of the Church of England, the basis for the Protestant church today. So think about all of those regular people we left out…. all of whom had something to say and weren’t deemed worthy of inclusion.

We all need to keep writing the Gospel of our lives, whether or not it is deemed officially worthy of inclusion, because even if we are not included in “canon,” it is already well-documented that it doesn’t matter. Someone else long ago threw out regular people’s truths because it didn’t line up with their beliefs…. but that doesn’t render them invalid.

Because if we’re going to talk about religious freedom and the government, it has to reflect the changes in our own lives, as well. My favorite stories are the ones in which Biblical literalists step into the light of inclusion, leaving behind the comfort zone that is only “thisbig,” due to the threat of hellfire and damnation…. or simply reaching out to someone unlike themselves after un-thinking that it is unpleasing to God.

The reality is that reaching out to people unlike yourselves is the entire point of the Gospel. For that part, there is no translation needed.

We have to prove it with our money. Few things speak louder than fear of losing money or going completely bankrupt because of discrimination. We may have to drag bigotry out of society kicking and screaming, but it is what needs to happen. We cannot rely on the courts to do it for us. Some things have to start with realizing what is true for us, and acting on it.

Sometimes, the invisible hand of God working in our lives coincides with the invisible hand of the free market. It can either be life-stifling or life giving.

You get to choose.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Ramekins, Man….

I feel like I am the SpongeBob SquarePants of my restaurant…. always unfailingly cheerful in the midst of incredible busyness. This is because I get paid a lot for what I do, more than most people in my position, actually, so being happy is easy. I prep, work the line, wash the dishes, and keep smiling.Cleaning_Dishes It’s not glamorous in the slightest, but when you’re the member of a team, it’s so much fun. When I’m in the dish pit, I am the most important person in the restaurant. Just try making it through a shift if one of the cooks walks out. It’ll be fine. Now imagine that the dishwasher walks out. You’d be up shit creek without a paddle in five seconds flat. Even the chef could walk out and we’d still make it.

There’s only one thing that drives me up the wall, and I’ve been searching for YouTube videos and subreddits to try and figure it out. Ramekins…. those little silver cups that hold all the sauces.  They get stacked and dumped in the prewash, which becomes useless when there’s ketchup, cheese, and grainy mustard in them. I swear to God, ketchup will be the death of me. I can’t even look at it anymore. Right now, washing hundreds of ramekins is extremely time consuming, because even if I run them through the dishwasher, they flip around and stack, making the dishwasher cycle useless as well. Doesn’t matter if I separate them…. in one minute they’ll be stacked again. So, I separate them and clean them out before I run them through the dish machine, which gets me in the weeds faster than anything I have to do…. and if I save them until the end so that I can keep up with the rest of the dishes, I’m not leaving until it’s dark thirty.

The best method I’ve found so far is to separate them and put a cutting board on top so that they don’t flip around as much, but they still have to be clean because all of those sauces won’t come out in the wash. They’ll just be hot AF from 140 degree water and I still have to clean them out.

This was especially taxing last night, because our business died down severely and there was only one cook and me left when the bar flooded with people wanting to watch the Capitals game (which we won- go Caps). I had to step up to the line and leave the dishes because there was no way one cook could keep up. So then it’s closing time, when we should have been done with most everything had the night gone according to plan, and I didn’t get home until 0200. Despite that, I am still eager to be back at work tonight, because it’s Sunday, which means we close earlier, business will be steady yet not overwhelming, and it will be a much more relaxed atmosphere, even if I have to both wash dishes and prep my brains out.

Last night, we were so busy that I didn’t even know the Capitals had won until I got home.

I am sure that this entry is very boring for those who don’t work in a restaurant, but I feel that I need to illustrate just how hard a job it is for people who think it is unskilled and not worth a good salary. How much would you want an hour if you had to dig out other people’s dirty food and condiments for eight hours at a clip? I’m betting I couldn’t pay you enough.

Plus, there’s all the pans we use to cook that have food caked on that the dish machine won’t clean on its own, so how much would I have to pay you to get you to scrub caked, burnt cheese out of skillets until your hands are cracked and bleeding from steel wool?

How quickly could you memorize where everything goes when it needs to be put away?

spongebob-sqp1-620x500How quickly could you deep clean a kitchen so that no one is kept past their scheduled shifts by an hour or two?

How many of you would sign up for clothes that are beyond dirty and barely any time to get your laundry together before you have to be back at work? How many of you would sign up for a job that always leaves you soaked and smelling like old food? I’m wagering that of all my readers, not many. I realize that people coming to this country illegally is not necessarily the best policy, but immigrants are generally the ones willing to do those jobs in the first place. The “they’re stealing our jobs” trope is getting so tired, because the hospitality, farming, fishing, and crabbing industries are running out of people to employ, because the same people that say “they’re stealing our jobs” aren’t exactly lining up to get hired. Write it down.

Additionally, immigrants will work so cheaply that it’s what makes our groceries affordable. The cost of groceries will rise to support minimum wage and benefits, so enjoy your $14/lb tomatoes…. not that I’m opposed to them, necessarily, because all people should get a living wage and benefits. I’m just saying. Even if the cost of groceries rise, it’s still cheaper and better for you than eating in a restaurant.

The magic trick that I don’t see happening is people who want to be upwardly mobile and think they deserve high-powered jobs “lowering themselves” to become dishwashers and cooks. To wit:

Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

-John Steinbeck

I don’t see a lot of people with my attitude and optimism, because I absolutely know I’m doing important work. I am actively involved in an industry that makes other people happy, often at the expense of living my own life. For instance, I am not available to socialize during the hours when other people socialize, because I’m taking care of them. I make sure they have excellent food and clean dishes on which to eat. No one screams louder than people who don’t get both of those things….. more likely than not, people who are both opposed to immigration AND getting a job in the service industry.

It’s probably because they’d have to clean ramekins.