Monster

First, a recommendation. I used to use the WordPress editor to create my entries, but I’ve switched over to Brackets, an open source HTML editor put out by Adobe and community supported. It’s fantastic, because when you switch over to HTML on the WordPress web site, it does not color-code tags so you can see them easily and quickly. Ironically, it does in the app for iOS and Android, which is only useful when I’m writing on my tablet. If and when I get my own server space or upgrade to WordPress premium, I’ll also be able to create my own style sheets.

Right now, though, I’m happy with what I’ve got, because I don’t really care to get into back-end development. Focusing on writing entries is enough. That being said, Brackets has a TON of extensions, both for creating WordPress themes, beautifying code, word count, autosave, spellcheck, etc. Often, community organizers on GitHub can fix bugs faster than waiting for Adobe, which makes it just that much more awesome. It also has SFTP for publishing directly to a live server, which most HTML editors have, and I am too dumb to use successfully. I always find the most mistakes by going live. Much better to upload to production first…… Something which I’ve learned through many experiences involving extreme gut-wrenching pain.

Let’s start the show, now that business is out of the way.

There’s nothing better than overhearing a conversation about yourself when people are saying truly nice things about you. I was walking past my lead line cook, who was talking to our expo. He said that he was glad he’d taken me under his wing, because in a month, I’d be running this kitchen, and in two, I’d be ready to run my own. Sometimes, I feel that level of confidence. Most of the time, I don’t, but I’m glad to hear that he believes in me to that degree. He’s no slouch in the industry- he belongs to the American Culinary Foundation. Therefore, I feel like he knows what he’s talking about, even if I have trouble believing it. I was so touched I burst into tears. God, I am such a girl. 😛 My lead line cook told me there was no crying in the kitchen and I needed to “man up.” So I cried in the walk-in, something I should have thought of beforehand. At least I know now that dropping the beer cheese was not a career-limiting move.

I think that sometimes I become too tied to my past mistakes, when I wasn’t half the line cook that I am now. It’s hard to take in that much change at once. However, it is true that I am not the same cook now that I was when I started. My lead line cook has told me himself that he thinks I’m going to be a monster chef… whatever that means. He’s already said that when we introduce blackened fish tacos to the menu, he wants me to run point on it.

Being a Texan and having lived on the West Coast, I can do that easily. Tacos are one of the foundations of Mexican and Texan culinary influence, but to be perfectly honest, I prefer Californian Mexican food…. black beans, lime, and pico de gallo as opposed to lard, beans, and cheese. I prefer anything that tastes fresh and acidic…. there is always a time and place for junk food, though, but I go to Chuy’s for that. It’s nice I don’t have to take a flight back to Texas to do it- there’s one in Rockville, MD, and several in Northern Virginia (NoVA…. “doesn’t go” in Spanish…. hahahaha).

The only thing missing from my DC experience is that there used to be a Texan restaurant called Austin Grill, and while they might still be around, the last time I went, they didn’t have the only thing I wanted- Amy’s Mexican vanilla ice cream. In the early 2000’s, it was the only reason I went there. In fact, looking through their menu, I don’t see any desserts at all. The steak chili is pretty good, though…. just no way in hell am I trekking all the way to Springfield, VA for it. It’s not THAT good.

At my own restaurant, our taquitos and churros are an excellent substitute, especially if you order the churros with dulce de leche sauce. Also, the taquitos come with a very flavorful slaw, for which I’d be a prep cook for a day just to steal the recipe. #nolie Speaking of which, I think I have a prep shift tomorrow…………. Game. On.

I said something the other day that I need to walk back. My Klonopin is just as important as my other drugs in the kitchen, because I am just not as relaxed and focused without it. I’ve been out for over a week, and I can sense innately that I have a shorter fuse and less concentration because I can feel the anxiety building, and am more likely to pop off at people who I think are treating me unfairly. This has happened my whole life- I can’t imagine how much more calm I’d be had I been taking said drug since I was first diagnosed. My sense of justice is just over the top. In terms of INFJ, I put the J in it to an overwhelming degree. With an anti-anxiety drug, the bile rising in my throat as I am called out for things that are definitely not my fault stays put. I own every mistake that is entirely mine. I even own mistakes that are only partly mine. But when other people do not take responsibility for theirs and put their own mistakes on me, anger is unavoidable. Klonopin takes it down so many notches that sometimes I don’t even care. Let’s just move on, and we’ll talk about it later, when my hands no longer want to wring your neck and I don’t want to say things like, “get bent” or “bite me, doughboy.” Technically, I do say that last one all the time, but only in jest. My lead line cook and I have that relationship, flipping each other shit the entire shift. Working with him is the best part of my job, and lead me to say “I get to go to work today,” rather than “I have to.”

In other news, my dad and sister are planning on coming up for my birthday (9/10). I hadn’t made any plans with friends yet, so it works out perfectly. My dad said I should have planned a surprise party for myself. I told him that I am so damn busy it probably would have worked. I did make tentative plans with Dan for a ridiculous dessert, but it doesn’t have to be on my actual day. Hell, let’s celebrate all month. There is nothing I love more than a ridiculously rich dessert, which I often deserve after running my ass off in the kitchen (not that I had much to begin with…….). Every shift is hot yoga crossed with acrobatics, especially since I’m sauté. I stand in front of a range, a 500 degree oven, and an open-flame grill. By the time I’m done, I feel like I need a cool-down workout…. generally the best I get is the ability to use the bathroom.

I get paid tomorrow, and I told my dad I was excited to get a check for so much blood, sweat, and tears. He said that everyone puts blood, sweat, and tears into their paychecks. I told him that few people mean it as literally as I do. To be fair, though, I haven’t cut myself with a knife once, and only twice in the entire time I’ve been there on a mandoline. The only thing that really bleeds are my burns once they’ve scabbed over and then the scabs are ripped off in a different shift. I wear gloves because of it, both a safety issue and a liability. As I have said before, injuries are much worse when you burn yourself wearing gloves, because the latex fuses to your skin. Alternatively, I am protecting myself and others. It’s a double-edged sword. But even then, I hurt myself more while cleaning than I do while cooking. Grills and griddles clean so much faster when they’re still hot. I enjoy getting things done with less effort, but if I make a mistake, generally my hand or my arm get singed in a hurry.

This seems to be the only downside of cooking, however. Injuries are nothing compared to the high I feel after a five hour rush. In fact, I am so high on adrenaline that it keeps the burns from hurting until I “come down.”

Speaking of cutting myself with a knife, one of my coworkers (I don’t know who, and it’s good I don’t) bent Rachel’s tip to a degree that it can’t be sharpened to perfection anymore. Because I never got first blood, we weren’t bonded, so I went ahead and ordered a new one, which I will never leave for the other cooks ever again. They can use the one they broke. One of the prep cooks was making fun of me that I ordered a new knife because the other one was only a little bit bent. My lead line cook told her to be nice. That is some version of what I was thinking……….. She thought I was being an entitled spoiled brat. Maybe I am, but what cook wants to use a knife someone else fucking ruined? I took Rachel to the knife store in Union Station, and they told me it was too bent to fix, and when I’m chopping Japanese-style (front of the knife, as opposed to French, which uses the back), the bent point will not do. I don’t expect her to understand. I don’t expect anyone to understand. But I thought a professional cook would. My mistake.

I’m superstitious about telling anyone her name until I’ve had her for at least a year. Maybe by then we will be bonded, and we’ll have enough history together that I don’t feel like I could lose her at any moment. I know I have a better than average chance of it happening if I don’t let the other “professionals” touch her. I do let my lead line cook use her, though, because his knife skills are better than mine, and I know she’ll never clatter to the floor, which I think is the culprit of Rachel “getting bent” in the first place.

In terms of Rachel’s health and wellness, I think I am rightfully angry, instead of just having a short fuse. The new knife is also Chicago Cutlery, but it’s not Rachel’s identical twin. She has a bit of a spongy handle, important because it matters after five hours. She’s also light and perfectly balanced, another important factor, because with home cooking, I like the heft of a Wüsthof or similar, but when I’ve used them in the kitchen, after a while it feels like my shoulder is going to drop off. I didn’t think she would be an upgrade, just the same knife with a different handle, but she is. I know that for people who aren’t cooks, they’re probably confused with anthropomorphizing an inanimate object. Let’s put it this way- how much importance would you place on an extension of your hand? How much respect? Having a name and being bonded by blood are just part of kitchen folklore, something that has been done for ages and not likely to change anytime soon. The name of your knife is generally female, like a ship, but not always.

One of my readers charmed me when she said, “I bought a Rachel based on your rec. Will it make me a better cook?” I said, “God, I hope so- otherwise, it wouldn’t be a very good recommendation, now would it?” I told her to watch YouTube videos on knife skills to make her faster and less likely to cut herself. Nothing is more important than learning to cut away from your body and the finger position of “spider on a mirror.” Always better to knick your knuckle or front of your finger rather than your fingers lying flat and open to getting cut to the bone, because with a deadly sharp knife, deep cuts can happen before you feel them. But, a sharp knife is still better than a dull one, because it is less likely to slip and slide. Another important tip is putting a wet tea towel under your cutting board, so it won’t slip and slide, either. Also, it really hurts if you cut into one of your fingernails…. worse in the kitchen because you’re not allowed to have acrylic reinforcements. In those moments, you just swear uncontrollably, because “gosh darn it” won’t cover the half of it.

Although if you spend much time in a professional kitchen, you’ll start to swear both uncontrollably and more creatively than ever before. It’s just one of cooks’ charms, and most of the reason we hang out with each other, not fit for polite company. I’m going to have to start a swear jar when the twins get older. I’ll probably be able to retire in less than a month.

Especially as I become a “monster.”

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