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.”

Spanked

From the moment I walked in today, I was in over my head. But it wasn’t just me. It was all of us. I arrived at 1500, which is generally the break between lunch and dinner. There’s a ramp up into chaos. Today, there wasn’t even a step. I hadn’t changed into my kitchen shoes before orders were being yelled at me. Thankfully, I heard them all, and got to work fast. In a kitchen, the conversation runs thusly:

Chef: That’s popcorn, pretzel, three mac and cheese all day, one with bacon.
Me: Heard, Chef
Chef: Thank you, sauté.

And then, while all that is firing, there are five more orders, and then five more, and then five more, and then five more, etc. We didn’t slow down until 2200, when I was cut, and then it was time to break down my station and clean up while the other cook transitions to the late night menu. As I walked out, there was a cover band in the beer garden playing The Backstreet Boys. I was going to skip the shift beer because I had eaten so much…. all the beers on our taps feel like drinking a loaf of bread at once… but the atmosphere was nice and I wanted to be a part of it. Generally, I strike up a conversation with someone. Tonight, I just played with my phone.

The only thing that truly went wrong was that I was asked to heat up some beer cheese for the pretzels, and when I was transferring it over to the line, I dropped it. I tried to save it, but someone had put the cold pan on the range so that the edge to pick it up was hot AF without telling me, so when I picked what I thought was a cold pan back up, it was a thousand degrees and I burned myself worse than I ever have before. My arm is missing at least three layers of skin, and I shrank back in horror… not because my arm hurt, but because beer cheese is expensive and time-consuming. It was a major fuck-up, and I own it. I could go on about how with better communication, I wouldn’t have burned myself, etc., but the buck ultimately stops with me. I took my eye off the range for ten seconds, and that’s all it took for the pan to superheat.

Other than that, though, I had a shift of which I can be proud. The prep cooks will have my ass in the morning, though. I don’t even want to think about it. Dirty looks that can’t be misconstrued even with a language barrier. They won’t care how busy we were. I guarantee it.

But that’s just how restaurants go. Prep cooks that never step up to the line have no concept of line time, and just how fast it moves, and how the pace trips everyone up at one time or another. The best of us have had their dumbass attacks, praying no one saw it. I was lucky enough that everyone and their dog was in the kitchen when the pan slipped out of my hand. I will never live it down. Five years from now, they’ll still remember that I dropped the beer cheese that one time in ’18. It’s just our nature. War stories are our jam…. and if you only make one mistake in a shift, consider yourself lucky.

Tomorrow is my dreaded dishwashing shift, then back on the line at 1600. I used to like being the dishwasher more than I do now, because I liked being left alone to my own devices. Now, it just feels isolating, like kitchen jail. The prep area and the line feel so far away, literally and metaphorically. However, when I feel down about it, I remember that anyone else in the restaurant could walk out except for me, and we’d be fine. I am the key to the whole operation. When Jesus said the last will be first, I’m pretty sure dishwashers are who he meant, because you can run a restaurant down a cook, but you can never run a restaurant without a dishwasher.

Write it down.

The thing that I do like about the dish pit is that when it’s the craziest on the line, I am off in my own little world. Not my circus, not my monkeys. Occasionally, I’ll get called up to the line if there’s more work than two cooks can reasonably do, but on a Sunday, that’s rare.

Cooks are notoriously suspicious people, so pretend I didn’t say that. I probably jinxed us for the whole day.

We’ll probably get spanked.

Talented

So far, I have four kitchen jobs under my belt. Though I’ve enjoyed every single one, something is different at this restaurant. I have a feeling it has come from age and experience, as well as taking a break from cooking and then jumping back in. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter where I worked, I’d be more dialed in to my body and my emotions than I have had the ability to be previously. To make a very long story short, my stomach used to be in knots all the time with “stuff” left over from being a kid, and now it’s not. So maybe that’s the biggest reason I’m at the top of my game now. I’m not constantly thinking of something else, allowing me to be more present…. a double entendre because it’s a gift to be able to show up for my own life.

The knot in my stomach was so severe that it’s been staggering to me how much brain power I’d been dedicating to it, and how big life is without it. Not necessarily to the point of being a totally different person, but not the same, either. More like carrying forward the pieces of me I liked, and saying goodbye to the ones I didn’t.

The biggest difference I notice now is reaction time. In the kitchen, it’s extraordinarily fast, because everyone already has my attention and they don’t have to work for it. I’m not constantly distracted. In my personal life, my reaction time is much slower, in terms of genuinely thinking deeply before I speak. I am no longer on the “think it, say it” plan. Hey, it worked really well right up until it (really, really, really) didn’t. But that was then and this is now.

I think the proof in the pudding is that my lead line cook says that I’m talented. I have thought I was talented at a lot of things, but I wouldn’t necessarily have put cooking on the list… and by that, I don’t mean flavor. I mean the absolute insanity that is a professional kitchen. I do have a laser focus that I didn’t have before, as well as better living through chemicals (Klonopin). Why is medication important? I have anxiety naturally without adding on cooking dinner for 2-300 people a night. It has physical side effects, such as shortness of breath and heart/brain race. While the medication doesn’t solve emotional issues, it does keep me from getting physically worked up, which is a lot of the battle with anxiety. I know I have trouble continuing to churn out food when I feel like I can’t breathe and I’m going to pass out…. wouldn’t you?

I have proven to myself time and again that it’s not the medication that’s making me a better cook. I don’t have to have it… as in, it’s not an emergency if I’m out or I’ve forgotten it that day (not true with my other drugs)…. that being said, I do feel that it’s very helpful on a Friday or Saturday when the sound of the ticket machine is interminable… like being put into a football game when the other team is already fifty points ahead and it’s only the first quarter…. or for the readers outside the US, like being put into a football game when the other team is nine goals ahead in minute 10.

Medication allows me to win by minute 90, because I am not intimidated.

I’m not intimidated by much anymore. Losing my mother is probably the worst thing that will ever happen to me, save losing anyone else in my family. Definitely the worst that has ever happened thus far. From that perspective, anything in the world that happens is probably better, so why be afraid? I lived through that grief, though I didn’t love it.

My friend Wendy coined that phrase for me years ago when she said, “Leslie, you just have to live it. You don’t have to love it.” I was in deep grief about something else, before I really knew what grief was. It was like hitting rock bottom and then finding out once I got there that it was false and there were still levels underneath.

The trick is using grief to propel you upward, which takes more time than you would think. Technically, if you’ve never lost someone close to you, but you think you know what it will be like and how long it will take you to recover, the reality will in all likelihood punch you in the face and you’ll lie on the ground dazed for twice as long as you thought you would…. wait, triple that… and then realize that you’ll never be the same person that you were, you’ll just have found a new normal.

Apparently, my new normal is being talented at cooking in a professional kitchen- something which I neither prepared for nor necessarily wanted. It just fell into my lap and I went with it. IT jobs weren’t forthcoming, and I knew I would have a blast, so why not? I expected to love it. I didn’t expect it to love me back… not to this degree, anyway.

Part of the love I have for cooking is knowing for sure that I facilitate happiness. There are very few get-togethers between friends that don’t involve food, and whether it’s friends gathered at my table or strangers getting together at my restaurant with their own loved ones, it makes no difference. The talent is the same.

 

Well, Damn.

I finally get a day off to relax with my friends, and I am too sick to move. I left a voice mail for Dan so that she’d know I wasn’t playing around. I wasn’t too depressed or anxious to leave the house, this was a real thing, complete with irritation in my voice. I haven’t lost it completely, but it’s going. I’m only awake because I’ve had two large iced coffees and am hoping to get to the doctor today, but I don’t even have the energy. Additionally, I’m not running a fever, which leads me to think it’s viral and there’s nothing the doctor could do about it, anyway. The only reason to go to the doctor would be to get cough medicine with codeine, and we’re not there yet. Regular cold medicine is doing just fine. I have to use narcotics sparingly, because Lamictal makes me nauseous and I don’t want to agitate that even more. Although once I’m low-key high on codeine, I might be nauseous, but I wouldn’t have the ability to care. 😉

What would be good is getting to the pharmacy and splurging on the good stuff, grape Delsym. It comes in orange, too, but if you choose orange over grape, I’m really not sure what you’re doing with your life.

It’s the same cough medicine that comes in things like Dayquil, just a larger dose. If nothing else, I’ll pick it up on the way to work, because coughing in the kitchen is “frowned upon in this establishment.” I do feel better today than I did yesterday, but that’s not saying much. I am still just out of it, despite not taking anything that would make it so. I’ve only taken some Aleve to reduce inflammation in my throat. To my knowledge, anti-inflammatories do not make one what my family would call “duh-headed.” Additionally, if I ever say in front of my family that I feel duh-headed, the reply is always “how would we know?” I suppose the shoe does fit someone whose head is constantly in the clouds. I know me. We’ve met.

I’m also “having the painters in,” which I only mention because it’s rough having to deal with two total pains in the ass at once. Being sick blows enough all by itself. I’m pretty sure that my lead line cook is patient zero, because colds are just “the gifts that keep on giving.” I am also especially susceptible to them, because my immune system has been sub-par my whole life. Years and years ago, I dated a teacher for a short while, and I got a new thing from her little snot factories every week. That was not, however, why we stopped dating. Totally unrelated. I still think about her once in a blue moon, though, because while we were not meant to be, we had an explosive connection and more humor than the law should’ve allowed. She was quite a bit older than me, so our humor was mostly directed at each other. To wit:

Her: I don’t think I had chocolate ice cream until I was older.
Me: Had it been invented yet?

I don’t remember what she said in reply, but I think it went something like “have fun with your Duplos, jackass.” If not, it should have. You shouldn’t throw shade if you can’t take it.

I love relationships that are a constant source of flipping each other shit. Someone was imitating me at work the other day, flipping me shit in Spanish, and when I said “I’m not deaf. I heard that.” in Spanish right back, you could have heard a pin drop, and then the entire room just broke up. I was not smart enough to know exactly what they were saying, but I did know it was aimed in my direction.

Imitation is the sincerest form of irritation.

But I was low-key high on the deliciousness of her quesadillas (family meal), so I didn’t care.

Earning a W

My Facebook Status tonight:

Let me tell you about the best part of my day. One of the waitstaff came into the kitchen to tell me that one of the customers said the food was incredible. It’s the first time someone has said that and I could prove it was all me, because I was working solo. 🙂

I was only supposed to work until 2200, but life had other plans. I ended up closing the place down, and I have to be at work again at 1000. I actually had a shift beer tonight, my way of quietly celebrating putting one in the W column. The W column is why I love my job so damn much. As I was telling a friend, being in the kitchen is where I feel the most alive. You can’t imagine how high I get on adrenaline (and, let’s not get stupid… caffeine).

It was especially humbling to get a compliment like that on a night where I really didn’t feel like working at all, much less staying two extra hours. Loving my job and needing time to rest are two separate things. I’m hoping to get that Sabbath on Monday, because I’ve made plans with Dan, Autumn, and Jaime. The only reason that I say “I’m hoping” is that when you take a job as a cook, you also take responsibility for being on a team, and when they’re a man down and they need you, it’s difficult to say, “I’m so sorry, but…” In fact, I know I haven’t ever said no at this job and I don’t think I’ve said no at any others, either. I just can’t remember back that far. Having Dana, my ex-wife, on my professional team made it where if I was sick and she wasn’t working, she’d handle it, and vice versa. She’s technically a better cook than me, so the restaurant got the better end of that deal, anyway. I mean technically literally- she’s Cordon Bleu certified, and I am, in a word, not. Our joke at the time was that she paid $20,000 for her education, and then gave it to me for free. The longer I live, the more I realize that this was not a joke at all. It’s God’s honest truth.

Where I shine, and don’t get to often, is palate. I’m not the chef, so I have no menu control. What I’m good at is looking around the pantry and the spice cabinet and making shit up.

Because I’m a writer, “making shit up” encompasses a lot of my life. Not that anything on this blog is fictional, except where explicitly stated. When I’m not writing on this blog, I have a wildly active imagination, which mostly inserts itself when I think I’ve done something stupid and I go off on these downward shame spirals that legitimately have nothing to do with reality. But when I’m really in the zone, I sometimes have a knack for character study. World building and plot escape me, which is why most of the fiction I’ve written is only a few pages. That’s about as much fiction as I can write before the writing gods say, impatiently, “don’t quit your day job.”

Or night job, as the case may be.

One of the things keeping me as sane as I get is one of our dishwashers. There’s a cook that only listens to Tejano music… and while I do like it, after six or eight hours, it becomes a bit grating. I prefer to skip around on genres. I thought I was being a racist for thinking it was getting on my nerves when said cook left and the dishwasher says to me that he HATES Tejano and all of the sudden, Til I Collapse by Eminem starts BLASTING on the stereo as we begin the cleanup process. The dishwasher makes me laugh, because he understands English less well than I understand Spanish, but he knows every word to both Til I Collapse and Careless Whisper by Wham!

Why I think this is hilarious is a mystery to me. I can sing in just about any language put in front of me, because I learn it phonetically. I’ve done everything from the Romance languages to German to Bulgarian folk singing to Hebrew to Suomi (Finnish). But when said coworker and I have spent days communicating through broken English, broken Spanish, and hand signals, tears of laughter come to my eyes, anyway.

What I have learned over time is that one-on-one, my Spanish is improving dramatically. The other person knows I need them to speak slowly and clearly. Listening to two people talking in Spanish to each other, I get lost quickly, because they tend to speak faster than my brain can process.

And on that note, I think this entry should come to a close, because my brain can’t process English anymore, either.

Maybe some Eminem or George Michael would help.

The Rock Star

Sometimes I can’t tell whether I’m a bad cook or a good one… and by that, I mean that I make delicious food, but my arms are covered up and down with burns and bruises. A lot of the burns look like cat scratches after a couple of days because most of them are from fryer baskets, and I know from past experience that I’ll be able to see the remnants for about five years. So are these badges of honor, the signs of my profession, or am I just incredibly clumsy? Wait. That’s not really a question. The answer is always going to be both.

The thing is, I don’t notice the brand new burns. Marks just mysteriously appear on my skin and yes, they do hurt once they’ve started scabbing over. But do I do anything about it? No, not really. If I think about it I’ll put on some Neosporin,™ but most of the time I just let them be and hope chicks dig scars, because I don’t have a choice. More than once I’ve been told I look like I belong to a biker gang, if bikers wore incredibly nerdy glasses and Dockers™ to work. My friend Scott gave me an invaluable tip- wear the black ones, because if you get bleach on them, you can fix it with a Sharpie.™ Words to live by, truly.

Last night was particularly difficult. My lead line cook was so sick that we closed the kitchen early, but before that, we were hit with about 50-75 tickets at once, and that may actually be an understatement. We were so submarined that I left the pub thinking I should find a new job, because I just wasn’t cut out for a restaurant this busy.

I walked in today and my lead line cook said, “you were a rock star last night. You busted ass.” My heart swelled inside my chest and all of the insecurity I felt on the ride home washed away. He said he even told the manager what a great job I did, and for a moment, I thought that cold medicine had affected his memory.

As soon as we were finished cooking, he left. One of the waitstaff was talking to us about how slammed we got, and my lead line cook said, “yeah… and Leslie shut this motherfucker down by herself!” Such pride and admiration in his voice was humbling as I doubled over laughing.

I then laughed quietly for another six hours.

It made up for the fact that today I’ve got whatever he’s got. I stopped at 7-Eleven on the way to work and got some cold medicine, because my Debra Winger voice is setting in.

I still haven’t heard anything from UMD, but I’m not worried. News will come when it comes.

I’m already a rock star.

The Inconsistent Vegan

First of all, I’m sorry for procrastinating on writing the next post on this blog. I know you’ve all been sitting on the edge of your seats waiting to hear what happened at The Big Show™ (that was a joke). My prediction about going into the interview calm and relaxed because I had nothing to lose came true. We all talked easily and laughed a lot. I wore black pants and a red and white striped shirt with a grey jacket (so DC), and the chairs in the conference room turned out to be gaming chairs, black with red piping. So I started the conversation by taking off my jacket and thanking them for buying chairs to match my outfit. The joke landed, and like that, we were off. I should know something one way or the other by next week, but even then, I will have another interview with the department head, which will be much more about HR kinds of things since I’ve already been given preliminary approval. And then the University of Maryland hiring process takes over, and that is state bureaucracy, so if I actually get an offer, it may be close to two months before I actually start. I’m not bothered by this- getting hired at University of Houston was the same way. It just comes with the territory of working for a state school.

The title of this entry comes from me committing to be vegan at home. I realized that with all the crap I eat (at work, dining out, etc.), at least some of my meals have to contain nutritional value. But the voice of Anthony Bourdain is always in my head. I remembered his treatise on the audacity of vegetarianism/veganism, and just how much I agree with it. Basically, he said that food is about hospitality, and when you reject someone’s food, you reject them. No matter what you’re offered, eat it. Choke it down if you must. It’s that important.

Maya Angelou once said (in an Oprah interview, I think), “when people show you who they are, believe them.” Nowhere is that more apparent than when someone offers to cook for you. If you sit down at their table, they are indeed showing you who they are. Food reflects both one’s self and family history.

I don’t have any food allergies, so when people ask me if I have any or if I have a preference as to what we eat, I used to say, “nope. Just the fact that you’re cooking for me is enough, because the last thing I want to do after hours of cooking for others is cook for myself.” Perhaps now I should say “make something that makes you happy.” I can think of several sub-par meals I’ve had over my lifetime (in restaurants, not at friends’ houses) that I remember as some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, just because of who was sitting at the table. I am guessing that the same is true for all of you.

Therefore, I just want to take care of my body when I’m alone. I don’t feel the need to make anyone else adapt for me, or preach on the evils of eating meat because I just don’t buy it. I have issues with buying meat where you don’t know your source, but other than that, I’m “game.” There are few people I respect more than Temple Grandin, and if you know her work, you’ll understand that to me, it’s not about giving up meat, but giving up the mistreatment of animals before we eat them. I believe in giving thanks for their lives, a nose-to-tail approach so that nothing is wasted, and eating lots of vegetables because humans weren’t meant to eat meat every day, a lot of what’s driving animal cruelty because the demand to do everything bigger and faster supports it.

Just being mindful is enough for me.

I will say, though, that I enjoy Quorn and Dr. Praeger’s meatless chicken a lot more than I enjoy poor quality nuggets and patties of the real thing. I have also discovered Dr. Praeger’s crabless cakes, and it was really hard not to eat the whole bag at once.

They’re probably vegetarian. I didn’t check. Baby steps.

But from now on, Pizza Night is one of those Daiya Supremes, because I can’t get enough of them. I was going to try and have it ready by now, because I’m working at 1800, but now I think I’ll bake it when I get home- note to all those who metaphysically show up at my house that dinner has been moved. I’m sorry if you don’t like vegan pizza, but if you get to show me who you are, then I get to do the same.

Choke it down if you must.