Hot.

Writing’s just as natural to me as getting up and cooking breakfast.

-Dolly Parton

I think getting the stage at the brewpub has given me a new lease on life. Whether I take the job or not, it is a huge ego boost. I feel something unfamiliar as of late. To quote Miss Hannigan from Annie, “do I hear….. happiness… in here?” Though I’ve had a few laughs, this mood lift has lasted, when normally, as soon as the laugh is over, I retreat back into my head.kcstr I went downtown and bought some chef pants and some white t-shirts that I can wear with pretty much anything, because I don’t know if there’s something special I have to wear once I get there. These clothes are pretty standard. If I get there and find out I can wear crazy pants, there are some mirepoix prints waiting for me at Fenton’s Uniforms. Yes, wearing pants (and maybe a coat, depending) will be hot AF in the kitchen… but you’d always rather be protected from all the food that inevitably splashes all over you than bare any skin. Also, touching the stove, griddle, or oven hurts less when there’s fabric in between you and them. Mario Batali always wears shorts, by which I am mystified. It would only take one pot of boiling soup spilling down my front before I decided that was a bad idea. I take that back. It’s a bad idea just thinking about it.

I also need to check out their knives, because if I don’t find one that fits my hand perfectly, I’m going to need my own. For the longest time, I preferred German, because they are heavy in my hand, and the heft feels good. Then, I tried using a heavy knife for eight hours at a clip and I wasn’t so impressed anymore. I’ve been to Sur la Table and tried just about every knife on the market, and I swear to God, I didn’t find anything as good as the one I got from Chicago Cutlery on Amazon for $15. I didn’t even have to sharpen it for a year.

And speaking of knives, I’m feeling one right through my chest, because Dana’s not here. I know that there’s not a chance in hell I won’t hear her voice in my ear all damn night. It’s been a minute since we’ve cooked together, but I’ve never had a better partner. Being so intimate with your kitchen partner is a plus, because you know each other so well you can have entire conversations with one look each, and every second counts. I just took a Klonopin.

My best wish for myself is that I find someone I can dance with tonight. Drew and I literally danced to Aqua in the kitchen (as Doctor Who fans, it took less than a second for “Dr. Jones” to become “Martha Jones”), but what I mean is that the entire night is a series of movements, not unlike ballet. What’s running through my head is that I hope I remember the most important thing…. communication with the others.

  • Behind you (with a knife)
  • Coming down the line hot
  • Coming around the corner (or just “corner”)
  • Heard, Chef
  • Answering “what do I need all day?”
    • That means looking at every ticket and counting items across them for the uninitiated….
  • Work clean

The most important, therefore listed first, is “behind you with a knife.” The way you carry it is blade down, and if someone bumps into you, you are way more likely to cut yourself than them. The reason that this is more of a ballet than at other restaurants is that things are not divided up by station. Everyone picks up everything, from sauté to pantry to fry station.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have my professional tools back. There’s nothing like having the right ones, especially a large griddle and scrapers. My favorite chore is cleaning the griddle at the end of the night. I can make it shine like the top of the Chrysler building! I am not kidding myself. Even if it is just a stage, if we get slammed, no one is getting cut, and it’s Thursday. It’s how I know that the kitchen manager wants to literally throw me into the fire. Easing me in would be a stage on a Monday.

Please send good thoughts, energy, prayers if you are a God person, black magic prayers if you are not. I need to be at the top of my game, because when I’m on, I’m ON. I want to walk into the kitchen like I own it, because I know I’m capable. But there’s a chance that everything will be overwhelming and go to shit within an hour. A small chance, but that doesn’t mean I won’t overthink about it.

I think I’m going to meditate and stretch now. It’s been a long time since I’ve put this much pressure on my knees, and I need to concentrate on everything within my control going right, knowing that not everything is. Now that the Klonopin has kicked in, I no longer feel the knife in my chest. Dana is my guardian angel, and I know I can call on her when I need her. She’ll sit on my shoulder until closing time if I ask.

Just like in Eat. Pray. Love., I’m creating a contract to do well and having people sign it. Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain signed it. Chef Dana signed it. Julia Child signed it. James Beard signed it. Pati Jinich signed it. Vivian Howard signed it. Andy Ricker signed it. Auguste Escoffier signed it. The Two Fat Ladies signed it. Gabriel Rucker and Naomi Pomeroy  signed it. Michael Cordúa signed it. José Andrés signed it. Now, not only do I have one angel on my shoulder, I have a lot of them.

All of the sudden, I am at peace. I got this.

Depending on what time I get home, let’s get together and post-mortem. I am sure I will have a ton to say, depending on whether all the energy in my body has leaked out of my ear. Alternatively, I may be a live wire, adrenaline coursing through my body. It’s anyone’s guess.

Stay tuned.

On Pets

There are people working on the roof this morning. It’s excruciating, all the pounding, because it seems to pulse with my sinus headache. At least they are marching in step. I’ve already taken my Zyrtec and Sudafed PE this morning, and it’s still not helping, so now that I’m on my third cup of coffee in a mug that holds four cups, I might consider a Benadryl kicker. I find that treating the allergy is better for me than treating the congestion…. treating the root of the problem rather than the symptom. I also need to take a shower and clean my room…. the former because the water will wash away whatever’s making me bloom, and the latter being that I am most allergic to dust. I had one of those tests where they put 25 allergens on your skin to see how you react (smaller than most- I think some tests are up to 75 different ones). Dust overtook six other samples. The best thing was learning once and for all that I am not allergic to dogs or cats… I just thought I was…. probably because dog and cat hair on the floor attracts dust bunnies.

I do not have any pets, but the family I live with has a number of dogs. I think “we” have four of our own, and a rotating cast of visitors. In this house, we are not cat people, and I am somewhat grateful. Though I love cats, I do not love the smell or the mess of a litter box. When I lived alone and had Asher, I bought disposable litter pans by the dozen and just threw them out every other day or so, because scooping a permanent one made me so sick to my stomach. So far, the only pet I have had complete and total success with is fish. I can keep a goldfish alive for years, and it makes me happy to pay five cents for a goldfish and watch it grow to mini-koi. In order to do this, the setup is expensive, but once setup is done, you can make an environment that sustains itself.

Oh, now I am on my soapbox, because I’ve come across something about which I’m truly knowledgeable.

The biggest mistake that people make with goldfish is that they don’t change the water enough. Goldfish are nasty. Gorgeous, but nasty. Their ammonia levels get really high, really quick, which is why it is inadvisable to keep them in a bowl…. unless you want to change the water almost every day. If you are going to keep goldfish, splurge on the most expensive filter for your aquarium that you can afford. If you just buy a ten-gallon kit, the filter it comes with will not turn the water over fast enough if you have more than one goldfish in the tank…. and by “turn it over,” I mean the amount of time it takes for the entire ten gallons to be refreshed by activated charcoal. I generally buy a 20-gallon filter for a 10-gallon tank if there are goldfish involved. You still need to change about a third to a half of the water every four weeks, roughly, but you’ll thank yourself if you buy a Python. Before you buy one, though, make sure you know how far your aquarium is from a water source so you get the right length. There are adapters for every water source- kitchen sink, bathroom sink, outdoor hose, etc. I also take the fish out when I’m cleaning the aquarium so that the fish aren’t barraged by chlorinated water. Although, since the chemical that takes out the chlorine works instantly, it’s not that big a problem if you don’t. It’s just my preference.

The best part about buying “feeder fish” is that you can’t tell whether the goldfish is exotic when it’s that small. So, I’ve paid five cents for black moors, pearlscales, etc. You just have to keep them alive long enough to find out. 🙂

The only time I’ve ever encountered true problems is when a tank gets ich. I have not once had any luck with treating it. I just do everything I can to prevent it. The treatment is expensive and might as well say “does not work” right on the label. Believe me when I tell you this is true; I’ve kept goldfish most of my life and am not inexperienced in the slightest. It spreads so quickly that even isolating the one fish that has it doesn’t make any difference. By the time you see the white spots, it’s game over for the whole tank…. which is why I buy five cent fish. If your tank gets ich, and you’ve had the fish long enough that losing the tank will be emotionally damaging (and I do mean it…. so much work goes into keeping these fish alive that it’s hard to watch them die after two years), try the treatment and see if your fish respond to it… but I’m betting dollars to donuts that they won’t.

If your entire tank dies, the only solution is to go back to the beginning. Start with an empty tank, even taking out the gravel and running water through it (I use a colander). Make sure the plastic plants are clean as well. Scrub the hell out of the walls and bottom of the tank with one of those yellow sponges that has the green layer on top. Never, ever, ever use soap. Even if you think you’ve gotten it all out, the molecules you can’t see will still kill the fish. Once you’re sure the tank has gone back to zero, replace the gravel and plants and plug everything back in. Then, let the tank run for at least two weeks before you add more fish. Some experts say that you only need to wait 24 hours to let the temperature stabilize, but I think this is unwise for goldfish. It takes time for the healthy bacteria to grow. Once you’ve had six or seven weeks with fish in the tank, a bottom feeder is also helpful, like a cory catfish. You want to wait until there’s enough for them to eat.

Also, aquarium size is directly proportional to how long goldfish will live. The smallest rule is one inch of fish (excluding their tails) per gallon of water. Also, goldfish will grow to the size of the tank they’re in. My rule is generally three goldfish in a 20 gallon tank, because I want all of them to be yuuuuge. 🙂

Lastly, don’t put a goldfish in a desktop aquarium. Just don’t. If you only have a one or two gallon tank, one betta is more than sufficient. I named my betta “Tester.” It also helps if you play Aqua for them. Bad puns, I’ll see myself out……