I Would Like to Speak to Your Manager

I got a new haircut, and it is very versatile. I can wear it parted down the middle or to either side, but when I put wax in it and really scrunch it up, I cringe. Swept to the side, it looks like the lesbian edition of “I’d like to speak to your manager.” If you’ve ever worked in retail, that can instantly be translated to “haircut.” As in, “there’s a ‘haircut’ on aisle five.” I just hope that I’m never typecast, because in restaurants and stores, I really try to be the nicest possible version of myself…. for two reasons, actually. The first is that I’ve “been there, done that.” The second is that I rarely have anywhere to be, and am never in a hurry. So my take on it is to just let the chips fall where they may. I’m not going to change anyone, I just stay out of the way.

The worst time I’ve ever “gotten it” in retail is that my first job was as a receptionist at SuperCuts. A 40-year-old-ish woman came after me over a bad haircut, not even stopping to realize that I only collect money and sweep hair. I didn’t cut it, and wouldn’t know the first thing about how. But that didn’t stop her from ripping me a “three bedroom, two bathroom double-wide asshole” (Bernie), anyway. The way I’ve been treated in the past deftly informs the way I treat others, as do the ways I’ve treated others that, in a few words, did not work.

I would rather be a quiet, sweet nerd who doesn’t ruffle feathers and go on about my day. There are exceptions, of course, but I’ve found as I get older that people don’t change. They just don’t. Better to cut and run than wait any longer than necessary.

Even I don’t change. My illness does. When I am anxious, or depressed, or hypomanic, it is not an indication of my true personality. It is an indication that something is wrong chemically…. when my brain chemicals are right, I have no problem with my emotions, whether up or down. Making sure my brain chemicals achieve homeostasis is a religion of sorts, because I know what it feels like to live life out of balance. The remembrance of it is “grievous unto me,” a daily reminder to do better, be better….. although I’m clearly not certain what “better” means as of yet.

Right now I am content to be in the middle of a great book, and editing another. I can’t tell you anything about either, because the former is a future birthday present for a friend who reads this blog, and the latter is by an author not willing to let her work be read publicly until it’s ready…. who also reads this blog. I can’t cheat and let you in on my Top Secret work. It’s enough to let go of the fact that my friend now knows she’s getting a book for her birthday.

You’re welcome.

I picked it out just for you- it’s by Heather Armstrong. πŸ˜›

During the last entry, I was talking about reading on the train to go to the airport to get TSA pre-check. I am now approved and have a Known Traveler Number, but it was actually reading that made me on time for the appointment. I generally take the Red Line to Ft. Totten and change to Yellow to go out to Virginia, but I was reading and missed my stop. I thought, “ah, well. I’ll just stay on til Chinatown.” At that moment, I looked up to see a video playing about how all Yellow Line trains were out that day. If I hadn’t missed my stop due to reading, I wouldn’t have known I needed to go to Metro Center instead to catch the Blue Line.

It doesn’t really inconvenience me much that the Yellow Line is undergoing improvements, except for EVERY FRIEND I HAVE IN THIS CITY save two lives within a mile of, you guessed it, the Yellow Line. Always helps to be further from where I need to go in 30F weather.

Actually, I take it back. Right now it is a warm and balmy 40 degrees plus rain…. looks kind of like Portland, Oregon 280 days of the year. Maybe that’s why I feel so at home right now.

Another feeling of home is coming toward me- my sister is flying up soon. She said “the first week in December,” so I’m assuming she’s on a plane right now. Of course. I’m probably wrong. She usually doesn’t text until she’s on the ground, so sometime within the next few days I’ll be able to “spend Christmas” with her. Depending our schedules, we might be able to see each other more than once. We shall see. Meshing a cook and a lobbyist’s schedules together hasn’t proved challenging so far- she’s generally here during the week, and my days off are never Saturday and Sunday. We also generally get together for dinner, which is great because especially if I’ve worked the night before, I’m still a zombie at lunch.

Speaking of lunch, I think it’s time to go make it. I work at 1800, so I have some time to contemplate what I’m going to make. I think it’s going to be a sandwich with almond milk jalapeno “cream cheese” and apricot preserves. Or it might just be a large bowl of chocolate and peanut butter cereal with chocolate “milk.”

Or both.

Lanagan

My chef asked me if he could call me “Lanagan” a few weeks ago, and I smiled to myself. Most of the friends who have called me that aren’t in my daily life, and I didn’t know how much I missed it. So, of course, every time I walk into the kitchen now, from the back I hear my last name echoing through the whole place. It completes me- giving a piece of myself back to me that I didn’t know was missing.

It also reminds me of a great memory- the first time someone called out “Lanagan” in a kitchen, and both Dana and I turned around. Initially, we had the conversation about last names because we were thinking of conceiving, and though we never did, “Lanagan” stuck for her, too. Somehow, it was even better hearing her respond to “Lanagan” than it was to respond myself.

I love how these little moments come to me and I smile. The old axiom is true- don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. Having a relationship last over seven years is a win, and I never mistake the part for the whole. I can’t- without Dana, I wouldn’t have a job right now (she’s the cook that taught me to cook- one of several, but the most consistent).

And speaking of jobs, it’s actually “my Saturday,” provided that no one gets sick or otherwise calls out at the pub. On my to-do list for today is getting TSA pre-check at the airport. There are places to do the interview that are closer, but National is on the Yellow Line, and I already know where it is. That is always a huge factor, because I would rather travel longer than get lost. Besides, I’m in the middle of several great books, and trains are invaluable time for reading.

I also need a haircut and some groceries, but I think that will have to wait until I get back from the airport. I am feeling lazy this morning, even though I slept very well last night. It’s less of a go-back-to-bed feeling and more of an I-wish-there-were-cartoons feeling. That being said, I can’t actually watch cartoons this morning because I am out of cereal, which is basically a prerequisite for animation in the AM. My being out of cereal is probably the only reason you’re hearing from me right now.

I’m writing today because I got an e-mail yesterday about how Dooce has turned into a shitty writer because her site is now all ad copy and being funny…. something about “she wasn’t always a shitty writer, but she is now.” My response was that it was now her job to tell me when to retire- she could just re-send that e-mail. It will probably be my epitaph- “she wasn’t always a shitty writer, but she is now.”

I am trying my best to write when I actually have something to say. The best preaching advice I’ve ever gotten, which I’ve extrapolated to blogging as well, is, “when you run out of things to say, stop talking.” There is no reason to try and fill 15 minutes when you only have nine of material.

Tiny Details

As I start this entry, it is 0917. I am sitting at my desk with a cup of Lord Bergamot Stash Tea, complete with French Vanilla creamer. If you don’t have either on hand, Starbucks makes something similar called the “London Fog Latte.” I highly recommend them- they’re a bit addictive. Less caffeine to irritate your stomach, and/or the ability to drink far more of them. Both are equally important in my world (does flavored tea count as being “for young people?”). The added bonus is that the mug is keeping my hands warm, as it is 30 degrees Fahrenheit. In DC, the cold is no joke. Apparently, it’s supposed to be the coldest Thanksgiving in 20 years, which sucks, because it’s bright and clear outside. Just freezing with no payoff of beautiful snow.

It’s been perhaps 10 years since the best snow of my life. Dana and I were sitting next to the Christmas tree, and as Luciano Pavarotti started the Schubert Ave Maria, large, fluffy flakes began to fall. My memory may be failing me, but I think it’s the only White Christmas I’ve ever had. It was glistening, pure magic. I wish I could remember the exact date, but I am not so good with that information. I tend to remember tiny details, and not the big picture. For instance, I remember Dana opening one of her presents from me- a t-shirt that said “I’m right 97% of the time, but who cares about the other 4%?” She took the bows off the box and stuck them to her head.

Speaking of which, I’ve been thinking about writing a Modern Love column for years called “Seven Christmases,” all the ones Dana and I shared… but what has stopped me is that for some of them, my memory is excellent, and others, not so much. Different memories come to me at different times, so perhaps I will start it and keep plugging away until they’re all there. We shall see… because I tend to remember tiny details, and not the big picture. It would be easier if I had access to the magnificent “Danabase,” but at this point, that is neither here nor there.


It doesn’t feel natural to not be at work today, but I’ll get over it. The Nassers are cooking everything, and as I always say, after cooking for literally hundreds of people over a week at work, the last thing I want to do when I get home is cook for myself. I tend to run on quick energy, like sandwiches and fast baking Quorn “chicken.” And, of course, today’s meal will be entirely omnivorous, but I am never vegan unless I am making my own thing. I’ve used this quote before, but it rings true every day:

Cooking is hospitality, and if you reject people’s food, you reject them.

-Anthony Bourdain

Besides, I am not going to turn down fried turkey. I’ve never tasted it before.

When I make my own turkey, I massage the hell out of it with butter and olive oil, finishing with Cajun spice. I have some Tony Chachere’s on hand, so I might put it on the table, because it is literally good with everything, especially dressing and mashed potatoes.

I also play against type and do a “Yankee Dressing,” even though I’m from Texas- generally all cornbread, all the time. What can I say? I like white bread and sausage more. It’s harder to dry it out, and I can’t tell you how many years I’ve eaten cornbread dressing with good flavor and the texture of, well, there’s no describing it unless you’ve had it… sand, maybe? The only way you can kind of fix it is adding moisture with gravy. But notice I said “kind of.” If I’m going to eat cornbread dressing, my aunt’s is the only one acceptable. Her son, my cousin Nathan, lives with his wife and kids in Alexandria, so perhaps I can get her to make some for me again at some point, even if it’s July. I don’t care. I will stuff it in my face like it’s going out of style at any time.


Dan has been on a work trip for the last couple weeks, so I’m looking forward to seeing her again. I need a big bear hug, as well as the excitement of “what did you bring me?” My inner eight-year-old shows whenever she comes back from traveling, because it’s always to interesting places. She’s also having a holiday party soon, which reminds me that I need to get a white elephant gift. Not sure how I can top last year- a Funko Pop Bob Ross. I’m on a mission (from God). I am sure I will see her before then, but a party sounds nice. They don’t always, because I’m not a big fan of crowds, but these are all “my people.”


My shoulder continues to hurt like hell, even though I accidentally got really high. You’re going to think I’m lying to you, but I promise I am just that dumb. I took all my psych meds, which includes Klonopin, and then because of my shoulder, I took a Vicodin. I know for sure I am not supposed to mix the two, and I don’t… normally, except that taking my psych meds is second nature every single morning, and taking pain medication is not. I will just chalk it up to a dumbass attack and wait for it to wear off. However, I am not as high as I could be, because the shoulder pain is still cutting through enough to make me swear like a sailor. I’ve also had a lot of caffeine as a counter measure. The only upside is that even though I feel like dogshit, I care less…. so at least I got that goin’ for me.

The flip side is that I hate this feeling, which is loss of control. Brain fuzziness of any kind drives me up the wall. I am literally counting the minutes until I don’t feel this way anymore, as I do after one cocktail as well. I rarely have them, but sometimes I will partake just because I enjoy the taste and smell. One of these days, I really am going to order Kraken rum cologne. I swear that when I have a shot of it, I will literally smell the empty glass until the waitstaff comes to take it away. I’m not even much of a rum fan, but Kraken is extraordinary, what with its chocolate and vanilla notes and crazy viscous legs. Pro tip: do not fuck it up with mixer. Please and thank you. As an aside, I think the company that makes Kraken has one of the best marketing and design teams on the planet. Everything they make just looks as cool as the other side of the pillow, especially the lampshade and the shower curtain.

Back to you, Bob. Let’s go to the phones.

About the only brain fuzziness I can tolerate is real Sudafed, which is its own special hell. It suppresses my appetite, so I have to choose between losing weight I don’t have the luxury to lose and not being able to breathe. Even though I take an antihistamine, it can’t keep up… and I’ve tried Sudafed PE, and all I have to say about that is that the box should say “Warning: Does Not Work.” It leaves me with a still stuffed up and miserable sinus mask with the same appetite suppression as the original. Good times.


Before I close this entry, I want to give thanks for all of you. Having people in my life who think my words matter is invaluable to my self-esteem and therefore, mental health. You are my Thanksgiving, along with my friends and family that support me in real life as well as being “Fanagans.” I learned yesterday that I’ve gained an important one, but you don’t get to know who they are. It’s enough that I do.

Ok, ok. I give. It’s Jesus. I’ve followed Him my whole life, and he finally returned the favor. πŸ˜‰

Slinging and Hash

My coworkers are so young that I was sitting at the bar after my shift a few months ago, having a beer. The man next to me told me his name and that he was a sound editor at NPR. He asked me what I did, and I told him that I “sling hash here.” The bartender, young enough to be my son, said, “I thought you were a cook. You’re a drug dealer?” The sound editor nearly fell off his bar stool laughing and said, “I think that’s old diner slang.”

But today’s entry is about a different kind of sling. My left shoulder has been bothering me for a few weeks, but the pain has been fully manageable with Aleve and Tylenol… that is, until yesterday morning. I woke up in so much pain that I couldn’t stop crying, and didn’t until I got to Urgent Care.

I couldn’t possibly see how I was going to cook and wash dishes, so I gave Chef a heads up as to what was going on, and could he possibly find someone to work for me? To his absolute credit, for which I will thank him publicly, he told me to get to Urgent Care and let him know what they said. He’d find a way to work it out, even though there was no one to take my place. It created a tiger mom loyalty in me, and by the time I got to Urgent Care, as the tears flowed, I said, “there is no possible way that I can miss work tonight. If there’s any way you could treat this as a sports injury and just shoot it up with something, let’s do it.” If chef was willing to work a man down that night just so I was taken care of, the least I could do was try my hardest, exhausting all possible options, before staying home. I knew that I was going to either be miserable at work or miserable at home, so why not at least try to be miserable and make money at the same time?

The Urgent Care that I went to is incredibly risk-averse, the doctor told me, so he wasn’t allowed to put steroids directly into my shoulder, even though he thought it was the best course of treatment for what I needed in the moment (doesn’t work long-term). Instead, he did a long and thorough physical examination, determining that I had strained my rotator cuff, and that I should get it imaged with an Ortho to confirm it was just a strain and not an actual tear. If it’s just a strain, his recommendation is physical therapy. A tear requires surgery that, from what I hear, is relatively quick and easy, but the recovery is hell on wheels. One of my mom friends said that her son tore his, and just like the friends my age, had a difficult time with it. So I am definitely praying for a positive outcome, and if you’ll pray with me, send good vibes, use black magic, whatever, I’m game. Anything that taps into the power of the universe is fine with me. I know all of my readers can’t possibly believe in God, but even if you’re an atheist, believing in doctors is my first choice as well. Faith doesn’t come without shoe leather, and their work is as close to God’s as I’ve seen on this earth (there’s a reason I donate to MSF every chance I get).

As for the treatment I got yesterday, I chose a clinic that was close enough to walk to work from there, so after an IM injection of Toradol and oral Vicodin 5/325, I actually made it to my shift 30 minutes early, where I briefed Chef on all that had happened, and he thanked me profusely for coming in anyway, especially since my arm was in a sling to take pressure off my shoulder. I don’t wear it while working or typing, but other than that, I don’t take it off. I also realized that 325mg of Tylenol was probably not adequate, so I took an additional one. The doctor said that by the time I got home from work, the Toradol will have worn off, so I took two Aleve as well. Anything to relieve the inflammation, especially since I probably added to it last night. Even with Vicodin on board, everything still hurt like hell, especially after cleaning the kitchen, particularly sweeping & mopping. It was at that moment I thought, “maybe a desk job is for me,” and then I remembered that I was in just as much pain there, because the repetitive strain injuries never stopped, as well as more often than not, having a bad chair that always, always caused sciatica, as well as agitating the arthritis in my back. I absolutely understand that not all offices can afford Aerons, but so far, those have been the only chairs that don’t cause me pain. Even the knock-offs work, as long as they’re good ones and not the cheapest available.

I promise, I’m not snobby about it. Just worried for my own health. Even though osteoarthritis isn’t nearly as bad as rheumatoid, it’s no joke. It makes you feel like a very old person, no matter how young you are. Going from the kitchen to a desk job is just trading one type of pain for the other, equally severe in their own ways.

I definitely need to follow up with physical therapy, because with my level of activity, I’m likely to tear the rotator cuff up real good (if you’e going to do something, do it right).

And on that note, it’s time for a nap, provided I can find a comfortable position.

Flavored Coffee is for Young People

This entry is going to start out with a story that seems like a million years ago, but was really only about 17 (I think….). Before I met Dana, I dated a woman that was much older than me, but captured my heart with the simple fact that to her, everything was magic. Just an incredible lightness of being, the art of wearing rose-colored glasses no matter how crappy life got. Her attitude was just #goals for someone as alternately perky and jaded as me. And as different as we were, we were at the same points in our lives- both having just broken up with people we loved despite our differences- realizations that our partners were great people, but not great with us.

It was interesting to see people’s reactions to our age gap. My friends loved her. Her friends hated me, and hate is not too strong a word. They viewed me as the midlife crisis girltoy, and not a fully functioning adult with agency. The worst was judgmental anger from people in an age-gap relationship two years smaller than ours. I wish I had been strong enough back then to just say “bite me” and move on. But I wasn’t. I took everything personally and just hid in my shell.

I don’t think she was immune to judgment, either, because ultimately our relationship ended because she thought I was too young. Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t. Hard to tell in retrospect. I just know that I could have handled whatever life threw at us, but if we hadn’t broken up, it wouldn’t have created the door for Dana to open. She became my best friend because in the beginning, we didn’t know each other well at all. I just had to find a new gaggle of friends since most of my friends in Portland were also my then-girlfriend’s, and it didn’t feel like a safe place to fall. The friends I had that were the ultimate support didn’t live there- they met her through phone calls, as archaic as that sounds. I mean, I could still be friends with the ones that were mutual, but it wasn’t my goal to express anger or sadness in front of them, especially since I knew their reaction was going to be a ten gallon jug of “I told you so,” which is always so helpful in a breakup.

But the main thing our age gap provided me was an immense amount of laughter.

We were in Starbucks and she ordered a soy latte. I can’t remember exactly what I had, but if I’m guessing, either a raspberry or mint regular latte. She looked at me and said, “flavored coffee is for young people.” I wish I had been strong enough back then to just say “bite me” and move on.

And now it’s almost 20 years later, and every time I have a flavored coffee… every single time… that line runs through my head. Today it’s French vanilla creamer and dark roast. At 41, now I need to feel like a young person. So there. Flipping the script.

I’m drinking a lot of coffee this morning because even though I slept well, I’m working dish tonight from 1700-2300. I could take a nap, but I don’t want to. I want to watch the first snowfall of the season. It’s just magical, especially since I don’t drive. That way, I can just enjoy the snow without worrying about scraping off my car, or getting into an accident on the way and having to call the restaurant and say “I just slid into a ditch.” Well, unless my Uber driver does. I doubt the bus has that capability. I tend to take the bus in the snow, because if we’re in a wreck, the bus is gonna win.

It’s important for me to stay alive, because no one else is going to update this web site, and Facebook nags me all the time. I have 105 followers on my author page, and I’ll get passive-aggressive messages saying they haven’t heard from me in a while. It’s annoying, but also necessary. I took this job as a cook and dishwasher partly because I needed any job, and partly because my level in IT is “constantly connected to my job, tethered by phone and laptop.” I thought I would have more time to write, but what has actually happened is that I am so physically exhausted all the time that writing has taken a back seat to enjoying sleep and Aleve.β„’ I am constantly in pain, because I had arthritis before I started cooking, and the acrobatics required on both the line and in the dish pit don’t make that easier. However, I do think it has made my muscles stronger, which helps. More muscle mass has allowed my bones to relax a little, because they’re supported now.

It is not lost on me that I could have a cushy desk job and have a hell of a lot more money, but I am not convinced that I would be any happier, at least not yet. There are things about both blue and white collar jobs that just suck. But I’m never going to learn how to do things in a desk job that genuinely make other people’s faces light up.

My sister is a lobbyist, a rock star in her world. I used to be intimidated by that, until I realized that powerful people love to talk about food, so when I walk into a room, I’m also a rock star. People who have never worked in a restaurant, but whose imaginations are captured by TV shows, love to talk to me. I don’t really like the current slate of shows on The Food Network, etc., because I prefer the old school stand-and-stirs that actually educated people. Emeril before Emeril Live, for instance, even though I watched Emeril Live and learned to love it over time. But I’d rather watch old Julia Child episodes, or Justin Smith, or Martin Yan.

To date, the movie at which I’ve cried the hardest is Julie & Julia, because it reminded me of Dana- particularly the scene where Julia is chopping a mountain of onions to improve her knife skills…. and also myself, because I also had to buy mountains of carrots and celery to improve my own knife skills, and ruin lots of pieces of bread to learn how to flip eggs properly, as well as learning how to mix things like (pre-cooked) macaroni and cheese sauce by flipping it in the frying pan instead of using a spoon. We had a lot of mirepoix in those months. Interestingly enough, even though I am French-trained, the only thing I don’t know how to make is an omelette.

I tried the other day, because my roommate left eggs behind when he moved out, as well as Presidente butter and sharp cheddar. I got closer than I ever have, but it still looked like a waffle cone with cheese at the top (I was doing tri-fold). I need more practice, so eventually it will be off to the store to buy my own butter and eggs, because everything in my own pantry is vegan. This is because eventually, my restaurant will serve brunch, and I think I need to be prepared for the possibility that omelettes will be on the menu, and I refuse to be the only cook that can’t make one. Can’t is not in my vocabulary. I will make a hundred of them if I have to. I just need to invite 99 people to my house to eat the mistakes, which will still taste amazing, but look like a five-year-old made them. This is a problem because I barely know nine people in DC, much less 99. However, if Eight is Enough, I’m sitting pretty.

I just need to ask them beforehand what their views are on flavored coffee.

Life, Abridged

Today has been all about scrambling to find an original copy of my birth certificate, which I thought I knew exactly where I’d put it. It was supposed to be in my top dresser drawer, where I keep all my important documents, like my ordination papers in case anyone needs to get married in a hurry. So far, it’s just been the one. Since I have completely torn my room apart, and I have no other stashes in any other areas of the house, I have decided that I must have given it to an employer and they failed to give it back.

Update: I mailed it to my dad for safekeeping. Total dumbass attack that I didn’t remember. It will be here in plenty of time to get a rush passport.

I need it because my dad and I booked a trip to Paris just after the new year, and then my sister and her husband asked if they could come, too. My dad and Lindsay have been before- not sure about Mathew. Years ago, when I was living in Portland, my whole famn damily went to Paris for vacation, and I could have gone, but there wasn’t enough time to get a passport by the time they invited me, because they thought I already had one.

I did get a passport when I went to Mexico, but the story behind that is my (now estranged, but still Oregon legal) wife accidentally gave it to Goodwill, when I left it in a pair of shorts I threw in what I thought was the laundry pile. I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately, what with the cooking and all. Dana has actual Le Cordon Bleu badges, and I don’t. I would have loved to take her to the real thing. And while I still love her in a friendship sort of way, we’re also estranged for good reason. Mostly because I was a total jackass to her and vice versa. In separation, universally, no one gets away with clean hands.

There’s nothing I’ll ever hold against her, but there’s nothing I’ll ever (ever, ever) forget, either.

But I do remember her a lot, and Paris is a place we both wanted to go, both from the food perspective and the several couples we asked to leave locks on the bridge for us to find when we eventually made it. Those conversations are memories that now make me indescribably sad, because I will indeed experience the divinity of Paris, just not quite the way I imagined.

But then again, I experience the divinity of The District every day, but not the way I imagined, either. It’s a good thing that I now think everything worked out the way it was supposed to resolve. I am glad that we never took a vacation here together, as I love living in a place that doesn’t trigger me all over the place. As I was telling a friend, being with Kat in my early 20’s is the part of my memory that is not so good (we lived in Alexandria, VA), and for that I am grateful.

Many, many people have now given me their recommendations for places to eat, although I hear that I need to go to a cafe rather than a restaurant, because they take forever. I can’t imagine that we won’t go to a restaurant at some point, but it’s a relatively short trip, so we shall see…..

Paris also reminds me of Anthony Bourdain, because I’ll never forget that he stayed in the hotel where Oscar Wilde died, his last words being, “I’m in a fight with the wallpaper, and it’s winning.” Bourdain did the ritual of absinthe, dripping it over a sugar cube, and realized what Wilde meant. πŸ˜›

It tastes like Fernet Branca, rich and herbaceous in all the right ways. I know because they sell absinthe without wormwood in the United States. I may or may not try it. I hardly ever drink, so my tolerance for alcohol is incredibly low. But I’m sure my dad, sister, and brother in law all want to hear how much I love them at 0200.

The last cocktail I had was when my sister took me to a Mediterranean restaurant here in DC. I wanted a something that would complement the food, so it was pomegranate and ouzo. I thought it was delightful, but I love the black jellybeans. Lindsay was not nearly as enamored with it.

I’m glad that I will have a passport again. The next dream I have is going to Helsinki for December 6th,fid Finnish Independence Day. I would tell you why, but it’s a long, long story and one that I don’t want to let go…. more than I already have, anyway. I’m sure if you look through my archives, there’s something in there somewhere. But the story reminds me of a dark time in my life, and how one celebrated holiday had to become another, and Finnish Independence Day was available. I basically had to bring a lantern into the dark, and for better or for worse, it came from a country I’ve never studied, and never cared about one way or the other for most of my life. But now, sufficed to say, my love for it is real and it’s deep. Finnish Independence Day threw me a life raft, and I took it.

Plus, Anthony Bourdain went there and now I know some good places to eat, if they’re still open when I eventually make it. I don’t know what I’m doing with my culinary life if reindeer pizza isn’t #goals. I also tend to buy soccer jerseys when I travel, or ask for them if others are going to another country. I would proudly wear the Finnish one for the entire month of December…. although I doubt it would make as many people jealous as my Honduran one. Half my kitchen is Honduran, and every staff member there has said they wanted to steal it when I’ve had it on. I didn’t wear it during service, just over my t-shirt on the way there so I’d have something to wear afterwards that wasn’t covered in food. I had to make sure it was completely hidden, because I don’t think they were kidding.

It feels nice to relax now and be able to enjoy my day off, but I do have to put my room back together after completely tearing it apart in fear that my birth certificate was buried somewhere. I think it’s time to read or watch a movie. I’ll flip a coin.

 

 

Slicing Fear

In a moment, I’m going to show you a picture that will mean nothing to you, but the story behind it changed my life in an instant. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but we’re opening a second location in College Park, Maryland that’s at least twice as big. Therefore, we have a new executive chef that will oversee both locations. Because the College Park location isn’t open yet, he’s been spending a lot of time with us, just learning and listening. Eventually, things will change, but I admire the fact that right now, he’s just observing the way we work together and taking advantage of teachable moments. For instance, with salads, he taught me to “dress the bowl.” Dressing that is sufficiently liquid (in my case, balsamic vinaigrette…. not sure how well this would work with Thousand Island….) goes around the top inside of the bowl, and the “legs” drip down. This ensures equal coverage over the entire salad, and doesn’t crush the leaves. It’s little things like that where I just kvell, because I am excited and interested by learning.

But tonight, there was this moment… one where I almost had to excuse myself to go cry (in the walk-in). I let myself fall apart for one second, and then got back to work. One second was all I could afford, one momentous thought that my education had changed in an instant. This chef, who I’d spent all of two or three days with, made me feel comfortable enough to say, when he said that I needed to chop something smaller and more evenly, that I had monocular vision.bibimbop I’m not sure, but I think the only other cook I’ve ever told is Dana, because I didn’t want to look stupid.

Or perhaps stupid is the wrong word. Most people have never heard of monocular vision, and therefore, I can explain it all day long, but that doesn’t mean that they get it.

But this chef didn’t even bat an eye. He said, “you can see in 2D, right? Hold the knife and the spring onions closer to your body and look straight down at them so you don’t have to use depth perception.” Tears came to my eyes that I tried to hide, but this was life-changing. It worked. Chef saw that my eyes were watering and he said, “hey, life is just a series of workarounds. You’re going to do great things.” And oh, boy did I ever want to squall my eyeballs out then. To my credit, I did not. But if I think of this conversation as I’m drifting to sleep, I have no doubt that joy will leak out of my eyes and onto my pillow.

If you look at the picture closely, you’ll see that everything is not exactly perfect, but such a vast improvement that I can’t wait to get back to work and keep trying. I know my chef well enough to know that perfection is not the goal, excellence is. But I want at least a few moments of perfection for myself…. which I got today, actually. About halfΒ  to 70% were completely without fault. Of course I want that ratio to go up, and it will. I just need to practice over and over (and over and over). Because of this, my own chef (as opposed to the executive chef) wants me to go to the CIA, where he went. I don’t think it’s for me. Learning on the job has been much more rewarding than taking classes, because plenty of people who’ve already done the same sorts of programs are in charge of my education now, and I would find that just about anywhere I cooked.

It is enough to have people in my life who truly see me with both eyes.