Oops, My Bad. Should I Leave a Note?

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

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

I can’t today. I just can’t.

 

It Still Hurts

This morning was rough. The first thing I do when I open my eyes is check my phone, like most people, because I fall asleep early and I want to catch up with everything that happened from the night before. A large, large amount of my friends are on the West Coast, so hearing about their lives doesn’t even begin until after 9:00 PM my time. I also got a Facebook direct message that dinged last evening, and I was so completely dead to the world that I didn’t even hear my phone go off.

Speaking of which, if you’re trying to reach me in the evening, your best shot is to call, because the ringer plays longer. It’s set to Unsquare Dance by Dave Brubeck, which I hadn’t heard until I saw the movie Baby Driver (big fan of Brubeck, but I tend to listen to Time Out repeatedly….). Speaking of Baby Driver, the link is to the first six minutes of the movie, which I have watched, and this is a conservative estimate, 25 times.

WORTH IT. STOP EVERYTHING. GO NOW. I’LL WAIT.

Back to our regularly scheduled program.

This morning was rough, because the first notification was not from a friend in Oregon or California, but a birthday announcement. Carolyn Baker’s birthday is June 11th. If you’re bringing friends together, invite them by making an event. For the love of God. I have done everything I can, both on my own profile and on hers, to mark her as deceased.

This picture is the last one of all of us together on Mother’s Day, me FaceTiming in from DC. It’s the last one, and I’m blurry. I would give anything, including all future earnings, limbs, whatever, to be able to go back in time. 13138797_10153554247046596_1204332628069398810_n (1)But in order for me to know exactly how important this photo is, I would have had to know it was the last one, and you never get to know that in advance. What I do like about this picture is how happy and beautiful both my mother and sister look. It was originally in color, but given the situation, I think it looks better without it…. because losing my mother so instantaneously plunged me into a world of greyscale, anyway.

Perhaps Facebook still brings these things to my attention because an event marking her birthday’s importance even though she’s dead can be healing, but I don’t think they’re that observant. She also didn’t have a legacy contact, so there’s no way to go into her account and either close it or make it a memorial, etc. Because of this, I chose Caitlin as my own legacy contact, because I’m not planning on dying anytime soon, and she’s my youngest sibling by ten years.

Actually, I just thought of an idea. I wonder if I could find a way to e-mail or direct message Sheryl Sandberg, because if anyone would understand the situation, it would be her. I’m assuming that a lot of people already know this story because it was so public, but she and David, her husband, were on vacation when he was working out and had a heart attack while running on a treadmill, which caused him to fall and hit his head, dying instantly. Not only did he die young, but they were on a parents’ only trip, and Sheryl had to come back alone and tell her children, probably the most heartbreaking aspect of a sprawling mess. It reminds me of a quote from Harry Truman when Franklin Roosevelt died… Well, gentlemen, if you’ve ever had a bale of hay dumped on you, you know how I feel.

I think that’s the hardest part of my own grief now. Because my mother and I lived so far apart for most of my adult life, there are moments when the fact that she’s dead slips into the back of my mind, because we were not used to talking every day, anyway. I feel most of the time like she is still on the other end of the line, and pick up the phone to call her, the bale of hay dropping over and over again.

I am truly not that forgetful. I believe it has become a coping mechanism. Grief gets locked away so that I can still function, because living in the smallest emotional place of missing my mommy is intolerable in terms of still moving amongst the living. My inner child just cries out, unable to imagine a world in which my mother is not here.

Cooking, because of its fast pace and utter relentlessness, is the one area of my life in which I am too busy to dwell on my feelings. Even when orders aren’t coming in like gangbusters, there’s still prep and cleaning that has to be done fast, because you never know when a pop is coming. If I am knee-deep in grief, my mind wanders too much to be quick.

I come out of the kitchen, sore and exhausted, and grief still doesn’t bubble up because I am too tired to think about anything, much less emote. Most of my energy goes toward complaining about how much I hurt physically…. breaking a cardinal family rule about complaining before I’ve taken anything for it. I will rarely have a beer to take the edge off, because what I find is that my tolerance is so incredibly low that one beer, even at 3.2% alcohol, will knock me on my ass, and I feel like I can’t think clearly, the death of creativity for a blogger. I think it was Ernest Hemingway who said to write drunk and edit sober, but he wrote fiction. Diarists are a different breed, because they have to remember things accurately. I hate doing anything that makes reality malleable. But sometimes I give in, because that fuzzy feeling makes my back hurt less… or maybe it just makes me care less that my back hurts.

Whatever.

It also loosens my inhibitions so that I laugh a little easier, because I’m not all up in my head, working in the same way that cooking does. Using my hands takes me away from thinking, and sometimes I just need a damn break from the interminable march of Sundays away from October 2nd, 2016. At first, I counted them like a Lectionary, but let that go when I realized that no Sunday would ever be in Ordinary Time ever again. For the first year, every week was a terrible Good Friday on an otherwise lazy Sunday morning. For the first time in my life, I feel that I have lost my way with Christianity, and not the part that’s spiritual. The part that is community-based, because I don’t believe religion happens in a vacuum.

The difference between spirituality and religion is going into your closet to pray, as opposed to praying through shoe leather, working to foster the theology of liberation and inclusion. It will come again in time, but right now, every time I enter a church, I am enveloped in sadness that I cannot put away and just enjoy being in my community… even though getting through rough times is often why you need it.

I have severe problems with losing it in public, and sermons often pierce my heart with a knife so that I can’t keep it together. I feel like I need time to grieve in my own way, and for now, my process is making food that brings people together… even though in my grief I often reflect on the fact that I might be making The Last Supper. It’s a dark thought, but losing someone suddenly tends to kick you in the back of the face. That being said, my thoughts aren’t always that bereft.

Getting this job as a cook is the first time I’ve truly felt Easter…. resurrection happening in the middle of the mess (Dr. Susan Leo). I am learning new things, because every kitchen is different, and it is opening my mind to have to think in both Spanish and English.

Dios te bendiga.

Amen
#prayingonthespaces

Big Night -or- Low and Slow

I got to the pub around 4:30, because even though I wasn’t officially on the schedule until 5:00, I had stuff to do. I got some t-shirts, I took my time getting ready, and I just watched for a few minutes before I took Rachel out of her sheath. Then, it was business time.618uwbCFL3L._SL1500_ However, I did not get to use her as much as I wanted, because there was too much to do in other stations. I used her more with prep for the next day than I did during my actual shift, where I watched with trepidation as my kitchen partner used her for tomatoes. She made short work of them, but as I’ve said before, skins are death to a blade, but being only hours old, I reasoned it was okay and went to my happy place.

As I predicted, it was literally walking into a hurricane, as you are wont to do in a pub kitchen at Happy Hour on a Friday. I introduced myself to my kitchen partner. It was his third day. Luckily, we had an experienced cook coming to join us, because my kitchen partner only knew two days more than I did. There were orders coming through that no one had shown either of us how to make, but having been cooks before, we pulled it out of the fire, as it were. Once she got there, relief was palpable. We were “in the weeds,” and when it’s that busy, it took us hours to pull ourselves back out…. and I’m not sure that we actually did. Eventually, it just slowed down. At one point, we were up to an hour wait, not for the food, but the number of people waiting for tables. As I’ve said before, this particular pub is quite popular.

At one point, I was moved to the back kitchen for the sole purpose of making one batch of fries after another, which I deemed the most important job of all of us, because pubs get judged on their fries more than any other thing…. especially at Happy Hour, when they become an entrée.

We serve ours tossed in salt and Parmesan. It was awe-inspiring watching the lead cook toss the very largest bowl in the kitchen, because she’s maybe five feet tall, and about my body build.WW-SantaCruzGarlicFries-Up Once I’ve been there long enough to make suggestions, I want to add garlic fries to the menu if its welcome, because the fries at The Laurelwood are some of the best I’ve ever put in my mouth. But my job is not to do anything but watch right now…. and some kitchen managers are open to menu suggestions, and some aren’t. For reasons I will not disclose, Jorgé does not work there anymore, so it remains to be seen what the new kitchen manager will allow. We’re hoping to get the position filled by next week.

As the fry cook, I was also in charge of salads and Brussels sprouts, which we deep fry until they’re crispy and toss in Ponzu sauce. Because the prep cooks had taken care of most everything, I didn’t get to use Rachel much at all, but my kitchen partner freaked out because my knife was also his favorite brand, and he has a Global. Here’s the thing about Globals, Wusthofs, Henkels, etc. They’re all amazing, and you can pass them on to your grandchildren’s grandchildren if you take care of them. But Chicago Cutlery is the absolute best for the price point, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could be passed down with the proper care and feeding, as well. The handle is just so comfortable, and truth be told, seems to need less babying to achieve awesome. All our lettuce for burgers has to be shaved so thinly you can read a newspaper through it, and for Rachel, it was the easiest task ever. Before I had her, I was using a dull knife that just couldn’t achieve perfection. She also took down some spring onions like they were butter.

Also, a true achievement for me, I did not cut or burn myself during the entire evening, even though I was working with very, very hot oil. I just tried to work as clean as I could, as fast as I could, and it worked. I tried not to leave a mess by cleaning as I went so that the end of the night was easier to shut down…. although there were times when it just wasn’t possible due to the speed with which everything had to be done. With that amount of people, I would get a little messy, wait for the inevitable break, and do it to it.

It was a godsend to have three people in the kitchen, because there are two complete sets of fryers and ranges. That way, I could keep fries going at an alarming rate, the color and crispiness perfect.stainless-steel-bain-marie-pot-42-litre Towards the end of the night, the ticket machine became calm enough that two people could handle it, so I got out a medium-sized bain marie (the bottom pan for a double boiler), and filled it with a few drops of dish soap and lots of water, just like Kinkaid taught me, and went after every surface that still had oil on it. The dish soap wasn’t Dawn brand, but it was serviceable. While every blue dish soap contains a degreaser, there really isn’t a substitute for the real thing. You just need it in proportions that won’t leave bubbles on whatever you’re wiping down so that you don’t have to go over it again with more water.

Because I was cut before the heavy cleaning began (disappointed, truly), I didn’t get to clean the griddle. It’s my favorite chore, because few people can do it better. If you’re not in the know, you need to pour a little lemon juice or white vinegar and club soda on it while the griddle is very, very hot to basically deglaze before you start scraping and scrubbing. You don’t need much- otherwise all the liquid will fill up the grease traps and possibly overflow them so that everything runs onto the floor…. always a good day, and I’ve done it many times (dumbass attack). But the basic point is that you should let the heat do most of the work. By the time I’m done, it will look brand new. It was John Fot who taught me the soda water trick- the carbonation is invaluable, as is the acid. If the pub ever starts a brunch program, it is an even better method, because bacon and beef grease stuck on is les worst.

We do our burgers on an open flame, but when I’m making my own, I prefer a griddle to let the meat confit (cook in its own fat). An open flame makes all the fat drip off- probably healthier, but to my palate, doesn’t taste quite as good. However, it is a matter of personal taste. Some like grilled better, some don’t. With both methods, you have to respect first contact. If you put something on a grill or griddle, leave it alone. Keeping the meat flipping will rip it to shreds, because you are essentially removing the meat’s ability to sear on the outside so that it will lift on its own, also taking off the outside layer of crispy goodness. a63bc3e1-52f9-46e1-9451-d4e6e8c4091e_1.82a983e49d612bf851d8e35c2a88d911In a kitchen, you just don’t have time to do this, but the best way to cook any meat is low and slow. My favorite is  turkey Spam (bet you’re singing the Monty Python song right now), sliced thinly so that it’s brown and crispy like thick-cut bacon, with a tiny, tiny bit of mealiness in the middle. It takes 15-20 minutes to achieve that kind of perfection, but it’s worth it. For those who say, Spam…. ew…. you’ve never tried it the way I make it, so get the fuck out of here with your judgment. There’s a reason it’s insanely popular in Hawai’i. Just trust me on this one. If you hate the taste of Spam, it’s probably because you’ve just warmed it up, perhaps in the microwave, or taken it out of the pan before it’s honestly and truly finished. Again, respect first contact. Low and slow, completely browned on the outside, strips thin enough that you won’t even recognize it as Spam in the first place. If you really want to fool someone, cut off the rounded edges and feed them to the dog….. 😛

Now I’m getting hungry. I think it’s time for breakfast. I go back to the pub at 5:00, so I need some sustenance and a nap to restore at least a bit of lactic acid in my muscles and myelin on my nerves. I need it, because I am again, walking into a hurricane.

With Rachel.

Where the Weather Takes Us

The meetup with the pen pal went well. Let’s call her “Zoey,” because there’s a connection that goes beyond New Girl. Of course if she becomes a regular and doesn’t mind me using her real name, that’s fine. But I’m not going to “out” her on a first meeting. That’s just rude. She is just as cute and funny as me, so I think it will be a great thing to have another person to pal around with…. although perhaps not so much in the immediate future, because she’s vacationing to Peru (I think…. my memory is failing in my elder years). But I definitely see hiking in the hills and walking around town in our future. Talking makes walking so much easier, because I am not constantly enmeshed in thoughts like, “my feet hurt…. my legs are sore…. how much longer?” Talking shuts down the complaint department. Yesterday was just about spending some time together and seeing if we’d click on any level. We definitely did, starting out at Kramerbooks and when they were slammed, walking to Teaism, instead. I love tea at every moment of the day, but for Zoey, she was disappointed they didn’t have hot chocolate. So we toasted to new friends with cold water. My pot of Darjeeling went quickly, and then we walked to the Metro.

Two things about that.

I started talking about the weather with my seatmate, who said that it reminded her of Germany and Switzerland. In my head, I was thinking she must be military, because obviously Germany and Switzerland are known for their large black populations. My assumption was correct. So, I asked her what her job was in the military, and she said slyly, intel. She’d retired long ago, looking for all the world like a sweet grandmother, the type no one would look twice at while carrying sensitive documents. But perhaps she didn’t look like that, then. She was retired now, having scouted out secret documents during the Cold War. My mind was blown because this was an absolutely random encounter, exactly the kind of thing I live for in DC. I am certain that by now, there are tons of movies that talk frankly about the types of ops we pulled off during that time, most of them declassified by now. It was also very interesting that she wasn’t stapled to CIA, that smash-and-grabs for documents also happen with soldiers. I don’t know why I didn’t make that connection until last night, because I saw 12 Strong, and even though the soldiers had a CIA contact to lead them through Afghanistan to the warlord contact who was willing to team up with them to overthrow the Taliban, he left after that and the soldiers were on their own.

So, this woman and I are engrossed in conversation and before I even really had a chance to ask questions, it was her stop. I was so lost in thought that I got off at the “wrong one,” or perhaps the right one considering that I was only a couple of blocks from Busboys & Poets. I had a vegan salad and vegan mac-and-cheese, possibly the first time I’ve eaten actual nutrition that wasn’t all carbs this week. MMMM, bread.

I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian, but I truly do not eat enough plants. I have to remind myself that veggies exist.

While I was eating, though, I had a truly surreal experience, because there was a mentally ill person at the bar trying to score free fries from the restaurant. Two patrons offered to have his fries added to their tab. Then, when he got them, he would neither leave nor get a table. In Takoma Park, there are literally two governments, because part of it lies in Montgomery County and part of it is in the city of DC. I had no idea where I was in terms of that line. But what I do know is that there’s no real way to call someone regarding the mentally ill except the police, which brought up such a dilemma that I’m still thinking about it. He was definitely harassing other customers, because they didn’t offer to pay for his snacks without him strong-arming them. And yet, he was black, which said to me, no one call the police under any circumstances. This is because there was little to be done except take him to jail, because there’s no way they would have taken him to a psych ward. It’s just not in their purview. So, what to do? No restaurant wants a loiterer asking for money and, oh my God, emitting such a smell that it cleared out half the bar.

It’s hard to be compassionate when you really don’t know how. He needed more help than he could get in the restaurant, and the police couldn’t give it to him, either. I think because everyone was so sensitive to racial bias, that made it even harder. We didn’t know whether the police that showed up would show compassion or wrestle him to the ground. It’s not even equal odds at this point. None of the people in the bar were worried about racial bias on our end, because it was never about the color of his skin. It was about mental illness, full stop. But we couldn’t count on the police having an equal amount of compassion.

What he needed, in my opinion, was a few days in a psych ward to get balanced again, and then a truly safe place to stay. Neither of those things would happen unless he went to the county intake facility in Rockville, now closed for the night. Having to sleep in a jail cell might have only exacerbated the problem, contributing to putting someone in the system that can’t get back out, because he has no concrete concept of acceptable behavior.

All I could do was pray that someone would stick with him long enough to get the help he needed, because nothing was going to happen in the moment. We were all just on pins and needles waiting for him to leave, and not because we weren’t trying to help in the moment. It’s that no one could stay in the restaurant overnight, and it was kind of a scary situation because we did not know the extent of his mood and behavior quirks. For instance, when the fries were brought out to him, paid for by the other customers, he threw them on the floor and insisted that new fries be brought to him that he paid for himself, completely oblivious to the fact that he had no money.

My superpower was an out-of-body experience, where I left the situation and went back to Teaism, thinking about new adventures Zoey and I would have in the coming months (years?). There is just so much to do and see around here that it doesn’t take much to find a glorious afternoon, and great conversations that begin with the weather.

Send Help

I saw a picture on Facebook that resonated with me. Something like, my diet ranges between supermodel and unsupervised child in a convenience store. I haven’t eaten very much this week, overwhelmed with writing to the point I couldn’t even finish a rough draft, like I said I would. This is not because I didn’t work hard on it. It just, in my opinion, wasn’t good enough. I needed more time to think before I put it in front of an extraordinary mind who would see through paragraphs of bullshit in a New York minute. This is because the book I’m reviewing is terrible. The story is solid, but there are so many grammatical errors and therefore, punctuation missteps that the entire novel was just a slog. All of the mistakes took me away from the story and I had to reread pages just to figure out what the sentences actually said. It’s never a good thing when I stop concentrating on what I’m reading and get lost in my own head, trying to figure out how I would have phrased something instead (as if I’m the authority on such matters….. geesh).

And then my anxiety went to 11 because I had to e-mail my editor and say, it’s not ready. When is the next best day I could send it? It’s the first time I’ve ever had to do it, which is probably the only reason I was anxious, because I wasn’t sure of her reaction. I told her that the book didn’t even have to be marked as “read” until Monday, and the review didn’t need to be turned in until the next one. I gave myself padding in case something like this happened, because I knew when I started reading it that it was going to be an uphill climb. I was afraid of turning my lack of preparedness into a kink in her day.

So, my appetite went haywire. Most of the week I ate a large bowl of oatmeal for one meal a day. Last night I made up for it by eating (almost an entire) pizza, wings, and a very large chocolate chip cookie. According to bumper sticker wisdom, every pizza is a personal pizza if you believe in yourself. I also drank a two liter of Diet Pepsi, something for which my mother would have chastised me greatly- not because of the amount, but because I was drinking that Pepsi mess, as she called it. I didn’t feel bad about it because most people drink that much wine on a Friday night… and besides, diet soda is my favorite form of caffeine because it’s not extreme highs and lows, it just keeps the bus from going under 50 (wow, that reference ages me).

The shame of it is that it wasn’t even Monterey’s or Red Rocks, just plain delivery…. but it was free. Free covers up a lot of pizza sins.

Now the only question remains is how do I not do this? I can’t decide whether it’s okay or not. Some nutrition experts would say it’s fine as long as I’m getting the calories I need over the course of the week instead of every day. Some nutritionists would beat me like a red-headed stepchild. It’s not about weight control. I am extremely healthy in that department. It’s more the binge and crash of it all, as opposed to an even keel.

Being so small is sometimes as equally body-shaming as being overweight. I know this because I have been both at different points in my life. The worst story in recent memory is that I bought six different kinds of chips at 7-Eleven, joking with the cashier that they weren’t all for that night. He said, well, your skinny ass sure needs ’em. I was definitely thinking about responding with physical violence, but, alas, I am too much of a peacenik for that sort of thing.

Setting body issues aside, the reason I took off so much weight is that I’m short. When I am heavy, I bear a strong resemblance to a teapot…. which reminds me of a great story. I met one of my readers a few years ago, and one of the first things she said to me was, I thought you’d be taller. My then-wife and I got mileage out of that one for months (years?). One of the reasons I thought it was funny is that I wanted to impress her so bad…. which reminds me of another funny story. Dana and I both love eye candy, so we both fell on the floor laughing after a few moments of talking with her when I ran into a door and clocked my nose, I thought she was so cute.

The fact that both of these things happened within a few minutes of each other is something that could only happen to me…. as well as overdoing it in the flirting department to the point where she didn’t want to talk to me anymore…. a moment when I truly wanted the earth to swallow me up, I was so embarrassed. Since we were both old and married, it didn’t occur to me that I was over the line, Smokey….. a dumbass attack of gigantic proportions. I’m sure I am not alone in having moments I’d give a limb to take back, and the entire reason I rarely (if ever) have a second cocktail as to avoid my lips being too loose, creating more of them. On the positive side, I make a cheap date. 😛

However, I am absolutely 100% certain I am not the first or last woman to lament what a shame it was she didn’t bat for our team…. just one in a long line of broken hearts all over the world. I so want to tell you what it was that flipped my shit, but I would be even more embarrassed if I somehow outed her real name by a description. Enough people know that story already, including those who didn’t think it was as funny as Dana and I did. By the grace of God, the one person I didn’t manage to offend was my real-life wife, who just laughed through my stupidity. Note to self– wear sunglasses.

I think that’s about enough reminiscence for today. I need to get back to work…. just know that I really, really don’t want to.

Send help.

The State Dinner: Oaxaca

This is going to be “Pictures at an Exhibition” style, because there are literally no words to explain what an amazing and historical experience gave me. Pati Jinich is an amazing chef, and we have an inside joke between us.

In a couple of the pictures, she is kissing my forehead. This is because I told her that I was the one that took the ticket from my father, who got sick and couldn’t travel rather last minute. I told her that my father just adores her, to the point where my stepmom jokingly calls Pati his “girlfriend,” and that I’d told my father that if he didn’t get well and make it to the event, I (jokingly) was going to “steal her from him.” She took pictures with several people before she got to me, and I thought she’d forgotten all about that story. We took a regular picture together, which didn’t turn out that great. Then, she leaned over and kissed the side of my forehead and said quietly, well, you asked for it. I laughed so hard my insides shook, and you can tell.

So, without further ado, here are all the photos I took from last night………………….

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How I Cook

I have cooked professionally for several years now, and here, in no particular order, are the things I’ve learned:

  • Making a mayonnaise-based sauce is not about technique. It is about art. Some people have it, some people don’t. I have it. You have to treat mayonnaise the same way you would drive a stick-shift car, because the balance between the eggs and the oil is very much like finding the equilibrium point that moves the car forward. The other thing that will help is to add more egg than you think you need, and less vinegar. That is because the egg will bind extra oil and will give you a little more wiggle room before the sauce breaks altogether. If it starts to derail, add a fourth cup of water and keep stirring. It also helps to be as Zen as you can, because invariably, one of those times, a sauce will break and you’ll want to beat yourself with your own whisk. Most people don’t make mayonnaise by hand anymore. I only do it to show off.
  • I never measure anything unless I’m baking (at home, that is). Here’s how to get to a point where you can cook without instructions.
    • Get a basic cookbook that teaches fundamentals without fancy recipes. Then, read it like a book. Note recurring themes and flavor profiles. If you spend a few weeks doing this, you’ll learn which cooking methods are natural extensions of each other, such as searing a piece of meat in a skillet and then transferring it to the oven to braise. Eventually, you’ll learn the rhythm of making things taste good.
  • If you get frustrated after all of this, please just use recipes. People think it’s cool to throw things together, but if you don’t have the palate for it, use someone else’s. Taste, especially making your food appeal to more people than just you, is especially hard. I got lucky in that I’m naturally good at it, but many people aren’t and feel like failures in the kitchen. Don’t sweat it. Every time you want to make something, look it up on FoodNetwork.com. People that come to your house to eat will think you thought up an incredible meal, when in reality, all you did was execute a recipe perfectly. Executing a recipe is just as important as taste. Don’t feel bad because you need some help in the flavor department.
  • Knife skills are overrated
    • People like to watch me when I’m chopping, because I’m extraordinarily fast. However, I am not in any way accurate in the slightest. Because I have monocular vision, my knife doesn’t ever connect to the cutting board in the same way twice. It’s one of the reasons I’m a great pub cook but suck at fine dining. I know that since I can’t correct my problem, you might think that my advice is coming from that place. But no. If you’re cooking at home or in a restaurant that cares more about french fries than plating, just get the mis en place DONE. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to get the perfect julienne or batonnet. It will take you far more time than it’s worth. Believe me. In an extreme case of loss-of-confidence, I once spent 45 minutes on three carrots. Was it worth it? The salad was perfect, but it took 45 minutes!
  • Make foodie friends
    • Learn to cook well for free! Dana was trained at Cordon Bleu. I was not. I got a $20,000 education taught in my own home. Surely you have a friend that can show you a few things… like a perfect mayonnaise, julienne, or batonnet. 😛
    • Bring food into your conversations. This will often lead to your friends telling you what they made for dinner. You can always file it away for later.

I am sure that I will come back and edit this document as I think of more things to say. But here is a pretty good start.