Throwing it Together

My kitchen manager could not have been more supportive of me. When I walked in last evening, he said, “I know your work ethic. What happened?” I said, “I would have stayed until everything was put away, but I got kicked out of the kitchen because it was so late.” He said, “I knew it must have been something like that, because it never would have happened under your watch.” And then he hugged me. I’m paraphrasing because I don’t exactly remember the words, but that’s the gist. So, everything worked out despite my stomach being in knots and practically tearing up all the way to work. There was just one slight problem.

I couldn’t explain it in Spanish. So, the person who had to come in at 9:00 AM and see all my mistakes couldn’t possibly fathom why I’d “fucked everything up.” I was completely speechless because I was all up in my head trying to pick a phrase I actually knew that would help. I had nothin,’ and no one to translate for me. My kitchen manager speaks better Spanish than me, but not enough to express everything I wanted to say. So he made up for it by letting her off early. I hope it was enough.

I would have been home pretty early last night if the dishwasher hadn’t decided to dump water all over the floor. Though technically, it wasn’t my fault, I am still taking one for the team on this one. I emptied all the traps as I’d been shown, but what I didn’t know is that you had to use a shop vac to get out all the water, too. That part of the training had been left out, through no fault of anyone’s, just an oversight. So, the kitchen manager and I stayed a little later with dry (at first) mops and got up everything we could, then turned on big fans. By now, it’s dry… or here’s hoping, anyway. 😛

By the time I left the kitchen last night, my mood had lifted, because I got fired up listening to Eminem and got it handled, as if Olivia Pope (Scandal) worked in a brewpub. My shift drink was a Mexican-style cola, one of the few things I attribute as a gift from God directly. Beer is one thing. Sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and a heavy syrup to soda water ratio that brings one right back to the drug store (that reference ages me) is quite another. As I have said before, it is on my “chef’s game” last meal list.

This morning, because it was after Eid, I made real Irish imported steel-cut oatmeal for my roommate, Abdel, and me… along with homemade coffee. And by this, I do not mean that I brewed it myself. I mean that one of my friends buys green beans and roasts them herself. It is insane.

I asked Abdel about something I’d always wanted to know. During Ramadan, do children fast? He said that unofficially, fasting begins at seven, but officially, it begins after puberty…. but that most of the time, children compete to fast so they can be just like Mommy and Daddy.

It reminded me so much of both Christianity and Judaism. In the Catholic church, seven is “the age of reason,” when you are accountable to God for your sins and start confession. In Judaism, puberty is also the sign that you are an adult. Dear God, we have so much in common, all children of Abraham. I just wish more people could see it.

Don’t get me started on Israel and Palestine, and the unwavering USG support of Israel. It just makes my blood boil, especially with one word- settlements. Never mind that Israel has a fully-functioning army (possibly a nuclear weapon, definitely chemical assault capability) AND a world-famous intelligence agency, Mossad…. Palestine has homemade bombs and rocks. They can barely sit up to Israel, much less stand. I realize that atrocities have been committed on both sides. I am not immune to the news. But the whole thing is ridiculous. Not our circus, not our monkeys…. mostly because the United States is such a young country that we legitimately have no concept of tribal wars that have been going on for centuries, and yet, we have unilaterally decided that Israel can do no wrong. And yes, I realize that the state of Israel is young, but the concept of an Israeli is not, and neither is the concept of a Palestinian.

I told you not to get me started.

All I can say now is “thank God for Ireland,” because without them, I would not have had the good breakfast I need to be happy enough to let go of this and move on to something else.

Lindsay is coming to town tonight, and this is my Friday, so we’ll have two evenings together before she goes back to Houston. I got her an amazing birthday present- I hope it scores big. Lindsay’s birthday is on June 17th, which often lines up with Father’s Day… so she still gets him a present, even though she is the ultimate gift.

I got my dad Eric Ripert’s autobiography, 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line, and a multi-tool he’d forgotten he’d put on his Amazon Wish List. I was going to get him Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook for home cooks, Appetite, but unsurprisingly, it is out of stock…. or at least it was before Father’s Day. Thanks, Obama.

The Kindle version was available, but a Kindle cookbook seems somewhat useless. I mean, what is a cookbook without notes in the margins and stains that make some of the pages stick together? How ELSE would you make a ground beef trifle (that reference ages me)? It might have been okay, I guess. A few Christmases ago I got my dad a cutting board that has a slot for a tablet in case you’re cooking with a YouTube video. Still, though, not as good.

I am not a fan of cookbooks, because I won’t use them. First of all, I have no place to store them except my Kindle, and secondly, I trust my own palate and can throw together pretty much anything. The only time I ever need a recipe is when I’m baking, because cooking is an art and baking is a science; it’s a totally different skill set.

In cooking, though, I know innately what something needs to make it pop, and how to correct mistakes (acid balances salt, etc.). I remember fondly the days when Dana would make soup, taste it, then look at me and say, “fix this.” It is not that either of us is a better cook than the other, we just have different strengths. For her, it’s technique (unsurprisingly- Cordon Bleu trained). For me, it’s palate. One is not more important than the other.

For instance, I could beat the pants off Karen’s potato salad.

A Precious Hour -or- A Long Way to Go

As you can imagine, now that my grandfather has lost my grandmother, he is quite lonely for any kind of companionship. My father told me as much, and said that the best time to contact him was at 0900. So, after staying up late last night doing crossword puzzles, I dragged my happy ass out of bed and went downstairs to get a Big Gulp of black iced coffee.

[Editor’s Note- you might think that going to a coffee shop and ordering a quadruple espresso is where you get the most bang for your buck…. not so. Because regular coffee sits in the basket so much longer than espresso, a simple large drip packs almost 300mg of caffeine. You’re welcome.]

Because I knew he was lonely, I did everything I could think of to keep him on the phone, and we talked for an hour. As much as I enjoyed talking to my grandfather, I was also proud of myself. Not only did I reach out to another grieving person, I called someone. When he picked up the phone, I could tell that he’d been crying, and I wasn’t about to try and get him to stop. I told him right away that although it was not the same losing a spouse and losing a mother that I could definitely feel his pain. I know, darlin,’ he replied… and I was grieving with you when it happened.

As time wore on, we changed to less loaded subjects so that we could both relax and enjoy each other. I learned a lot about my family history, and his own. For instance, I did not know that before he worked at Lone Star Steel as a public relations manager, he was also a copy editor and photographer for a daily newspaper in Longview and a weekly magazine in Greggton. There were two funny stories about that.

  • His editor told him that for every writer, eventually their ignorance was going to show… but don’t let it in my newspaper.
  • His editor’s other advice was never to use three words when one will do… write it tight. I told him that I had not mastered that part of it. Ever. It seems as if my personal motto is why use one word when a thousand will do?

After we talked about writing, we delved into genealogy, and that is the moment where the hairs on my arm stood up.

No, seriously.

My grandfather’s side of the family originated in County Tipperary and moved to Boston, eventually settling in Bristol, Rhode Island. I can’t remember exactly how many great grandfathers this was ago, but the year was 1847. Originally, my grandfather wondered how in the hell he got his wife and six children to America. Thought he must have stolen the family silver or something to pay for passage… but no.

Most of the land was owned by absent Englishmen. Eventually, the Englishmen were worried that the peasants were going to die off due to disease and/or famine… and honestly, didn’t want the responsibility of taking care of the Irish anymore. So, the whole famn damily was offered passage to the United States in exchange for indentured servitude for two years in the lumber industry. I said to my grandfather, that’s not bad. Most of what I’ve read about indentured servitude was more like seven years. He said, well, it might have been seven, but his legs were cut off in an accident.

“Lucky.”

I am really bad with names, so I think it was my ancestor John Lonergan (no, I didn’t misspell that), who settled on a plantation in the wilds of North Carolina and raised a rebel militia to fight with General Washington.

In short, with the exception of my family being Irish and not Scottish, Diana Gabaldon could have been writing about my family. Talk about the things I dinna ken…

It really took me a minute to recover after that.

My grandfather also told me that another one of my ancestors, I think his name was Thomas, was murdered by a gang. I asked my grandfather if Thomas was somehow involved with the gang, or whether he was just an innocent bystander. He said that in those days, the Irish were treated as awfully as the Africans, and after becoming somewhat wealthy, gained a target on his back. He was an Irish immigrant who managed to buy a house for $300, and, of course, was stealing an American job… so he had to die.

It’s amazing to me how much Thomas’ story is so relevant today.

Perhaps it’s not as far from Tipperary to Sheboygan as we think, and I feel lucky to be a part of the people of faith that are rising up to fight injustice against immigrants, because my own past is full of it. The border is different, but the mental walls that have been built are the same.

We don’t need a physical wall to reinforce horrible treatment of immigrants. Those walls are already eight feet thick in the minds and hearts that need to tear them down.

Looking deep inside ourselves is the only way forward, and I can’t think of anything more introspective regarding the treatment of immigrants as learning the hardships encoded into your own DNA…………..

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces