Friday, June 15, 2007

notes from the kitchen sink

Information is the currency of every kitchen.

Apparently I understand enough Spanish to be drafted to help the dishwasher ask a question about his schedule to the boss (but really, I don't).

There's always a secret code of glances, a reason behind the style of walk or tone of voice or measured pace of work. I get in trouble in these kinds of systems because I don't like to play the game. Information=currency (but food=love, right?). I try hard. I voice concerns. Even if they're not always welcome. Today someone tried to convince me my concerns weren't welcome but then apparently that wasn't the case, but check back with me next week because I might have a different opinion about the matter then.

It's just food, people. Some famous chef or other once discussed never sending out a plate you weren't 100% satisfied with, that didn't represent your best. No half-assed adequate food, nothing you weren't proud to put your name behind. If it wasn't good enough fix it. Replate it. If it's too salty bake another batch. If it isn't right, don't bother. I'm trying to work up to that standard. I'd love to one day be there. Sometimes I am. Go have some bread pudding. Or cupcakes. Do it right, and quickly. In the workplace, I require two things above all: discipline and communication. And the secrets (the secrets of bakers, the secrets of managers, the secrets only the Mexican guys know, the secrets that don't translate from English to Spanish or back around) just fuck with my mental mise.

I'm doing lots of cleanup duty at the cupcakery, being the last baker there. I'm cleaning out the dishwasher, organizing the walk-in, writing the inventory count. I'm learning the nuts and bolts of its daily grind, the kind of things you only assimilate by doing over and over, thinking each one is beneath you. Until it hits you how they accumulate. How you know things that others probably don't simply by being aware and by cleaning up every day. If you want to know the politics of a kitchen, ask its dishwasher. So every task is education, if you approach it the right way.

I'm getting all sorts of crushes lately. Inappropriate and silly crushes. Perhaps because it's warm and the fruits are crashing into each other, peaches old news by now since plums and nectarines are sighted (but the new peaches are better, and I grin slyly while I eat small bites but save my enthusiasm for the Jade nectarine, so juicy I thought it was a plum). Maybe it's the bounty of the earth. Maybe it's having a home in the city at long last. Likely it's a phase, but I avert my eyes lest I blush. Too many crushes. It makes me giddy. I want to bake them all cupcakes. I want to make them all pie. I want to keep wearing a stupid smile while I work twelve hour days and figure out how to keep my mouth shut, how to make less of a mess of the powdered sugar, how to make a peach gelee, how to end a story so it resonates in the white space of the page.

Think about fiction with me. Eat plums with me. Recite Wallace Stevens though and I'll bake you anything you might ask for. The weather is bounty and I want to get out and play in it. Go camping. Biking. Hiking. Sit around and eat lots of ice cream, with or without cupcakes or pie.

(These, apparently, are the best cupcakes I ever made. I made them last 4th of July for a BBQ. Coconut buttercream (one of Cheffy's perfect recipes). Dyed-pink cake from some crap Nigella Lawson recipe. Decorations. These cupcakes were gone in under five minutes and some folks were two-fisting them. I'd like to think I could do better now...)

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