Saturday, September 22, 2007

how i got my new job and other stories

It's all starting to come full circle. It rained today in San Francisco. At FH, we've still got the gamut of summer pastries but the winter staples are starting to trickle in...pear frangipane instead of peach. Get your stone fruit while you can. Today at the market I bought quince from Farmer Dan with the two apple trees, Black Missions figs from Knoll and dry-farmed tomatoes from Ella Bella, and was given an onion by my coworker. The last two are getting turned into tomato sauce tonight. The quince, I'm not sure yet and the figs are just for eating out of hand.

Last night I went to Chow, where the waiters are just all so cute. It helped that we were starved after a day of eating only desserts, but my wood-oven spinach and cheese lasagna was yummy, and then I polished off my friend's mashed potatoes as well. We split and analyzed dessert: a ginger cake with whipped cream and pumpkin ice cream. The ice cream was appealingly orange but not properly pumpkin, the cake was dry, the caramel made it slightly better.

I have such an uneasy relationship with writing and cooking. One is always being done at the expense of the other. I told my friend last night that the day I opened up my secret shop would be the day I was never going to write a book. It Doesn't Need To Be That Way, he told me. Sure, I'm getting lifetimes of great material and I've already used some of it. Sure, I'll one day be too old to cook. I Would Love To Go On Book Tour In Like, Three Months, I told him (an impossibility for sure). Y'Know, Just Take A Break From Work.

Would You Give Up Cooking In Three Months? he asked. And Never Go Back To It?
I sighed. I pouted. His question was an impossibility it seemed. Something laughable and off the map. No, I said.

You know you're in it when you come home from working your sixth day in a row and cook dinner and make sorbet. You know you're in it when you read cookbooks for fun, and when you order more than one dessert after dinner. When you get up before dawn and everyone asks you how you do it, and you don't know how you do it, but you don't even complain about it anymore really. It is what it is. When you let kitchen words seep into everyday life and suddenly you want to yell Behind at all those slow walkers. When another burn on your arm is just that: another. When you agree to spend your one day off helping your boss plate desserts. When the farmers at the market know your name, give you the good stuff, when you know their names.

I have a new job. This means I'm now working six days a week, since I still have the old job. Details? Not tonight. Tonight I want to tell you about how my job offer came to me.

Last month I was in Marin working as a prep cook. I was at George Lucas's ranch. I was dealing with meat and cutting up vegetables and pretending I knew how to make sauce. I worked with these two guys who started campaigning for me to get a job there. The head chef was filling in until the current pastry chef could find a replacement for her position and move across the hill to the other ranch. Maybe I said on day one. On day two I started getting the specifics: when would I work, what would I do. It was tempting to work making muffins in the middle of Marin County for Mister Star Wars and his people. Even though I *still* have not seen Star Wars. It would have been Monday through Friday but I would have had to get up every day at 430, and quit FH. We were still all just talking--which is usually nowhere near getting a kitchen job--when I got the phone call. Let Me Think About It. I'm Working Right Now is what I said. The rest of the afternoon I floated around plating food, breaking down the barbecue, busting out dishes, having the guys urge me again to please apply, thinking all the while about the new thing that had come my way.

When I got back to the city I called back, said yes, and quit my job the next day. I'm still in that post-relationship phase with the cupcakery. I miss certain of my coworkers. Occasionally I miss the cupcakes. I don't miss the screaming, the tension, the back and forth, the one who lied. I sort of want to visit but only at certain times. I want to hear the news. I wish them all well, certainly, and I didn't really get to say goodbye since my boss basically gave me most of my last week off. The weight of it all is still on me. While I worked there sometimes I'd wake up in the morning and my hands would be frozen. Clenched open. I'd force them to move and think about what I was doing to my body with all the piping and with only eating cupcakes and perhaps a carrot during an eight hour shift (and I didn't even pipe that much).

The new job is new and exciting. I get the feeling it's all ready to burst right open. It's giving me all this writing energy.

But I got sidetracked and what I wanted to say was how it's nice to have people to talk to. Especially when you can't stop talking--and you get going on a half hour digression from the original question so that by the time you think you might be done you're still so far away form the original point so you've got to talk your way back. So you walk around some, eat a horrid cookie, resist telling the cookie-seller that you know it's underbaked because you're a pair of bakers, dammit. Then you've walked everywhere and you're still not done talking so you go up to Bernal Heights. You point out the landmarks in the city below, map its geography. You stay up past the hour when you should reasonably be in bed and then you get up in cold darkness, bike to work, stand in the rain and buy quince and tomatoes and muscle through the exhaustion because what else is there to do.

My flash fiction is up here. The editor says "the piece sure does have atmosphere." Tell me what you think about the ending.

Oh, & hell yeah. Baseball. Postseason. Do you know what I"m talking about?


Anonymous said...

I read your flash fiction and enjoyed it. It does have "atmosphere." :) Now, tell me this: why comments on the ending, in particular? And do you mean the last paragraph? Or last sentence?

BTW, enjoyed our dinner even if the Uttapams were uninspired. :)

Busy all the time. said...

yes, i had a great time at dinner too...see you soon-ish, i hope?

i meant the last sentence in particular, but also the last couple paragraphs, the turn the story takes: why end there? how does it fit with the rest of the piece? is the imagery in the last sentence fitting as a conclusion, a meaningful point of ending? is the story one worth telling?

y'know, that stuff.

Anonymous said...

If I read the piece just to experience it, I enjoy the flow over all. I like the end, although there seems to be a bit of tension that is introduced but not developed. (Starting with "There's been no announcement but suddenly everyone is out from three blocks around.")

I don't know what I would think about the ending if I didn't know you, but knowing you I imagine all sorts of things about the image of you looking over at San Francisco from Oaktown. Knowing you, I *do* think it is a meaningful ending. Would it have meaning if I didn't know you? I think so, but I'm not sure.

BTW, about that other matter we discussed? I acted on it today, as promised.... ;)