Friday, November 30, 2007

thanksgiving recap

at long last, the Thanksgiving photos are up on flickr. We had too many desserts

and lots of wine

and after all the hard work

there was lots of food

and a long-awaited game!

(i won)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

yuzu, cake, jam

In case you are wondering how the yuzu was, it was fantastic. Divine. Utterly unctuous and brilliant yellow-gold in color. All this and I didn't even taste it. Really. Except for a tiny quarter inch square of candied yuzu peel that I nibbled there was only smelling involved. And dios mio, but I was not expecting this, how wonderful it was! It. Smelled. So. Divine.

Sort of lemony and musky and warm all at once. My taste buds are not good enough to accurately describe the aroma, but let's just say that the owner/sommelier person came into the pastry kitchen and we let him smell it and he really wouldn't get his nose out of the yuzu syrup for several minutes. When he did stop sniffing it was to bring us bottles of dessert wine, PX sherry and something else, golden and Austrian and summer in a glass.

I made a cake last night. Supposedly a pound cake, this cake was actually made as you would make a sponge cake, by whipping whole eggs with sugar and folding in melted butter and flour. It was lemony from zest in the batter and a lemon-lavender glaze applied after baking, but the cake wasn't lemony enough in itself and so I'm thinking (it's too late for that part obviously) about ways to get more lemon into the cake. I could create a lemon sugar by storing or rubbing zest into sugar. I could obviously increase the amount of zest in the batter, change the glaze, douse the cake in syrup because sponge cakes can take a LOT of syrup. Pop it with some limoncello, to cheat.

The cake was interesting but I wasn't in love with it. The taste is a little too eggy, which makes me feel like with a more spiced or flavored batter you would not have that problem. The texture of the cake feels nice and airy, and the top quarter inch or so is nicely soaked from the syrup, but the bottom part of the cake is definitely more soaking syrup or else a soaking bath. Perhaps it will be tastier then.

All the same, the cake brought up the matter of expectations. If you label something a pound cake and then present them with a sponge cake recipe (even if it's constructed to mirror a pound cake), there's still the expectation that it taste a certain way. I made this cake to munch on for breakfast, but it's not delicious by itself. Nor is it a disgusting cake. It's tender, flavorful, and somewhat moist, and I know how to make it moister. How would I want it served? With some sort of roasted stone fruit, whipped cream and maybe a lemon granita, to start.

That yuzu was so delicious. I think I'm going to pick some up at the market to turn into marmelade. I'm not a jam lover but I think for this I would make an exception. It would take far too many for sorbet and I don't so much want to make custards or cakes, but perhaps marmelade and some sort of pound cake (authentic, heh) and cookie? Hopefully there will be yuzu at the Saturday market this time....

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

exciting moments in the life of a cook

1. new desserts appear seemingly out of nowhere...they're cute and monochromatic and i know i need to eat the whole thing to really understand how the flavors all work but still i nibble at pieces.

2. i've been trailing on garde manger for the last few nights and tonight i finally had a nice, well respected salad mound of beautiful greens and persimmon. it sounds stupid, yes, but, like, it finally *looked* nice.

3. sometimes, le tigre just comes blasting out of the pastry kitchen.

4. {this might be all i want to say}. i finally met some yuzus. i stared at some at the FPFM a couple weeks back but didn't buy any because i'm never home and i figured if it was the start of citrus season they'd only get better. back before persimmons were even a twinkle in my eye, a little over a year ago, i had it in my mind i was going to track down a yuzu and it just wasn't gonna happen from boston. it was something of a status-symbol fruit in that only one place in town was doing anything with yuzu (ken oringer and rick billings, naturally), and you couldn't get it anywhere, but in bigger cities everything was yuzulicious. i may be crazy, *but* i was the only one to identify the marigold colored fruit. i juiced a bunch and tomorrow or sometime we'll candy some rinds. today i also fell in love with citrus a little.

5. i had one of those blinding revelations artists claim to have on my way home tonight. i'm thinking about a new story, letting the character gel in my head (and this morning i just finished a draft of something else so i am free to pursue this new piece). i was kicking over some obvious facts pertaining to the character's habits and i just knew thematically that he'd have to meet someone else very specific and if that happened--if the specific guy took the place of the general person--then the story would receive that gift...the puzzle pieces would be specific and not random. whatever else the story is to be about {delusional line cooks, squandered opportunity, grief, drugs, homoeroticism, lonelinesses} it's got that link, that thing, that component you can't quite name but can taste, intuit, hunger for. how did it come to me? why did it come to me? from what place does it come? as much as i want real answers for everything there's a certain amount of intuition and mucking around in the dark that come with pursuing creative occupations.

6. being so-very-thankful for my coworkers being amazing. because they are. and i'm not just saying this because they might read it {which they might} but because it's true.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

notes on fruit

I have a crush, apparently.

On persimmons.

Yesterday at the market my manager and I were shopping at the market and she was going to grab our fruit from Blossom Bluff while I dropped our eggs off inside, but she stopped and said, No Wait, I Should Let You Do It, You're Just Like A Little Kid With The Persimmons.

Maybe a week ago I asked her to teach me her tips for dealing with pomegranates. Being Persian I figured she'd know some good hints. There had to be an easier way of getting to the pomegranate seeds that just cutting it open and trying to scoop them out, right?

Well apparently what you do is use a knife to cut through the skin at the top, all around the pomegranate. Not through the whole thing, just the skin. Then when you've gone all the way around you can use the stem end to pull off the top. Kind of like a pumpkin. After this you'll see that pomegranates are really constructed in an orderly fashion; much like citrus, it's segmented. So you can cut through the skin only along the segments and pull it apart without cutting through the seeds and making a juicy mess. Each segment can be seeded individually and maybe you'll lose a few seeds but you'll keep the juice intact and the mess to a minimum.

Now, for picking pomegranates, you want ones with thin skin and a long stem, and the ones that have cracked open are really good.

One of my persimmons is almost ripe, but the rest have a long while to go. What to do with them? Cookies? Sorbet? Eating out of hand?

Friday, November 23, 2007

cozy, warm

knitting lots

(winding loops around and around, creation and its opposite)

black yarn creates invisible spaces, darknesses

leftovers, and cozy semolina pudding recreated from yesterday to snuggle up to.

writing again for the first time in...weeks? remembering this is who i am. this is what i do. this fulfills something in me that is necessary.

sleep, dog, flirting through the thin wires of the telephone, having conversations that evoke conversations of years ago, curling up with a pile of dogs against the heater, remembering spaces east.

the clear blue lake, aqua tint a freakishly blue green, serene surface broken occasionally though almost never by--what--scuba divers?!?, and in the summer a trail that winds around through love's first blush (rosy like a quince you know) and in the fall through dangerous entanglements, the leaves, posturing for closeness with people you will grow closer to, secrets revealed, sometimes most evocatively though a pile of snow shards ice in winter, in the last months of a friendship that has something of love in it, and if the roads are not too icy we know someplace to go, down by the jazz barn and the railroad bridge. i see that lake in my mind, those cliffs i always intended to climb. a backdrop for everyday in a season of labor. i tell myself i shall not leave those things here, untouched. the gunks. i dream of them lately. and a winter spent spinning wool with tired, aged hands on twentysomething girls, in stilted tiny houses in potown. beautiful straight girls who smoke imported cigarettes and run for the train, run down to the bronx, though more to forty fifth where dressed like russian molls they wait until you pick them up make illegal left turns and wind your way slowly down through the city over the red bridge (you look for the sugar factory) and into brooklyn.

this to say, there are other places on my mind and sometimes it hurts. this to say, will i always be trying to get back there?

but thanksgiving. four desserts and four bottles of wine for four people. we hovered around the kitchen some but not too much, giving instructions for choux. the scrabble game of lore took place. i've got pictures of the stress, the food, the ridiculousness.

if you want to know the breakdown of how the week went, it was like this:
monday 7-12 work on pies, 2-830? restaurant work
tuesday 10-3, work on pies, 3-11 restaurant work, 11-4a work on pies.
wednesday 3-9 restaurant work.
this all entailed working three services, cleaning/inventorying/prepping, preparing batter for 50-60 pies, baking 90+ pies, baking shells, boxing pies, checking orders, being the dishwasher.
and holy hell, a week with two days off!
tomorrow is another 18 hour day.

i hope to finish my new scarf if not tonight very soon. it will have pockets, all the better for persimmon stealing!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

happy thanksgiving

It's rather adorable, isn't it? My sous chef and I are going to thanksgiving at our coworker's house. She's 22 and has never cooked thanksgiving dinner on her own before. Too cute. The restaurant is pretty cute these days. Yesterday the sous chef made pumpkin pie for our chef and the night before I made flourless chocolate cake with whiskey-soaked cherries for one of the line cooks to use for a catering gig.

I've got one persimmon pudding courtesy of a Shuna Lydon recipe and gifted persimmons. One pear frangipane galette courtesy of FH. One old school trivial pursuit and a beat-up Scrabble board so we can finally get our word games on.

Thank you to all of you, you know who you are, who saved my life a dozen times Tuesday and Wednesday. Who looked at me with grace, humor, and a little compassion as I worked in and out of kitchens at all hours of the day and night, who answered my phone calls, made sure I was fed and slept, taught me new things, watched the cutie pie for me, and stood by me in general. I'll do a Thanksgiving recap later, because there are sure to be more stories and there are already so many stories I want to tell.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

name dropping: the pastry chef game

I just got back from a lovely dinner tonight with my cupcake coworker Bruce. We met at the hot and crowded Ritual and took our coffees elsewhere. As requested, he brought me cupcakes so my coworkers get a lil treat tomorrow.

It took us a while to catch up on the goings on at the cupcakery, my jobs new and old, the girls and boys in our lives, the baking projects we have going on (things with pepper for me and malt for him). I had not seen Bruce in a while, since shortly after I started the new job, when the cupcakery was still fresh in my mind. It was nice to reminisce about all that but from a distance. People have come and gone. Some of the bakers have apparently discovered this blog (and to them I say hola, que paso?). I miss them sometimes and I think about going by, but don't want to see the old boss and then it's also clear across town in an area of SF I never really find myself in by chance). For dinner we decided to do Farina on 18th, and we sat outside.

I thought I'd be decadent and order a cocktail. Since I'm working ridiculous hours all week it seemed appropriate. I got a basil martini (with gin, thanks) and it was a lil off-putting in hue (it looked like a heaping glass of wheatgrass) but very delicious and icily cold. We settled on splitting two of the entrees, the focaccia with capers, tomato, cheese and anchovies, and a pesto pasta. But which one? When we asked our server to explain the difference between the two she was very eager to do so, and then pro0ceeded to push us toward one which would melt in our mouths and be unctuously soft. The other, in her opinion, was tough and chewy and left people disappointed. Soft pillows or the one no one likes? Bruce had been more intrigued by the under-loved pasta (which was chewier, and toasted lightly before being baked) and I appreciate thorniness, so we eschewed her recommendations.

First we received bread on a lovely little paddle that was tempting for whacking passerby. A white bread and an olive bread. The white bread had a nice firm crust but was rather dry, and could have used some dipping oil to doften it. The olive bread was a little sweet, very soft, and had a soft and chewy crust. Neither was very enticing and we chewed dispiritedly. A very few minutes later our food showed up.

The foccacia was the better of the two. The dough was wonderful, very thin and flaky. The pesto on the pasta was a sexy green color but was sweet and underseasoned. We begged a pepper grinder off our server, who a lil lightly gave us some black pepper, but there was no salt in sight. The focaccia in contrast was perfectly seasoned if a bit limp in the center, and the way it was halfheartedly cut seemed to suggest that if you were inclined to get to work with one of the very many serving utensils you might free a piece.

While I faced the street Bruce had the more intriguing view of the pasta guy working in their open kitchen. He had some sort of machine. We were clearly going to have to go inside and check this out after dessert. We knew we were going to order the milk fritters. As the meal unwound I doubted. I certainly didn't want to be disappointed in the milk fritters, but if we didn't get them we'd have to go up the block to the Bi-Rite and I broke up with them, so it'd be that awkward visit where you see if they've got anything new going on and scowl whether they do or don't, and Bruce had also broken up with them over inconsistencies within their flavors (though when I revealed to him that they use Strauss organic base rather than make their own, he was aghast. No going back) It's Okay, I told him, I'll Take You To Ici Where They Change Their Flavors All The Time.

So we went ahead and ordered the fritter. A short moment later they arrived and they were beautiful. Two sugar coated fritters, a mound of grapefruit and orange segments, some impossibly thin slices of candied orange, and a hard-crack caramelized orange slice. One of the things I love about dining with cooks is how we play with our food. We need to know how and what. Sometimes I'll touch with my fork before I taste, teasing apart the elements on a plate. Sometimes I'll just be surprised, as when I had my first forkful of the citrus dessert at work and found raw citrus segments and icy, sharp sherbet hiding under the prettily perched souffle. Bruce indulged me and we teased apart the candied orange in a fork duel. When I finally got around to eating the damn dessert it was Amazing. It was sweet and acidic. It was well plated, well sauced. The flavors were incredibly well balanced, and after the food we'd had it was such a great experience to eat something and not want it to be more than what it was. When you eat something like that, you want to know who makes it and you want more of it. Alicia Something said our server, furrowing her brow. She disappeared and came back a couple of minutes later with the check and the pastry chef's multisyllabic last name I knew I'd never remember. It wasn't on the menu, which is a shame. Ir was the absolute best part of the meal. And judging from the yelp comments it seemed to be the best thing a lot of diners had there, too. Bruce and I made our way back to the silent pasta machine. We scrutinized the clean, quiet semi-open kitchen. There was dough, pasta and bread. And then, we realized, there were sweet things.

The Girl was young, trim, clean. Her elbows were impossibly thin. We watched as she drizzled chocolate on a plate, disappeared, returned with a bain and a molded creme caramel. She tried to remove it, but it didn't want to go at first. She finished that, scooped ice cream and I smirked that they weren't as pretty as Michelle's fanatic scoops at Range nor the quenelles at work (my coworker complimented me on my quenelles on Saturday and I was so happy! they are a challenge...) Then the server muttered something to the Girl and she came quietly toward us to introduce herself with a half handshake. She was apparently the pastry chef, and she was quick to tell us she would soon be leaving Farina for a SOMA restaurant that's never before had a pastry chef. Are You In The Industry? she asked.

Duh. Of course. Who else would ask for the pastry chef's name, nevermind come back to the kitchen and watch the dessert plating process like it's a spectator sport. She had not heard of the restaurant I work at, so I was tempted to name drop further: who is boss is, where else she's worked, where else I work. But I didn't. She had heard of the cupcakery and seemed to think favorable of it from the tone in her voice, but then Bruce got into other places he's worked and we moved to banter. Gossip. What did you think of this person, do you remember that person, etc. You can tell when someone is keeping you on the outside and when they've taken you into their confidence and we were having the insider's discussion. We asked her about her assistant, how big was her team, did she like this person. Her assistant is a line cook new to pastry, and she was quick to praise her as fast, clean, good. I presume the desserts will stay the same for a while after Alicia leaves but what will happen when it's time to change the menu?. How will someone without the background knowledge of what each component is, ow it's constructed and how it works, be able to create another dessert that good?

We assured her we'd visit her in the new place, and made our way outside where we walked up to the Bi-Rite to peek in. I hurried away thinking of Ici and the malt ice cream I may someday or never get, and the impish fun I had last week in Berkeley which I have to write about, but enough for now. It will be an early morning of pie prep and I should stop staring at the screen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

work meditations

I haven't been talking about this lately, as some have said, but it's still true:

I love my job.

I love that my coworker recites her rhyming poem about the pets she's had while we prepare phyllo-wrapped pastries.

I love that Al Gore came into my restaurant Monday night for dessert. And my coworker and I plated up the food he ate every scrap of.

I love that there's a line cook who makes me dinner when staff meal is nasty or all gone. And in return I feed her hot cocoa.

I love that I made the sous chef make the prep cook clean up the large mixer he made bread in and left a floury mess (every day he does this and never cleans it up). And that this prep cook and I had words about his needing to clean it up. I love my boss's response as I relayed the story.

I love that the chef asked tonight if we could wrap his phyllo dish rather than any savory cook.

I love that I made a list of all the desserts we'd made thus far, with all their components, and it was already so many things. Which we forget in the day to day.

I love that my boss missed her train tonight because was in the middle of giving me advice about a frustrating situation.

There's this server at work who got on my nerves for a while. Every day he'd ask the same, or similar questions about the menu.What is cardamom? What does it taste like? What does the phyllo filling taste like? What is anise? What is fennel? How are cocoa nibs different from chocolate? How should I describe this other phyllo pastry? Can I taste this, and this, and this?

One day it hit me, clear out of the blue. I was so irked by this guy's many questions, by his overeagerness, because it hit too close to home. He was me, we were twins cut from the same cloth. Not the most apparent realization. But sometimes you fight people the more when they resemble you too much. You see your faults writ large in their actions and words and you wonder, do I really sound like that? Is this how other people feel when they talk to me?

He's leaving the restaurant now (and the city, actually). And I'm kind of gonna miss him.

The cake's all together. I love that I banged it out in about an hour and a half after work, and that I knew it would take that long, and that I did it before taking a shower or eating or doing anything. It's done. Other things...not on my mind tonight. Now I'm gonna have a big glass of wine and finish watching L'Eclisse, because there's few things finer than a sultry Monica Vitti stomping around with a pout on.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What is a memory worth?

What is a holiday worth?

In time, in money, in labor, in goods. Who holds the power?

I just got home from work and I'm making a cake. A Ukranian torte to be exact, commissioned by a friend of a friend. This torte has a shortbread-like "crust" and three layers of filling--applesauce, apricot and chocolate. The dough I made this morning and am baking off. I'm in between batches right now, waiting for the cake pans to cool enough so that I can re-use them. The applesauce was started this morning and is continuing to simmer down on the stove. The chocolate layer is simple and will be made tonight if I've got the energy. Tomorrow the apricot layer will be made, and the whole thing will be assembled and frosted with whipped cream. The recipe is from Comfort Food for Breakups.

I wasn't sure what to charge for it, how much considering it was for a friend of a friend, but also the week before Thanksgiving. And my time is pretty precious this month. So I costed out the recipe and names a price--not as high as I wanted, but enough to ensure I'd clear some profit after the ingredients were bought, enough to hopefully be worth the time put into it in after- or before-work hours when I'd rather be sleeping or reading a book.

I've done some commissioned baking before. My first job was a wedding cake. Three months into culinary school. I flat out told one of the grooms I couldn't do a tiered cake (when he asked why, I explained because we hadn't gotten there in school yet). We discussed cake options and he went with a white sponge cake, soaked in rum, with strawberries and vanilla buttercream. His only specification was that I incorporate the color lavender into my decorated, so I made some lavender-colored white chocolate shards and decorated the main cake (there were 3 or 4) with fresh flowers. I even bought a 2-groom decoration for the top from the cake store. I didn't know how to properly re-cream buttercream then. Back in the day.

Then I did some Thanksgiving stuff last year. Caramel apple pie, pumpkin pie, cranberry cheesecake. That was super fun when the cutie pie ate one of the pies the night before and I had to give away my only spare pie!

When you bake for commission unless you have baked that thing a hundred times, there's an element of guesswork and surprise and having things break or not work out. That wedding cake, I used new cake pans and didn't spray them well enough to get the cake out, so one of the layers fell apart. I didn't have enough time or money to make another, so I was forced to patch out a couple layers. Non-bakers might be surprised to know exactly how much their food is sometimes handled. I stayed up till 2 am working on the cake. There may have been a blizzard, it being a cold New England winter, but I can't quite remember. I was working half the time on a table my roommate had built for me out of plywood. I went to bed without having finished the decoration, got up at six am, called in sick to my job, and was shortly thereafter greeted by my roommate who was making enchiladas and fried chicken for the wedding dinner. We shared the kitchen and I finished the cakes in enough time for him to take them over to their house. The grooms were drunks and fell asleep in bed while the guests, mostly catering people we'd worked with, got drunk and raved about how the cake was the best thing Ever. It took them a month to pay me, cause I thought it's be crass to make them worry about money on the day, and when they did they stiffed me ten bucks or so.

The shortbread's baked now and the applesauce is finished. I'm getting up early again to bust out the other layers before work so when I get home I can assemble the torte and send it off with the nice Ukranian folks.

Next week is Thanksgiving and I get daily phone calls discussing various details. But in the meantime I still have a full time job to do. I think, should I have charged them more for the cake? What is my sleep worth? Should I have charged them less, considering I know them? When you factor in my shopping time, and that fact that it's closing in on one a.m. and I should be sleeping, am I treating myself as well as I should be or am I selling the experience my hands hold for too little money, because I am used to the pay scale and workload of my industry?

It's fun. It's always fun. Watching something new unfold in the oven. Making applesauce for the second time in a month and noting how the color is different this time because if different apples used.

This is really funny, too:
I got a lesson today in how to tie my apron. My chef was like, C'mere. Take It Off. Now Put It Here--Or Here. I always thought my apron was flying all over the place cause I've got a potbelly and it just doesn't want to stay up, but apparently not. She and my sous chef laughed at me. When they asked me to turn around I refused. Yeah it was funny...and I was laughing...but it made me feel like such a kid.

blogging, guest posts, and overworked cooks

Wondering where I've been and what I've been up to?

My mother was in town and we ate SO much...

But we also went to the Michael Ruhlman reading.

I went to the reading on the clock. With a red timer in hand. With coworkers, even. And my mother. I went as a cook, in a community of cooks.

He said some interesting things about blogging, which has been on my mind a lot lately. For an expansion of my thoughts on the intersection of blogging and writing, head over to my first post on the Fringe blog!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

work. and work ethic.

I'm really quite furious when I think about it, have been in a mild frenzy all day. From an email first and then a phone message. My anger like a pot just below a boil, tasks at work just distractions.

How dare she steal his recipe. How dare she take something that wasn't hers to take, that was offered freely as a gift to the workplace, that was offered because she wanted something new and seasonal and had not/was not going to/whatever do any of the work herself.

A friend of mine spent time and money testing something out for his job and it ran for the last few months. For all I know it's running still. But apparently when his employer is asked to go on a television show and asked for one of her recipes to be featured, she asks if she can use his because she doesn't want to give away any of hers, and she plasters her name on it. And likely makes no mention of where she got the recipe from.

It doesn't surprise me at all. There came a point in time when I saw her character clearly.

And the message, frustrating. It makes me feel like Sisyphus with all those boulders. For every step I take toward the next level, I just keep getting held up, dragged back, whatever. It's SO HARD relying on other people who have to do their part before you can do yours. Especially if you don't have the faith they will pull through, but there you are, anyway, staking your name and your time.

One of the cooks at work is coasting on this slick of attitude and lately he only cares about something if it directly affects his work product. Nevermind that the cheese is missing. Or that his cooks keep putting away their items in the pastry side of the walk in (and, maybe, that is why he can't find what he needs?) He struts around giving cryptic answers to your requests for help, giving you attitude when you ask if he's seen something that someone else needs. Nevermind that you don't need it. Nevermind that it isn't your job. If anyone walked into the pastry kitchen looking for sugar, say, I'd try to find out what they needed and why and help them. Yeah, it might not be my job to make sure the servers can make mochas but chocolate is sort of my duty, in a sense. And having a work ethic means seeing the larger picture. It means taking care of not only your business, but the business of whoever is working the station after you, or who might find it in the morning. It means leaving things clean and prepped if you can. And taking the time to help other people who might help you.

This cook tonight asked us the difference between polenta and semolina, because he didn't know. And I taught him how to work with bread dough, at least better than he thought to do it. So you don't know everything, none of us do, but there's really so much tolerance I have for someone who is going to be a dick for no reason. For someone who is going to realize I'm right behind them carrying heavy things or hot things and decide to slow down. For someone who can't be concerned about the state of the walk in, the placement of their stock.

I'm waiting for his attitude to come around and bite him in the ass, because he needs to learn that he's not all that. And that he isn't going to command anyone's respect acting the way he does.

Monday, November 05, 2007

word counts

word count:1052
first sentence: We sat around Tula’s house drinking Heineken from sweaty bottles and planning the party.

Today: word count: 406
first sentence: The tide felt cold against my skin, and my pants were wet, but each time I dug my hands into the slick, cold sand I pulled up nothing but bones of various shapes and sizes.

Off to the SFPL and then to work!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

a promotion of sorts

Yes, my view is beautiful. Yes, this city is gorgeous, and the day reminded me of it. A perfect day for a bike ride, even up the hills to Golden Gate Park. Afterward there was much lying in the grass, and laziness, and conversation. Sandwiches from Dolores Park Cafe, too many attractive women, and a deliciousness to the air itself, how it felt against my skin biking the last few blocks home.

I haven't been talking about work much but that doesn't mean it's not good. At the market this week I bought Pineapple Guavas from the avocado man, Fuyu persimmons from Knoll, apples from my man in the cowboy hat. And while walking around with my lil bag of fruit I ran into my coworkers, so they collected me at the market even though I was due at work in 15 minutes and we puttered around the market collecting the produce they'd picked out and convincing the head chef to buy us lots and lots of doughnuts from Boriana's. My first time eating those delicious spheres. I sort of want to make a black-and-white cookie version of one, with half nutella and half custard...

There's so much delicious excess at the market...all this wonderful food we carted around, and all for the savory chefs I think except a couple crates of persimmons from Blossom Bluff. I left in a flurry of adrenaline after spending the night working on tiny projects (juicing, dicing, chopping) and running up to the station to help my coworker bust through a mass of tickets and there was only half an hour, really, of exhaustion, which was good. I like our menu. I like the new desserts. I like what we're doing and there's a contentment to the quiet buzz of small tasks.

The cryptic offer I alluded to last week? Details are in and it appears that now I will be an editorial assistant for Fringe. I'll have all-the-time access to our submissions inbox and will be responsible for weeding out submissions, deciding what to recommend for consideration by our readers, rejecting authors who don't make the cut, and so on. I always wanted to be an editorial assistant, or ea as we say, but I always thought it's be for Penguin Putnam or Random House or Simon & Schuster. Vintage Contemporaries would have been my preferred house.

It is very exciting to be able to peek one more layer behind the curtain. There's such mythology around publishing. How does it happen? When you send something to a journal, where does it go and who reads it and what happens to your carefully crafter cover letter? If you are taking the time to remind a journal they liked your last submission, does that somehow get you special consideration? If you are highly published or not, do you land in a separate pile? How long is the slush pile, and what does a virtual slush pile look like? How does a non-linear piece or an experimental piece jostle for room next to a screenplay, am illustrated poem, a piece of short fiction, a full length story? Does longer work have a place in online journals? Who reads the journal, anyway? Do we have a sense of place, of the here-and-now, and if not then what replaces place?

I've been reading for Fringe for some time now and I know some more than what I used to about the grisly process of deciding. Sometimes the first comment on a submission, good or bad, taints its journey through the reading process. It becomes hot or cold. Does it get a fair reading if I know three voices before me were not interested and even if I like it, there's not much chance of it going anywhere?

I know that it isn't right to consider audience when writing but still those considerations creep in. I feel a lot more secure, paradoxically, when sending out my work because I can think, oh this or something much like it is what will happen to me. Probably, the person reading my work is on a computer in a cafe, or at their desk job, and is not devoting a lot of time or attention to this. They are engaged initially, or not, they make their decisions based on their sympathy for my tone or subject. They are only reading, after all. {How my boss would likely criticize me for using "only" here, the cousin of "just"...for reading is one of the finer things in life, but still, it is not always done with full attention}

I'm going to get on that writing-thing for the night and will post a word count and first sentence later. I've been thinking so much about stories lately. For any writers out there, a call to submissions for Fringe. Details on the submission process can be found at their site.

We're seeking submissions in all genres that explore the role ethnos plays in viewing the world, in writing, in living. We want to read literature that fosters understanding, that intelligently navigates the complexities of ethnicity, race and identity. Send us your interpretation! Hurry, the deadline for submission is December 15, 2007. Please mark submissions with Ethnos in the subject line.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

odds and ends

last night's word count: 363.
first sentence:I’d met Will at Pride the year before, when our tiny friend groups collided at an after-party in a house off 18th Street, and he’d been a curiosity to me then with his red-tipped ears, wash of freckles, and odd accent.

oh how I've *missed* Grey's Anatomy. Sometimes I feel like being a pastry assistant is like being one of the characters on that show. Sometimes you get to do something you are really familiar with. Sometimes you do something you've never done and it brings up questions. Sometimes you don't have the things you need, sometimes some crisis comes up at the last minute, sometimes you get a very tedious assignment. Every day is different.

Tomorrow should be routine: FH pie baking. Lots of pear poaching. Pies and pears....

word count: 1867.
first sentence:I excused myself from the Gay Mafia and made my way, tripping slightly from all the booze, to Chef.

I took the day off from cooking but I'm trying to get the energy to work up some crepe batter so I can have crepes with apple butter on Sunday morning. Mmmh. Worth the effort but only if I do it tonight because I'm working all day tomorrow. I'm thinking about a lot of things for Sunday...the library, lazy reading in Dolores Park, perhaps the Bi Rite though I swore off them, the crepes, sleeping in, sending my new piece out to journals...

Work is more crazy and more intense, but in good and challenging ways. Except for when my FH manager tries to schedule me for the week before Thanksgiving and my only response is, Oh You Can't Really *Do* That. I Have My Responsibilities To My Other Job And I Don't Know What My Hours There Will Be Yet. I'll Get It Done Somehow...Just Don't Schedule Me. Because things come up so last minute at the restaurant, at least this week. The party is booked the afternoon before, which throws off the prep list. The intriguing items from other countries linger improbably in customs until the very end of the day they are needed. The freezer breaks. I alternate between trying to think about this month and trying not to think about it. I worked for six and a half hours today and went home early but every other day this week it's been nine or ten hours, dropping in and out of kitchens.

This Thanksgiving thing seems like a rite of passage almost. Stay up all night and bake even though you already work seven shifts a week. Test the limits of your batter in the freezer and the refrigerator, see if it languishes or thrives, build your immunity to the intoxicating aroma of the whiskey pie. Test, measure, find the blanks, the variables you don't know. Today we got our first pie shells from the farm in and I groaned. Eight inch disposable shells with a border of leaves where you might expect crimped or fluted edges. These leaves are going to fall off and they're going to break and it isn't going to be my fault because that's what the dough *does*, but it's going to look bad and it's going to bother me.

On a side note I'm reading more Steve Almond stories (The Evil BB Chow collection) and I adore how he maintains such compassion toward his characters even as he's dragging them through the gutter. It's gritty and tender. Unpretentious. His landscape makes me homesick for the slush and snow, the bristled reserve, the geeky intellectual vibe of my home city. It's been a while since I've gotten out of town and I think it's about that time again, time to go somewhere and not on a bicycle.