bread, dinner time conversation, lovely things

…fuck dat…

20141028-205244-75164808.jpg

This is a story I’ve debated about sharing here. Among other reasons, I simply love savoring little secrets to myself. While I am not afraid to spill my thoughts, or expose myself in any particular way, sometimes I just don’t and won’t because I like having things that I own, that are my own… It’s old enough now that I can let go of it and grab hold of something else now.

I think the one failure of the world is that some people play their cards too close, never really saying what they think or know. It’s always frustrating to me to find that out, so inevitably I share whatever I know, say what I think, let spill more than most. It isn’t that I seek to share every intimate detail of my being with complete strangers. I guess, in some respects, I don’t see a particular danger in sharing some of it; it’s like kicking dirt from my shoes from time to time. It’s a gift to give others, to share what you know, to tell stories and draw pictures, I believe. Other people walk similar paths and sometimes it’s gratifying to know you’re not alone. Or sometimes you just might inspire people to go out and do something crazy and whimsical. Or maybe you might just end up being the crazy whimsical person in the corner that ‘normal’ people gasp at and keep at a safe distance…

It starts here; me, stuck in a fairly toxic marriage, living in a house that feels less and less like a home with every passing day. I cook and play and it is about the only thing that feels quite good and noble to me at the time. It is pretty much all that I have going for me. I wonder if it is some sign that I should pursue what I love doing at that moment; making hams, bacon, sausages, roasting pigs, on some more refined and professional level…

I was a customer there, at a local specialty butcher shop and had shown up a couple times a month to buy things like pork belly and hanger steaks and blood and guts. I’d long fantasized about having a place of my own; a little place that brewed its own beer, baked its own bread, served rilletes, salami, ham, homemade mustard. The sort of place you’d walk in, grab a pitcher of whatever was on tap at the time, some bread, some meats, and sit cozy with people…

It’s never happened yet, though I haven’t given up hope that it someday may come to be…

None of that matters for the sake of this story. I walked in there one day with a different mission in mind. I wasn’t there to buy anything. I walked in and asked to talk to the Chef – Kim – who vaguely knew of me and eventually came up out of the back room. I told her I wanted to work there. I told her my situation, my experience (none, relevant to what she created in the back room), and told her I just wanted to ‘show up’ and wash dishes and learn until they found me of value.

Life is strange that way – if you really want to do anything, sometimes you just have to show up at a doorstep and start doing it. If, at some point in the long run, you make money at it – a living even – so much the better…

She said, ‘yes’ – or at least something resembling an ‘OK’ – and told me to show up that Saturday morning at 7 am… I showed up at 6:45, waited at the back gate for an hour – too nervous to even smoke a cigarette on that February morning – watching wet snow flakes fall on the greasy brick driveway. Eventually, Amy showed up…

Amy was, at the time, the sous chef at the place. She was the first and only one there, with her home made/prison tattoos of stars all along her right jaw line and other random line work around and over each eyelid. She saw me and didn’t say a thing, as she unlocked the gate, the back door, all the walk-ins… After five minutes of awkward silence that only a hardcore lesbian can share with a straight male, she eventually said, “you’re the FNG?” It was a question that wasn’t a question – it was a statement – knowing full well I was the ‘fucking new guy’. It was clear that I was some obstacle she would have to contend with…

I replied, “yeah”…

“What’s your name?”

“Tom”, I said…

She looked at me puzzled for a moment and said, “there’s another Tom here, so that’s not gonna work… You’ll have to have a nick name.”
Driving in that morning, I went the long way, listening to a song which, at that moment in time, struck my fancy, “That’s not my name” by the Ting Tings. I’ve had many nicknames in my life and none of them seemed to pop into my head at that moment, so like a smartass, I pulled a name – a partial name – from that song and said, “JoLisa…”

I never saw her ever laugh again, so much as that made her laugh. She knew that song and somehow that little snippet of lyric and odd nickname disarmed her. I’ve been known, forever since, in that place as JoLisa, even though there are no other ‘Tom’s’ there anymore, and Amy is long gone…

I spent the day alternating between the dish-pit washing endless bowls, pots, pans, sheet trays, steam table pans, whisks, spoons, plastic containers, cambros, lids, and trailing Amy, helping lift things out of the deck oven, taking things out of the smoker, putting various things into Hotel Pans to cool overnight in the walk-in…

The last thing we packed away that afternoon was the beginning of duck confit. In one Hotel Pan, duck thighs rested, seasoned with salt and quatre Ă©pices, another with rendered duck fat. Amy showed me the protocol for stowing things in the walk-in, how every item had a piece of masking tape stretched over it, with the date, what it was, written with a fat sharpie marker.

Packing away those items, I learned immediately, why I love kitchen people. They’re brilliant and funny and have humor I get. They don’t know it is a ‘spoonerism’, a thing I remarkably grew up with. For them, it’s just a funny twist on letters they play, but ‘duck fat’ isn’t ever labeled as such when it goes into the walk-in, the ‘d’ and the ‘f’ change places so ‘duck fat’ is known as ‘fuck dat’…

My day there ended at 4 and Amy gave me her number and told me I was cool and that I could text her sometime. I went home and butchered a duck of my own, cutting off the breasts to cure in salt for duck prosciutto, the legs for confit, the carcass for stock. I rendered the remaining skin for fat and as I was chilling it down in a small bowl, I grabbed a bit of masking tape and a sharpie and wrote “fuck dat” on it. I snapped a picture with my phone and sent it to the number she gave me…

A moment later, a reply, “Hahaha”

Then another reply, “who is this sending me food porn?”

I reply, “JoLisa”…

“Who is JoLisa?”

“I work with you”

“Ummm. No, I don’t work with or know anyone named JoLisa…”

“Is this Amy?”

“No.”

“Oh shit, I am so sorry – I must have the wrong number….”

“It’s OK! I work in the food industry – I get it – funny!”

“My name is actually Tom – JoLisa is a nickname – long story”

“Nice to meet you, Tom. My name is Mary.”…

Somehow, this whole mis-text/embarrassingly colossal fuck up on my part turns into something sort of amazing. We begin a long conversation about food that evolves into music, musical instruments, architecture, art, life, wine, cigars, beer….

I soon find out, Mary is a level 3 in the court of masters Sommelier, a former teacher of culinary arts, a very high level professional in the culinary world…

I am flabbergasted that she finds me the least bit interesting or even worth texting replies to… She is brilliant and intelligent beyond me, cunning with words, has brevity and is concise where I am long winded and prone to long tangents of nothing…

I still have random conversations with her via text. I’ve never met her and I’ve resolved that I probably never will. I prefer that I am a mystery to her as she is to me. I am certain that in person, she would find me ‘choice’ and not ‘prime’. She is sophisticated and refined and has tastes and affinities for things I may never know. She is not eclectic or messy or sloppy as I am. She doesn’t experiment as I do…

She is also not the type to walk into a place and just state that you want to show up and learn how pigs are butchered and will work in the interim without pay…

Sometimes in life when you think you’re falling, or that you have fallen down, you realize that isn’t the case at all. Sometimes, you fall up. You meet people at in the most random, and inexplicable ways, who elevate you, who give you much more than you have. You never know what life brings you. It’s a totally arbitrary melange. The only thing you get to have is how you react to it, what you do with it, what you make it. Sometimes all you can do is treasure it. Then share it and let it go, and believe that it gave you what need for the rest of the journey…

Advertisements

Discussion

3 thoughts on “…fuck dat…

  1. I love this so much! It made me cry….

    Posted by Dawnelle | December 30, 2014, 3:18 am
  2. I am always fascinated by your thoughts that make it to paper….lots of layers. Been a fan for awhile!

    Posted by Matt | January 1, 2015, 5:04 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: