Monday, June 6, 2011
Sunday 6-5: Uphill Battles, Downhill Dumps, Pizza Picnics, Whiskey and Life Choices
Marionberry cobbler, and set yourself up with beers and sodas on the lawn. (I chuckle quietly as I think of a dessert to honor a crack-smoking mayor, but keep this thought mostly to myself. I don't want to impugn the cobbler's reputation.)
Maple Rock Farm) have spent the morning rolling out sheet pans full of dough into thin crusts.
Kartoffel, the Inn's remaining Mangalitsa pig. (The others are either being bred with local boar or being served in a multitude of delicious ways in the main dining room.) A couple sits on a blanket nearby--they've booked their wedding to be held at the Inn, and they come back for two more pizzas after they polish off the first one.
One of the middle-aged women with us, Maureen, asks me how I'm finding the kitchen work. "I love it," I gush. "I may have been brainwashed, because right now this is looking a lot better than a desk job."
Annie, who is savoring her hard-earned martini, doesn't want to dampen my enthusiasm, but she immediately chimes in. "You should know," she says, "that it doesn't pay. And it will be hard to see the people you love. And the hours suck."
"But it's not New York," I say. "And right now, I'm loving that."
She gets it--but Annie spent some of her formative cooking years in New York, and from the way she talks about the place, I can tell she's still a little bit in love with the city. "If you live in New York, you see life, all parts of life, everywhere," she says. "You see the guy dying in the street right next to the single mother who's screaming her head off, and next to them are the supermodels and the bankers on his cell phone. They may not always talk about it all, but you do get to see it all. That's life, right there in action."
I know it's not the martini that's generating this contradiction--Annie, who could take on any New York chef when it comes to sheer talent, was born and raised on Orcas, and has found her way back here. Isn't this a lot smaller, a lot less challenging, than what she might find if she stayed in the city?
"Wait, so I have a question...if you loved New York so much, then what was it that made you decide to move back here? I mean, you could definitely stay in that race, of making it as a cook in New York..."
"I could," she says, taking a pause before setting down her drink and picking up a french fry dusted with truffle oil and sea salt. "But I missed this place. When I used to hear an ambulance go by in the city, I knew something was happening somewhere. But here, when I see it go by, I know that that person I know intimately has just died. And it affects me--directly. I want to be affected by the people I live with--I want to know them, to feel that connection with them and with what I do. I am so satisfied when I cook for someone I love here, because I know that I'm giving them so much."
It's a bit crunchy, I think as I sip my whisky, but I get it. Earlier in the day Annie lent me her copy of Shopclass as Soul Craft, a book I've been after for some time. The message of the book, I've heard, is that we've lost the connection between what we do and what we produce. It's a little Marxian, to be sure, but the idea that we no longer feel value in our work because we can't see or hold the final product makes a lot of sense to me. Annie spent the entire day with her hands in dough, in tomato sauce, in berry juice. Even after she's cleaned up and put things away, her hands might still carry the aggressive smell of green garlic. The people she's fed will still go home nourished, their grumbling stomachs satiated. How often have I, at the end of a work day, generated something so definite that someone's life is truly different because of what I've done?
She's not sugarcoating the reality of the situation--chefs work late nights, long hours, and for little pay. They have a hard time seeing their families, their relationships suffer, their health and well-being takes a hit. But while Annie and Jay were splitting out the pizzas, and Melissa and I were running orders, I watched Geddes, MaryAnn, and their kids chatting with the patrons. Mary Ann said that Annie's pizza night was one of the great things that was enabling her family to get a solid night together at least once a week--and here they were, longing out on the lawn with customers who've known and loved them for years, and who will come back just to get another taste. That seems like a fair trade to me, even with all the hard labor.
And the community part means that you can talk about anything--which, as we all order our second rounds, means discussing the benefits of natural childbirth versus cesarean. Being unversed in the ways of child-producing and rearing, I stay mostly quiet, but hearing the women chatter around me, I suddenly realize how rare these kinds of conversations have been for me. This is a multi-generational conversation happening among women with wildly different backgrounds, all while slinging back drinks on a Sunday night in a town where we could walk home if necessary. It's a privilege to do this after a day of feeding people, and though I'm far from tipsy, the flush of happiness is high in my cheeks.