How to Cook Your Life 1
Sleeping In The Kitchen
Oops, No Recipe
You need to be a cook. You can cook food. I was a cook. My buddies went construction and I went cook. What the heck is a cook anyway? Not a chef and not a server. Just a cook. Alright I admit as a cook I also pearl dived. (That is the fun term in a kitchen for a chief pot and bottle washer = a dishwasher and scrubber of all things)
I started out working quite young. I was born in ’57 and I made my 7 look like a 1. I ended up getting emancipated just before my 17th birthday. My brothers laughed that I was not raised up but jerked up. Should we start at the beginning or begin with the end?
Beginning. I really love(d) my mom. I was her favorite of 6 in my mind. Of course the other 5 felt the same way. I am quite sure that I have a favorite out of the four of my children. I just can’t decide which one. Mom was a master chef. One time she served some princes and princesses that I recall but am told she once served a king. We would labor for a couple of hours. We were old school and my mom had an antique store. So….
My job was simple. Keep the floors clean, set and light a fire, shovel if needed the sidewalks, otherwise sweep. Take out garbage, a lot, so smells did not mingle. Help put table clothes on and be a taster. Be looking good to walk elders into the house and ask them about their day. An elbow was polite for man or woman over 70. Otherwise just mind your manners and walk slow. Sir and Mrs. Or mam would do and be quick with a prayer and grace.
My sisters did the silverware polishing and napkin and tablecloth ironing. Someone would do flower arrangements and the candelabras had to be in good order. Never let wax drip onto linen. Do not mess up drinking from the water goblet first, know your forks, one hand in the lap except for passing dishes and using the knife properly with your right hand, all utensils held like a fine ink pen and that napkin that was a Fleur-de-lis, is strictly for wiping your lips or assisting a lady to her place at the table. Do not speak unless spoken to directly.
No One Said It Was Going to Be Easy
Where I Learned to Cook
By about now you are asking about cooking. You did not get to cook until you mastered the presentation including which side to serve from and how hot bread should be served with a warm almost damp napkin for just that purpose.
I will mess this up as it has been a good bit of time; 3 forks, appetizer, salad and dinner. 3 knives, butter, dinner and steak. 3 spoons, tea, dinner and soup. Serve from the left and clear from the right. No noise in the kitchen. Pretend an old lady fart did not happen. (oops did I just write that ;-) Salad dressings are not by choice but rather in a gravy like boat carefully made with me as taster.
And again you are scratching your head and saying, nobody dines like that and we have not gotten to a single dish. Well you should have seen grandpa teaching me how to sharpen a steak knife that you could shave with. “Never give a man a dull knife or bad things happen.”
We were not rich in the money sense. But mom made due. All the fancy stuff was antique as she had an antique store and I reckon she surely did sell some of it right from the table. Not my job to mind as I tried to get rid of the peas but our dog was having none of that.
There is a good place to start on food. My mom made peas to eat. She did not eat them. She did not like them. But peas go with mash potatoes I hear so we had them. Therefor they were the only thing mom stunk at cooking and sitting next to her you better act like you love them. Flash forward 40 years. “Mom why did you make peas you did not eat and made us eat?” “In order to see who had manners.” “What in the heck mom?” “A polite person does three things: One; they eat some and wash it down with wine, two, they spread them around and never use a spoon, and then you can tell how smart they are.” “what mom?” The smart ones know just how great the gravy is and that the pepper is fresh ground and the butter fresh churned. Do it right and you don’t taste the peas. “Mom I am glad I am older so I can tell you that that is a rationalization that carries no water. “Eric how can you have children, beautiful wives and still not understand a lady cook? Cooking and eating are social.”
Just a Tad
How About some Gumbo
Flowing With The Current
Well by golly jingles mom did not like the peas so they tasted bad. But she offered up a fare that could make even peas taste good. I remember old Doc. Fronske (96 in ’71 the last time I sat at his feet as he waxed eloquently next to the fire he taught me to build) I missed him the last time he came, off to play a state basketball game. My priorities stunk and so back to cooking. After all he taught me the lay up.
So I was good at garbage. A friend of a friend got me a gig rounding up garbage for Hank. Hank was the garbage man back when they lifted and tossed in garbage from cans and honked to make sure you did not miss him. So I got to empty the garbage for a full small city block and have it ready for Hank. Two restaurants on the block. They fed me out back as I hauled their garbage. Well for an extra 50 cents I could do dishes for the cooks. Short order diners. I would think I was about 12 because I still had my mowing and sidewalk clearing jobs. Old Ms. Tinsley the spinster and all of our kindergarten teacher who never missed a large dinner at mom’s made me wash her garbage cans with soap and water. Too crazy but the pie and pay was good at over a quarter.
Well you see where this led me back a bit around 14 years old. Dishwasher to fully paid prep cook and egg and hash brown cooker dude. Yes I could toast bread and tear a mean salad and make a patty and cook a burger. Real close to getting started the short order cook passed out drunk, hit his head on the stove and killed himself. They dragged him out and told me “Next order up and don’t overcook the burger”. The story got out in our small town, and on returning home mom tossed me an apron and said to make the Chili her way. And a cook was born and before day break I was soaking tates and slopping around with a new dish mom said would be a killer at the diner. A Tamale casserole.
I did not stay long there. Doc. Fronske had taught me to use white pepper and vinegar real quick to make meat tender. I know barf me up. The key was to let it sit for only five minutes then wash it off toot sweety with scalding hot water. It will bust down shoe leather and make it edible. So word got out. Get yourself a breakfast steak on your way to the construction site.
From there I was recruited by a steak house ranch. Oh well too much for now.