scars and stripes

I’ve been learning a whole lot lately.

About different ways to clarify butter and better ways to make vinaigrette. It’s funny.

This is my school now.

I don’t really have homework unless you count making dinner an assignment, which usually, it is. Dishes way heavy on my back, but are a joy to crunch out and get done. That sense of completion makes it all worth it. Sitting down feels even better with that off my conscience. What was dirty is now clean. Like a kitchen revival. All things made new. Until, that is, you cook again.

As the days go by in my oddly timed work week, I find the tiredness creeping into my bones. I get a little careless here and there and slice open my finger during lunch service or burn myself two different times on a wood-fired oven that heats up to about 800 degrees.

And then that same burn feels worse when you’re near heat…which is pretty much the whole time.

Needless to say, I’m earning my stripes. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything, other than that you are working with hot things throughout the day. The pain is quick, but it helps you to learn.

I’ve been doing some soul-searching about this line of work. Reading articles about why one shouldn’t become a chef and listening to the elders of kitchen life tell me that I should probably do something else that’s not as time consuming and back breaking. But there’s a reason they’re doing it, right?

I process this stuff day in and day out. Do I want to devote my body and stress and time to this work? What will it mean for the future of my family (which is just a lady named Hannah who lives underneath the roof of our Bryant Street apartment.)?

I guess I won’t really ever know the answer to those questions until I’m in it. Of course we want an easy way through life. Getting the most out of it without really working that hard. Unfortunately, this is unrealistic to mostly all of us. Our dreams of becoming rich and retiring early and having a huge savings account is also not realistic. I suppose it’s easy to nestle into something you find yourself becoming good at.

Cooking, for example. I know I can cook. I know I can work the hours and still remain somewhat healthy. I can’t seem to think of anything else I’d rather do right now. Unfortunately the money is not great, but it IS meaningful work to me. I do love that I get to learn things everyday that both make me a better person and a better cook. I couldn’t really ask for anything else.

Of course we want more money — that’s not to say I won’t — but I will say that I can make a living. And that’s not bad.

We all earn our stripes in different ways.

They won’t all turn to scars but they will remind you of what it took to get you there. I am a pretty odd and twisted individual that happens to think this work is exciting and challenging and the people that are attracted to it probably feel the same.

Ah, the people. I love that the kitchen is often a home to the washed out and in-betweeners. The people searching for what it is they actually want. I do like to see people finally get that job they were hoping for. The job that pays them 30/hr instead of 9/hr with tips.

I’ve said this and heard it said all the time, that you have to love this or it makes no sense at all.

When I get to tell people I’m a cook, I know what it looks like. “So what are you trying to do?”

I don’t really know the answer right now. I don’t think I have to.

Life is going by so fast and I don’t really have the time to make a 10-year plan for myself. Do the things you love now because you probably won’t get to it later when you assume you’ll have all that free time.

So instead, I’ll joke with the other cooks and FOH and invest myself into their lives. These are the things we don’t get to tell people often. The bond that forms is that of sisters and brothers who fight and mend and imagine.

When I think of the scars and stripes, I imagine my body being built for this kinda stuff.

and nobody can take that from me.


One response to “scars and stripes”

  1. I totally feel you! I spent four hard years getting a nursing degree. I thought it was my burning passion. I thought it would be my life long career. It is not my passion. I dont hate it. I don’t dread work. I have many rewarding moments with the wonderful patient population I serve (veterans). I am proud to be a nurse. That’s why I was so sad when I realized the above. And then I realized- most of us work to live. That’s ok because I have an awesome life. I just have to learn my passion can come from some place other that the job. Good luck with your thoughts. I am sure you will be successful no matter what you do. You might consider writing. This piece is very good!

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