roma

I wrote in my notebook, “Maybe not all roads lead to Rome anymore” in an attempt to trigger some deeper meaning. Instead I started to think about all the reasons I was heading to Rome and had no idea what to say.

I know I didn’t want to write about it like a travel blog. Yes, the food was amazing. Yes, Rome was absolutely stunning and romantic and clean and welcoming. The people were so friendly and dealt with our lack of understanding at how their world works. Though walking around a place like Rome, you get the idea that when you’re a traveler there, you are walking on a different set of streets.

Here, you don’t just stumble upon the Coliseum. Or the Pantheon. The idea of “New World” enters your mind constantly. Italy is old, and carved up with war and empires. There is a sense, when walking around, that this place has learned to roll with what it’s given.

It is a state of mind. One that we just don’t have here in the states. I found myself at times, missing the hustle of my job. The “always wanting more” person conflicted with the “take only what you need” person.

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We also traveled south to Sicily and never stopped drinking wine.

Dinner parties going well into 3 and 4am.

I remember waking up to use the bathroom at 5am and hearing the loud thump of the speakers next door as a wedding party was still happening and all I could do was smile.

If you’re hungry, go to Italy. Somehow, some way. Meet together the holy and sacred and sacrament.

I thought about the blood of Christ and the broken body.

I thought about war and sex — the reverence and abundance of thanks seen in all of the streets known and unknown.

I am shaken, truly.

I’m trying to put together a lot of pieces and what that means for me here. Wishing again for the moment, a simple plate of food, cooked for me as though whoever put in the work, was doing so to capture my heart forever.

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rage

cooking is rage, and it is everything inside of me.

I think about the days where I first started to learn,
and when I first started to learn her.

I hear that album by The National and it makes my stomach knot up.
Music in the kitchen was always something that was woven in between searing and braising; almost always with doing the dishes.

Romance. There’s romance there too. I’m mostly in love with every one, which means they all have the ability to break my heart with a reaction and with their spoons, digging into my side.

cooking is rage.

adult rage. love and doubt and sometimes divorce.

it is salty and fatty and exactly what you want after too many.

too many drinks or days or kids banging on your bathroom door when you just want to be alone for a moment.

More often than not it is given, and I give it all. I give my world and my peace of mind and stability so that you can have it.

I often wish I could dance. In fact I would give up a lot of my talent as a cook to have the energy and the attitude and the courage to dance in front of people.

But I suppose, if I’m being true to myself, whatever it is I do is its own little dance of time and heat and pressure. It goes straight into your belly and into your bones, and the bones of your children.

I am often alone. I crave a late night, at my table with a small plate of food and a person across from me that cooked it, and warmed it up for me because I was late to everything — to her — to our life — to bed, even when it’s been longer than we want to touch and breathe in deep and rest ourselves.

this is the rage.
the deep, fiery furnace-like thing in my belly that wants to have it all and wants you to have it all and in reality,

I have a day, and a day’s toils.

I clean my knives. I finish up the dishes.

There’s a few songs and a sweet picture of my nephew who’s growing up faster than I fall asleep…

after a long day, cooking and moaning, of drinking the salty broth,

I fall in love all over again.

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a year’s end.

This past weekend marked the end of our holiday catering season at the Depot. My hands are all cut up from pulling hundreds of pans out of the oven, chopping case upon case of potatoes and carrots and rubbing salt and herbs into Lord knows how many pounds of chicken and beef.

With all that being said and thankfully done, the one thing, among many things that I love about cooking happens: reflection.

I suppose the purpose of contemplating a year in a life is to recognize the things we were able to accomplish and how the year chiseled us into the shape we are now. It’s safe to say 2016 was a chisel. More so for different people who wanted different things. But, here we are regardless. Some, more hopeful. Some, still a little frazzled with how the world seems to work.

My days start off with so many hopeful intentions. Today, I want to be present. Today, I want to build something good and be good and maybe take a jog around my neighborhood.

And then the sink breaks in the kitchen at work. Sequentially, this throws me off into a state of chaos and quiet rage, and all I want to do is go home and lay in the quietness of a space that I can usually control. I suppose if I’m honest with myself, my world is not about control, and never will be.

I learn more and more what I have to hold loosely. I keep my distance from things until they feel safe – sort of like I did when I was a kid, hiding behind my mother’s legs because I was unsure of strange things. Things like that may never change, though I am now a whole foot and a half taller than my mom. I don’t have the luxury of hiding anymore.

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This year has been about power, and learning how to use it. Power is scary and I walk through each day knowing that I have, in some capacity, the means to use it for tearing down rather than building up. I don’t mean some sort of high executive power. More so a power to decide what people will eat or how my co-workers need to chop onions.

Then there is the other power – the power to use your gifts for good. Maybe that’s being a leader or a teacher or a listener. The world will always need what you have to offer. This power that you have is uniquely and profoundly yours. We may all be more alike than we are different, but what you have is special and you are responsible for it.

I have learned over this year that I am still going to hurt people unknowingly and understand that it’s not my place to say when a person should and should not feel something. I am learning to own the person I’ve become, even when I wish so badly I had all the right things to say and do.

Regardless, 2016 has been one helluva year. We have pushed ourselves hard. Harder than the year before, and as always, I am so stinkin’ proud of my co-workers and friends for believing in something bigger than ourselves.

Maybe it is just food. Maybe it’s just taking someone’s order and hoping from that point on, they enjoy their experience.

But in between all of that, are people who all want the same thing. Safety. Balance. Belonging. Community. Love. (And something super delicious.)

Wherever this wild road is taking me, I feel safe with the people around me. That in itself is a gift I will never be able to ask for, but one that I found I had all along.

Cheers, and thank you for an amazing year.

a place for yourself.

Maybe right now you are preparing a place for your future self. I suppose that is the romantic way to look at it.

It’s impossible to know when you’ll arrive at that place, or if it will look anything like you imagined. Probably not, but that’s okay.
Dating and in general relationship-making has never been easy for me. Hell, the last time I fell in love with someone it ended up being in India among the masses crammed into the metros and markets, with a constant sheen of sweat and dirt.

I’m also not a stranger to hearing, “It’s just hard to put a finger on you.”

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that some part of me likes it that way. But, I can honestly say I just don’t think I can be any other thing. Especially the exact thing you need or want me to be. (Maybe this is my death sentence in the world of romance.) I also know you aren’t going to be that for me, either.

Most of me just feels like I’m really broken in places (and not the theological sense that Christian readers eat up so much). Mainly, I feel not quite glued together just right. A lot of duct tape, and whole lot of feeling like I don’t fit back into where I belong.

This leads me down to some deep and dark places. Like maybe that was why my marriage dissolved into a mess of youngins having no idea what they were doing. Each year from that time, I come more to peace with where I am. I still process, like we all process our hard bits. What could we have handled better — and more importantly, how do we handle this in the future?

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Becoming more adult is scary. Awesome, but scary. Already at 30 years I am thinking of all the weighty ghosts that wander around and I see them all every day. It’s damn hard to move on from how people made you feel. A smell or a picture or a piece of paper in a small box discovered and BOOM. You are right back in it.

I think it’s amazing that we can feel that way. I think we’re better for it. We at least begin to understand what we can survive and for that, we can feel strong. On the other hand, I witness all sorts of innocence on a daily basis and want it again so badly.

I am frustrated. I feel I am not boyfriend material. Partner material. Maybe never again husband material. Some parts deep in my belly wonder if fatherhood will ever be in the hand I’m given, but I certainly do not count any of those things out.

I am lucky that I have something to go to every day that I pour so much of myself into. It is my church, and it is my love that is so full of rage and passion and fire. My adult kinda love.

Who do I think I am?

God knows I’m changing every day. Like maybe my system updates when I go to sleep and when I wake up, I take it for a test run. Some things get left, but more often then not I gain some perspective — some memory — and inevitably something stronger to keep moving on and on.

You are right. I can’t put a finger on myself. For all I have known until now, this is the busiest my brain has been. It is exciting and terrifying and it’s all smushed together like English peas.

But I can tell you that I believe my heart is being made into something new all the time. Maybe that is for a place, some day. It is something I can love and protect and grow all at the same time.

I am always on the look out. Eyes steady on the horizon. Moving toward the Greater Mystery.

becoming

The cicadas have been loud lately.
I’m sure some of you have them where you live, as well. To me, they sound like home. I’ve been finding them on the small walk to my car, when I suppose they’ve given all they’ve had to give, their lifeless bodies and empty shells. Their wings, still shining and glossy and helping me to remember small beautiful things.

The acorns are falling as well. I hear them hit the tin roof of my small cottage every five minutes. More so, when there are squirrels rustling about. The perks of living under a giant Oak.

The pathway to my front gate is becoming over grown with things I know not the name of. My statue of St. Francis is still sitting out there — hopefully bidding some sort of peace to all the things that pass. I try to do the same.

It’s the changing season I feel. It’s hard to see where I am now, but I can listen to it. There is a small frenzy of things shifting. Some things are dying and some things are meant to harvest.

It’s always a season to reap what you sow — except now is when there is some quiet respect for what the Earth gives us and I feel the same.

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No doubt, the months ahead have me feeling a little weary sometimes. We are going to be busy at work and we’re going to be missing traditions to help other people hold theirs. Sometimes that’s hard. It’s my job, though — I don’t mind it in this season.

I have put other things on hold — not because I don’t think I can find it — but because there are so many other things I am having to give. And also, I’m doing okay. It might not fit your vision of okay-ness – but that’s not up to you.

Still though, I hardly recognize what day it is. Only now it’s “Who has a table at what time?  When do we have to be there to setup? What’s the menu? Who’s coming in today? Do we have enough celery until Monday?”

Maybe my mind will clear the clutter. Maybe it won’t in this season. Regardless, I am still open to the mysteries and uncertainties. I am letting go more, and more. I am getting to see the darker ghosts of my past disappear and I am shedding their weight.

The trees aren’t the only things that lose those heavier things. We do too. And sometimes when they fall, they are meant for different things. Things you may not ever see in your lifetime, but they are there and they are growing.

Do not fear the moaning and growing because that is all that life will ever be.

Letting go. Moving on, and growing ceaselessly into your own becoming.

a billion moving parts.

Sometimes I itch all over.

Maybe for places and things I will never see. Mostly, these days, it is an impatient itch and I feel it everywhere. I feel it enough for it to interrupt my sleep as I wake up sweating, not just from the Southern heat, but because in my dreams I am living with all my memories.

There has been so much that has changed about me. Depending on which life you saw me living, it certainly seems to change from year to year. Maybe I’ve started believing in certain things existing, and other things dying. Maybe life is only about being born. Perhaps living for a short moment, and as though it was a lifetime you cease to be that thing and your love and memories are left with the people you let in.

I may not know my impact on whatever tiny piece of Earth I live on at the moment. No one does, really. That’s hard for me sometimes. I work for things I will probably never see. They say if you’re trying to solve a problem in your own lifetime,  you are thinking too small.

I agree with that.

I am often selfish, though. It happens when you live by yourself and are your own deciding factor. “Yes, I will wear this. It’s not that wrinkled.” And then being in a group of your peers and thinking, “Ah. Yes. Someone should have told me that this shirt was a hot mess.”

I remember my married self, quite often. I believe I had a lot of peace then. A lot of everything really. Who knows how to handle life with another human being that is also strong and opinionated and calls you out when you make them feel bad.

Then, when you aren’t married anymore, or separated from your partner, it is quite literally like picking up all these weird looking pieces of yourself. Your mind. Your heart. Then there’s the things that hold you, momentarily. Alcohol. Cigarettes. Being busy. Watching TV. Eating awful shit.

If I’m being honest with myself, part of my body has still been in mourning for the things I’ve lost. That’s just the kind of person I am. Of course I care what people think about me. Of course you are harsh and say things to me and I take it hard because that’s the kind of person I am.

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My health has been a product of this mess. It’s all felt like a roller coaster, really. This has been the coming down part — it’s really fast, and your stomach is in your head.

The past few weeks have had me digging around a lot of things. For one, I am running four to five nights a week. I’m not good at it. But it feels good. I’ve cut out as many vices as I can for the time being, at least until I can roughly get myself back to where I want to be, physically.

I’m learning that takes a lot of discipline. A lot of saying no. I try to make up an excuse for people, and really all I want to say is, “No. I can’t. I care for you. But not right now. This is for myself and for you to have me in the future. But right now, no. I’m sorry.”

That’s a little too long to say all the time. But it’s true. Generally I am swayed by the numbers, but when it comes to my health, I am trying my best to make better habits. I have to, really.

So, needless to say, this road is quite long. I am impressed at people who have been able to scoop up other people so quickly — but I think I am a little different. And that’s okay. I have a kitchen to feel that adult love with — that rage and that passion. That is where you will find me mostly.

Until then, I am falling deeply into something else. Something that I think is important. Knowing myself, there will be a time where I fall deeply into another thing — into another person. It is easy for me to dissolve into someone. Because of that, I am careful. Because of that, I am hopeful.

There are a billion moving parts out there, and I am something so incredibly tiny.

And that’s okay with me.

 

retreat and reconcile.

I’m not quite sure where my head is at.

In between a lot of layers of self doubt and pride and movement. Each layer is built upon what I consider my deepest self. The one that I return to before I fall asleep at night, and perhaps in the morning when I have a few quiet moments.

Who the hell am I becoming? Is this person good? Will this person be lonely? Can I find some balance in this wonky world?

No big surprise you probably ask yourself the same questions. Getting older (and older) I am pressed by the second hand moving around the clock. I live my life in seconds, really. At least when your job is putting food on plates, seconds matter.

Okay. Write about what hurts.

sed_layers

Often, the answer for loneliness is to seek out a person, or people to do life with. But it’s awfully complex. I fear writing about it because it’s got all those layers, too. And I really don’t want to receive worried messages. Actually, I’m quite good with how my life is working.

I am reaching into the places that I feel a little worn and for lack of better imagery, desolate. Being reminded almost daily of lives that I’ve had already. Images that are burned into my brain of people leaving, of me leaving, and also ones of great love and warmth. I like those, a lot.

Daily, I reconcile the person I am becoming. The person who has to be tough on employees and himself. Who is often careless with his words and how they sink deep into another. I have a responsibility for all of that. One could lock themselves in a room forever, but I cannot think of a worse reality than to not feel or to fear the responsibility of feeling the depth of one’s humanness.

I wish I could afford spiritual retreats. Or perhaps more spirituality in general. I think this is also what hurts. Food, in my world, is my way of communion with people. Its facade is one of hipness and energy and hustle — but what I crave at its marrow — communion. And that involves all the moving parts. Sort of like your church. Sort of like your people.

While a restaurant is not by any means a place of spiritual reckoning, it is often where my feet are planted. It is my holy ground that knows too many curse words and blood and sweat. It knows stress and dirt and fear. These were the things I didn’t know as a home cook.

But this is my life now. I have the marks and I breathe in the warm oven and the first pot of coffee in the morning. I dip my spoon into everything.

I taste and I taste and I taste.

When I come home I toss my body onto my bed and often miss the presence of another next to me. Maybe giving me a back scratch. Or a run down of their day, which is often a nice retreat from the noise inside my head.

But really, I have myself. Perhaps the squirrels that run along my tin roof and the occasional lady bugs that still happen to find their way on the edge of my water glass.

My world, as small as it is, seems impossibly huge sometimes. Even when I see the earth from space, falling into nothingness, I am still alive and aware of that gift.

Of Existing. Feeling. Moaning. Laughing. And really just, being.

When I write about what hurts, I often find what heals.
They often stem from the same things.
That is life, I think.

Reconciliation and Communion.

Over and over again.

Layer upon layer.

treasures.

It is something.

All of this.

I push inward to what hurts. I tell myself not to think or write about it anymore, because the idea of peoples thoughts and opinions always seem to oppress what I’m feeling.

Sometimes, it is lonely. And I fear people get angry with me when I complain. That it’s my fault I have defense mechanisms and am afraid of wandering into another universe.

Perhaps your universe. Perhaps navigating my own.

Mine has been so safe. I toil here and there. Adjusting a picture when it’s slightly off. Leaving a few dirty dishes for tomorrow. Or the next day. I guess these are the things I can control. It is a luxury and is also a heavy loneliness.

But it isn’t a lonely where I feel sorry for myself. It is merely the self-awareness that I am moving quite singularly among people who live closely with one another.
In the softest places of my heart I miss it so, so much.

That love was a great gift for me. Even when we are quick to turn folks into enemies for what they’ve done — there is some kind of residue left behind of memory and little treasures.

I am okay to be messy. As much pride as I take in keeping my shit together for the people I see and do life with most, there is a burden of something unfair. An unfair expectation I put on others because it’s what I want. That is the raw thing that is tender and sore.

It’s how I love proximity and vulnerability, but push away a person because I so love to be free to move and stretch and maybe at times fall asleep with my hand in a bag of popcorn.

It’s the realization of sacrifice — of wanting it all — but understanding that you have to give up what you’ve built for yourself, in your own little universe.

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I’m okay with losing it again.

I’ve never been one to close my heart off, and I find myself more often than not having to make decisions that hurt another person’s world. Never anything physical — but perhaps toying with emotions and feelings. Pulling them in and not being responsible to who they are: real people.

That is it, really. Navigating all of these uncharted territories like I know what I’m doing.  Most of the time, I just want to wrap myself up in some ridiculously healthy form of myself and exist. But I can’t. I have the bits of space and time that’ve been pulled into my universe and they are mine.

Spinning and tilting. Each showing some light as to what they’ve been to me. It is all this beautiful gift that involves nothing short of tiny miracles and mercies beyond me.

And as messy as we all are to start, we are working it out every day.

I am working it out every day.

I welcome you to it. My mess. My imperfect universe of treasures.

I keep them close,

and I give thanks.

happening

I wonder if I can learn to be reckless again.

After something breaks you, you try to be safe so it won’t hurt as bad anymore, but it’s becoming very clear to me that things are always happening to us. Whether they are good or bad. Things are happening.

All of the time.

There are some days, where I can float above my body. Already, I live every day remembering people and places and how they made me feel. It’s a cycle I run through, and I’m not sure I’ve had a day where I don’t think about the moments that sent me onto a different trajectory.

I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I am a bit afraid to love another person deeply again. I know for a fact that I will give myself up to it. I will lose something in my cooking. I will regret some of that life, I know. Of being obsessed with some form of my occupation and wondering if any person out there would be able to accept the moments where the thing I love to do, competes with their relationship with me.
This absolutely breaks my heart.

I am a stubborn fool, quite often.

Raw feeling, many days. Where I just don’t think I have any more to give, when it’s the thing I love the most.

These days, my cup is so full — I s’pose of everything a human can be full of. Hunger. Fear. Love. Regret. Compassion. Rage. Wonder. Contentment.

And I come home, and push off my shoes and collapse onto some soft surface big enough for my frame. There are times I want to weep with it all — to really just — let the skies have it all. Maybe something up there is listening after all.

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Today, I am jealous of free weekends. Of an easier love. Sun-burned faces and Sunday naps wrapped tightly with a warm body or animal (or both). And in my head, I wonder if I did good enough today.

If I was fast enough. Or kind enough. Or if I hurt someone’s feelings or whether or not I’ll have the energy to muster up a soft hello at a local church meeting. Truly, I have a lot on my shoulders and a dull pain riding up into my neck.

But, things are always happening to us.
And like the prayer goes: it’s for our healing.

It’s all happening for us to move through and to become so wonderfully and tragically human, with the world and the people of it pulling us in a million different ways.

For now, I will rest my head and give the dull ache in my neck some time to take it easy. I will wrap myself tightly in this brown blanket and probably wake myself up with a snore or two.

I have my own Sunday kinda love, and today, it looks like all of the things that have made me — and have made me goofy and flawed and tenderhearted — and know that all along, everything’s been happening.

 

eating last.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything.

During my last post and this, a lot has happened y’all!
I moved (into quite possibly the coolest cottage in south Mississippi).

I got an award.
And I got nominated for another award.

In the midst of all of this, we’ve had three monstrous catering events and our little shop is getting busier by the week, it would seem at times. Certainly at times more hectic, at least.

Now, these are all great things. Growing pains and things, perhaps. Things I thought wouldn’t happen for at least another year. Certainly not now. I saw my name mentioned with a few other local chefs who basically run entire restaurant groups and thought to myself,

“Damn. All we have are two hot plates, a sandwich press and an oven that functions well about 70% of the time…”

I feel really proud about that. I feel proud for my crew, as I don’t believe they asked for any of the attention or what becoming busier imposes. Higher expectations. Different crowds. More pressure to perform consistently.

How do you ask that of people? How do I ask that of myself?

I think the answer is why.

Maybe why is the question, as well.

I’ve been reading this book on leadership. Not because it is something I’ve pursued, but somehow something that has always been given to me — and something that I feel proud to take. I walk around knowing that I’m a decently educated, tall, white male — which means I am probably given better opportunities – historically and well, presently.

I say all this because I always want to recognize that privilege before anything else.

Also, I work hard. And work hard to remain kind when I can. And fair. I will also eat last.

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Why is eating last important? I have no idea. But I always find myself, even when I cook for people, the last person in line. Generally by request.

Simon Sinek has a book called, “Start With Why” — and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I eat this stuff up. He interviewed military generals and corporals and came away with a profound truth: Officers eat last.

People feel safe with good leadership. This is something I’m learning. Especially in kitchens where every one is giving it their best for not much reward — they are doing so because they know they are important, and will be cared for in some way. At least that’s the way it should be. Once that is compromised, things begin to fall apart.

It’s also important for people to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. That can be hard.

I’m less likely to give my money to someone who has no idea why they’re doing what they’re doing. But if you can show me why — I’m all yours. That in itself makes me feel safe.

In the same way you buy food from us because you know we give a shit about what things look and taste like, you are willing to come back again and again.

When I get days like this, where I am allowed to settle into myself, I feel a lot of things. Definitely being tired is one of them. I haven’t had a real day off in about a month and a half. Therefore, I get to catch up on writing. On purpose. On being better.

I will sit and listen.

Moan and stretch from the weeks toils.

I like being here. I’m still learning how to do this, and I have hopes that we are still working towards something better. That means hustling so my co-workers have jobs and that we continually work to make this city better.

I am happy to be eating last. And as it turns out, it’s made all the difference in the world.