Hello. Please let me explain: I’m a farmers’ market enthusiast, or fanatic depending on how you read the pathology. I take every opportunity to see, smell and taste as much produce as I can, constantly talking to those remarkable individuals who take the time to cultivate it. In turn, I have developed a knowledge base. I mean, I’m not going to jump into the ring with Shuna Fish Lydon on the topic of citrus, but I’ll take on just about anyone else on a broad range of produce debates.
This general love of food has led me to my first job in a professional kitchen, to a haven of culinary delights I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to cook in for nearly a year now. In my first days, I looked at the other cooks with sheer wonderment. In seconds, they performed with dexterity and balletic graces, tasks taking me long minutes of bodily contortion and machinations to accomplish. They became my demi-gods.
A perennial pragmatist and pessimist, I knew my castle in the clouds would crumble. All mortals must fall from grace, every honeymoon must end. However, this reality check never came as a single confidence shattering moment. That is to say, the cookie never crumbled in one fell swoop. The situation was more like a roughly handled Pavlova, slowly cracking into a goo, that while still edible, is not nearly as pleasant to look at. The cooks I had made into heroes and heroines let me in on their secret; they don’t know everything and their skills are not boundless. I submit the following walk-in refrigerator conversations as an example.
C: Aren’t these radishes just so cute?
Me: Those are not radishes. They're turnips.
C: No they aren’t. They’re radishes. A told me so.
Me: Well that’s lovely that A would like to spread the myth of the radish-turnip, but this is most certainly a turnip. (I can be a bit sassy)
C: (Looking for support) S, what are these?
Me: NO! They’re turnips.
C and S: Whatever.
The next day:
N: Are you using radishes tonight?
N: Here you go, I’ll leave them right here.
Me: Those aren’t radishes. They’re turnips.
N: No you’re wrong.
Me: No you’re wrong. Taste one and you’ll see.
N: Chomp. They taste like turnips at the beginning and then radishes.
Me: That’s because they’re raw turnips.
Frustrated, disillusioned, and questioning my own judgment, I finally appealed to the ultimate authority, my sous chef and purchaser of said vegetable, when she was back in the kitchen the next day.
Me: Hey R, what are these?
And with a tone managing to at once convey you-sad-excuse-for-a-cook-and-a-human-being she said,
“Uh, turnips. Why?”
Me: Just wondering… whatever.
For the privilege of writing in a public forum, I must remain anonymous. You can call me A. That said, I’d like to give a bit of background about myself…
I grew up in the kitchen, tugging at my mother's apron strings. Many pictures of a gawky seven year-old wielding an eight-inch chef’s knife attest to this fact. (Inches should not trump years my friends!) It may have been this sense of intrepidness that gave me the courage- read insanity- to show up at the back door of a much admired Northern Californian restaurant and beg for a job without having a single second of formal culinary experience or education. Much to my surprise, they put me to work, and a probationary period of chicken butchering led to a steady kitchen position. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least!
While I'm finishing my undergraduate studies in Art History and Spanish, there is no doubt in my mind, the late nights of my future will be spent in the kitchen, and not in the stacks.