I’ve been away awhile. Well, I’ve actually been right here all along, but just this morning I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain to you the analogy between life and running a restaurant. How they are so frighteningly similar, that I wonder why I ever bothered with a restaurant at all, when I already had a life.
Every day is defined by who walks through the door, both in and out. The people who run the place and the people who are just passing through looking for a little comfort, and a little sustenance. Someone quits and there’s a scramble to make up for the lost set of hands, and sometimes something you need doesn’t show up, but something else arrives in it’s place, and you make do with what you have because that’s the best you can do on short notice. Sometimes it’s a perfect night, and sometimes the morning comes way too early. You put your whole heart into it. And then something important breaks and you have to let it all go until you can figure out what it’s going to take to fix it. You stand up, you show up, and you go to your station and begin again every day, because there are expectations to be met and things that need doing.
You just do.
And that is where I have been.
I couldn’t have guessed that I would have had the life or the experiences that I’ve had in my short 36 years, and I couldn’t have seen the life I would be living these last few months for all the tea in China. But it happens, life. And restaurant or not, there’s always someone coming, or going. And there’s always something to do. And plenty to write about.
To begin at the beginning would be a story far too long for a blog post, but to begin at the end, well that’s something I can wrap my head around, because it’s as fresh as today’s bread, and all the stuff between then and now has caused me to take a lot of notes. So here’s what happened next…
I moved and it started to rain. It rained so much that Summer barely had a chance to get here before the Fall. And in the torrents, the love of my life left for greener grass. Even coated in fresh paint, my new kitchen was too dark and depressing to feel good in. I ate by myself, and I cursed the rain. And then I decided that there was too much to be missed, rain be damned, and I ventured out into my new food world and instead of cooking, I met the people who cook. I visited restaurants and started asking questions. I was asked to be a judge for the State BBQ competition, and in so doing, met a wonderful group of very accomplished chefs and restaurant owners who opened more doors. (Not to mention I learned that oysters and BBQ sauce don’t mix) I became the co-host of a radio show about food with a gal I had imagined would be a soul mate if only I could meet her. I ate fried olives and fluke ceviche with yuzu ver jus, pickled fresno chili, and sea beans and wondered where they had been all my life. Kitchens were bustling in my presence and tables were filling up. And Gal Foodie was getting her gazpacho back.
And then a phone rang with the horror – a child had been killed in a terrible car accident, and my world screeched sideways all the way back to my beloved Mount Desert Island. The only thing I knew how to do to make it all better was to cook. And cook, and cook. Until everyone at least had a decent meal in their stomachs even if their hearts were bleeding out of their chests. It was that same child that I had fed in my old kitchen for so many years whom I had already said goodbye to a few months earlier. Goodbye to my island, the life I’d built, my sweetest love – No – this eclipsed any farewell I’d ever known. I kissed the tops of their heads and fed their souls but the child was gone, the kitchen was gone. No amount of food could fill that hole. With all the heartache-encrusted strength I could muster, I headed once again from the old to the new, determined to find the recipe for moving on.
I made cheese for the challenge of it. I spent time on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and made crab cakes with the real thing and drank cheap beer at a place called Lucky’s Last Chance. A cookbook idea led to fairgrounds across the Northeast, where I consumed foods with names like the Craz-E-Burger. Despite the implied calorie count (who was counting?) there was a story there and so I grabbed for extra napkins and I kept eating. As a judge at the local chili festival, I met even more people who cooked, and people who published magazines about it. I learned how to make bean hole baked beans for 1,000 people, and roast an ox on a spit. I was recognized in public. And I finally started cooking in my new kitchen.
There is no recipe for this. There is no one way it can go. Sometimes you get lucky. You keep trying new things, testing new ingredients and hoping it turns out OK. And you don’t always get to decide who stays and who goes. You can only trust yourself to keep showing up and doing what needs to be done – the rest is left to Chance.
Life is so short,
~ Gal Foodie