ratatouille (and other things)

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We’re all tired, I think.

Some, more than others. That’s not unusual when things are “normal” and especially not right now. It’s true that some of us are more sensitive to the needs and energies of others, and that makes things louder and wildly more complicated.

Right now I’m not a big fan of the hustle culture. “What are you doing to get yours!?” kind of thing. The ‘push yourself til you throw up or blow out a knee’ kind of thing. But if that IS your thing, okay. (Just don’t try to normalize needing to push yourself to a breaking point — that’s kinda how we ended up in this mess in the first place.)

When it comes to cooking food for a living, we are very aware of the state of things. People eat for lots of reasons, I know. Beyond sustenance for now, I think we are feeding people who need comfort — who need to not cook for themselves out of being tired and at its very basic level, to just feed someone who needs something good.

That’s kind of the way cooking feels for me right now. I go home every day and collapse on my bed after jamming something probably full of carbs in my face and try my best to get a nap in. Maybe my anxiety will ramp up a bit or I will jerk awake by accidentally biting my tongue (because I tend to grind my teeth when I’m stressed and asleep.)

I wish, like so many others, it wasn’t so hard right now. I wish this work didn’t take as much as I did. I love cooking, and I love cooking for you — but it is exhausting and we are kind of on the burnt side of toast.

{“key”:”c1″}

Maybe I’ve recently bumped into another person that appreciates my food (as well as my company and to be honest my goober sense of humor somehow…)

Maybe I decided to make this person ratatouille while watching a film set in Paris, while drinking some big french wines. Maybe I’m a sucker for themes.
Either way, I’m glad I get to cook for a person from time to time that’s not expecting me to be anything other than myself. Or within a time limit where they have to eat or else I get a bad yelp review. I don’t know, it feels good and comfortable and most like myself when I cook for people I love to be around and take care of.

I thought maybe I’d post a recipe here because ratatouille is great way to eat some vegetables that are in season (or very close to it.) It’s my favorite Disney movie and also just really wholesome and delicious.

Ratatouille
(feeds 4)

One large yellow onion
One large yellow bell pepper
One large red bell pepper
Three cloves garlic
One medium eggplant
Two yellow squash
Two zucchini squash
Four roma tomatoes
Fresh thyme
18oz. can diced tomato
Olive oil
Red Chili Flake
Salt & Pepper & Sugar

Get your shit together:
Dice up onion, peppers and mince your garlic.
Slice 1/8 to a 1/4in thin your tomatoes, eggplant, and squash. Lightly salt the sliced veggies and let their water drain for at least an hour with paper towels. This will help your veggies not be so damn mushy in the end.

In a deep saute pan, heat up a few tablespoons olive oil. Drop in your onions, peppers and a generous pinch of salt. Let cook down for 15-20 minutes til onions become translucent. Add your garlic, tsp. fresh thyme and cook another 10 minutes. Add your canned tomatoes and cook down til half of the water cooks out (about 15-20min.) Stir every few minutes to make sure nothing is sticky icky. Add a pinch of red chili flake and sugar (taste for salt and heat and sweetness to your liking.)

Meanwhile, heat your oven up to 375F. When your onions and peppers have finished cooking, scoop a layer of the mixture on the bottom of a somehow shallow baking dish or pan. (At least 3-in deep.) Layer your veggies one on top of another into little stacks. Add a tiny bit of salt, pepper and fresh thyme between every third veggie slice til you’ve run out of veggies or are sick of making them. (For example: on top of the onion/bell pepper/tomato mix, place a layer of yellow squash. On top of that, a layer of eggplant, then zucchini, and lastly tomato. Add your seasoning and repeat.)

Bake for 40-45 minutes til tender and smelling good and sexy.
I like to serve it with some crunchy bread that I’ve toasted lightly in the oven with olive oil — and after baking rubbed down with a raw garlic clove. The best part of this dish is how cool it looks when you serve it. Everyone gets a stack or two veggies on top of the tomato mixture. It smells so, so good and really does make you feel good eating a pile of vegetables honestly.

So there. Eat you some vegetables.

And take it easy on yourself.
It won’t always be this hard.
There are plenty of people that love and think about you with a lot of light.
Send it back their way, too.

-josh

war and peace

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I often start to write because I feel things swirling around in my head. Usually, a string of events that are somewhat related to one another form some sort of deeper feeling for me. I’ve had a few of those things happen recently — some of it related to war and peace.

It should be noted that I am Russian by ancestry, but I’m not getting into it that way.

Let’s start with taking out the trash.
I live in a quiet neighborhood. Well, mostly, until the guys across the street start revving and working on their old trucks that backfire and spill black exhaust into the air. That’s okay. A more wild thing unfolded yesterday when I witnessed the neighbors a couple of houses down yelling, which led to an all-out brawl. I sat the lid down on my trash can just in time to see them push one another. They rolled around on the ground, yelling, crying out. I stood by just in case I (maaaaybe) needed to call.

They finally settled down. I watched one man head back into his house, and the other make his way back into his truck. He had taken a beating. I usually think no one wins in these matters, but this guy definitely lost. Fighting has always been scary to me — it puts a knot in my stomach and stays there. I felt bad for both of them. It has to be so exhausting and emotional to fight someone. I’ve been super lucky in life not having to find out for myself.

Either way, I’m glad things didn’t get too rough. I’m sure at some point, they were friends.

Another part of my day was spent wandering around the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby just down the road a bit. Sitting out stationary in the field near the museum are the bigger machines of war. Tanks, airplanes and artillery.

I do have a soft spot for these kinds of things. I have been fascinated with war history since Jr. High and not much has changed. While I am usually drawn to weapons and other machines of war, I was led a little closer to their stories. Men and women from my home town — the places they traveled — the battles they won (and lost.)

Being so close to history always moves me, deeply. Whether I’m wondering who used to wear that Nazi officer’s coat or if these weapons actually ended the lives of people, I am moved by their weighty ghosts.

It’s hard to shake.

The business of war.
(Or fighting another man on your front lawn.)

To quote Gen. Sherman,
War is Hell.

It is easy to numb the things our walls help us block out. Then, out of nowhere, you remember that there are small (and large) things happening every day that carve out the Earth. Maybe you retreat; maybe there’s a victory. Sometimes you lose. But it is almost always hard fought, regardless.

Keep moving towards peace. That’s what I say.

The fire and noise and smoke stay with you.

Not all things that move us are kept behind glass,

and most things aren’t easily forgotten.

Confessions of a Pandemic Chef (Part 2)

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I can’t escape the feeling of letting people down.

Like everyone else, there are good and bad days. Well, good days being less oppressive and hopeful for things to lighten a bit. And bad days well, we’ve had enough of those.

You’re also starting to fray more at the edges. This is how I feel most days. Creativity thrives on air and room and space and so many days, I feel very confined to this survival – to making it happen day in and day out.

The Chef’s job in never done.

We’re still seeing restaurants close. Restaurants I’ve been well in the shadow of for years. Restaurants with resources and good people and good food. My heart breaks seeing them fade away — some have been heading there for quite some time and others, just bad timing. I hate this more than anything.

I’ve turned a lot of you down.

I’ve said I was busy or that we just couldn’t do a thing. Mostly, I couldn’t do that thing. I didn’t want to do that thing, and I can’t tell you when I’ll ever want to do that thing again.
Feeding you during this time is exhausting. We (service industry workers) are in a constant state of depleting ourselves so that we can pay our bills during this tiresome season.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s still fun to work with my people. They are the reason I’m doing any of this because we all work hard for one another. We also work hard for you. But you also need to understand that working in the hospitality industry is already a job that requires more than you’ll ever know. Not just physically, but highly emotional work.

I mean, creative work IS emotional work.

I know I have lost patrons due to my own boundaries.

I have said ‘no’ more than I’ve ever wanted to. The money is important, but it isn’t worth the weight on my soul. We are all stretched far too thin to pretend any of this shit is anything close to normal, so please do not ask more of us because of it.

It is so strange to have our work be so controversial. Cooks, servers and bartenders forced to be security against something we are still not prepared for. Yelled at by people who can’t wear a mask for five minutes. Having to choose to support your friends based on whether or not you feel safe in their businesses. All of this is fu*king weird and it’s heavy and it’s so ass backwards to what we are built to do in this business.

But, we’re still here doing it.

We’re thankful for you coming to our building and supporting us — I’m not asking you to leave us alone, but to respect the space we serve in. We’re still going to mess up. We’re still asking you to lower some of your expectations. We’re asking you to hold back until it’s safer, and we’re better.

People are still dying, things are still scary.

And all of us, are just tired.

If I say no to you, it’s because I’ve given it all for the time being — and when that space frees up a bit more, I’m happy to hustle and dream and move for you all again.

For now, a grilled cheese and tomato soup is good.
And I hope you let us make it for you.

No Man’s Land

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I feel parts in me breaking every day.

For as long as I can remember that’s what I do. I break completely into pieces so that I can fit into a thing. I lose a thing here or there in the process.

Being an introverted single person, living alone in this pandemic has been met with a lot of doubt. At least when things are “normal” I had the option of giving more of myself. Now, I don’t know where to be in all of this. I hesitate to say we are in the same boat, because as I’ve said before, we are all in own lifeboats during this thing.

Some days I feel like I can rise above it all and be the person I’ve worked so hard to be. More often then not, I find myself being the person full of doubt and criticism. For example everything I cook now I deem is absolute dog shit. It piles on my shoulders. I’m missing the connections. Like neutrons and electrons firing into some black hole forever and ever.

This is a time of year that I love. (Though, with everything in its current place, I’m slightly dreading the next few months for reasons those of us living in the U.S. know to be true.) But damnit if I’m not an optimist by nature. I am also incredibly hard on myself.

I think about the billion ways I can go but when I feel like I’m only doing things one way, I get stuck. I get stuck on myself and whatever it is I’m doing and dreaming about a different time. For something that doesn’t exist, I surely think about it a lot.

Physically I feel tired more often. We are lucky to have a lot of business during this time. I am grateful, but I am also very aware of the weight it puts upon me and my friends. When you are successful, you tend to tie yourself up with your business. I don’t think we agree on what success looks like, and when we’re talking about the city I live in, I always feel like the underdog.

I wonder if the hustle will slow even after the pandemic clears. I wonder if I’ll fall in love again. It’s in my biology to have kids, but I’m really not sure if that’ll ever happen. (Yeah, ya know, I do have the urge quite often to have a kid, even if it doesn’t fit the kind of person I am.) What kind of person am I anyways?

Maybe that’s the question I’ve been asking myself the most.

I don’t know anymore. Certainly a pandemic causes me to shift inward — to question every single decision I’ve made — every person I’ve kissed — every person I’ve hurt. As much as I preach that life is all forward, I find myself the most being stuck in traps that I continue to set for myself.

As far as I can tell, none of this is final. There’s a lot of things moving right now and we’re all really uncomfortable. There’s a sense of unease we aren’t accustomed to. Maybe sometimes I feel the moans of my own ancestors in my bones.

I guess what I try to look for in all of this, is that things never really settle and truly, you won’t feel this way forever. Look for the people helping and ask them for some relief. Then, help someone yourself. We are all borrowing each other’s grace and more often in my life, tupperware.

There is still plenty of beauty here to discover. There are still ways to move beyond the toxic — the great lies and the great thieves of your own joy.

Remember you are here, now. Living in a time you might never see again. This is your season to move through No Man’s Land,

where I will move
(and move with you.)

confessions of a pandemic chef

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I never wanted to be a cook.

I had moved to a new city to get married and graduated into an economy that didn’t have anything for me.

As it turns out, when you live in Portland, there’s always a coffeeshop looking for help. Granted, a friend of mine helped me get in, but I had no industry experience. I started out mainly washing dishes. Taking orders. Getting yelled out by customers because I made a mistake taking their order. All of the bits you have to learn to make a hard shell over your soft skin.

I started to cook because it was a way to show who I was to people I didn’t grow up with.

I wasn’t very good at it.
I knew how to fry chicken, and make rice a roni. I could pop open a can of green beans and douse it with Tony Chachere’s. It was the only thing I really wanted to be good at. My friends were better at other things that I knew I didn’t want to do.

I really wanted to be that daunting figure in the kitchen sweating and cooking.

It was something that seemed so wildly complicated, that being able to control it felt kind of God-like. Listening to an egg cook or smelling when onions cook too long was becoming something that I could thread in and out of my daily life like a coat made just for me. Hell, now I can hear the moments water goes from simmer to boil with pretty good accuracy.

Cooking helped me open up.
It became the thing that gave me some authority on anything, really. I knew that I could poach an egg with confidence or crank out a delicate vinaigrette on the fly. It gave me the confidence I’d been missing my whole life.

I was obsessed with something I knew I could get better at every day.

Even the hell of falling out of love with a person, the kitchen became my way to block out pain and still maintain some sense of purpose.
“Well, at least I have this” I would say. (And still say that at times.)

Kitchens can and will break you down. Every cook knows that there is a point in any given day where it breaks you. Most days, it doesn’t. You have a hope in the back of your mind that your day can be somewhat normal. You will maybe, go home and actually cook dinner for yourself and partner.

But, something usually happens.

The drain in the dish pit over flows with grease and food bits and God knows what other hell.
Or your anxiety decides to overwhelm you in the middle of service and you blank out. You turn into a robot of yourself to get through the day. It’s all happened, and it will happen again.

There is something incredibly addicting about a restaurant that works, day after day. All the deliveries came at the best time. No one was out of the cheese we needed and our Coke delivery guy wasn’t an asshole for once. (And did I mention Sysco didn’t dump all of our boxes in front of our oven in the middle of the lunch rush!?)

And then the pandemic came.

Once the reality of having to shut down entered my bones, I’ll admit, I felt a bit relieved. Something felt so toxic about being open and encouraging people to cram into a small space when all the health professionals are telling you not to do it. (But if we don’t do it, we’ll drown as a business…?)

I couldn’t adapt fast enough. I felt like an immense failure. (Still do sometimes.)

I was completely exhausted.

Our business would adapt a bit and I would drink a lot. And order DoorDash. There was something so amazing about a brown bag full of hot food with my name on it sitting outside my door WITHOUT having that awkward interaction of someone catering to my lazy ass. It was incredible.

I got to turn off my phone alarms. Well, the ones that wake me up and the other four that remind me to order things for the restaurant — then there’s all my reminders about other things I need to do for the restaurant so that I can finally relax. Well, after the panic and anxiety died down after our first week of quarantine, I got to relax.

After a month and a half of doing take home dinners once a week, we got back into the restaurant on a daily basis. My work shirts almost didn’t fit because I had gained so much weight from well, *gestures broadly at everything*.

Kitchen work is hard, and if you don’t stay in practice, you get lazy, fast. You forget the motions and turns, the heat and the pressure. But by now, we are almost back to whatever it is I can call normal.

Wearing a mask while standing over a grill has taken some time to get used to, but everything is harder. Not just the labor, but people are harder. Things got way more political over our little break, but in order for us to stay open and busy, I never really got a chance (nor did I want the chance) to be political about masks. To me, it was just tiring having to defend it either way — I just needed to be busy again.

But it’s still really hard right now. For everyone. Those of us in the hospitality business are kept alive through people gathering together. The restaurant experience is about food and drink but most importantly, it’s about people connecting. Not just having people cook your food and serving you, but the people around your table.

The depression I feel most deeply, is that cooking and being a chef is shifting for me. It shows me how incredibly delicate all of this is — and when it’s stripped away, I wondered how necessary it all is. (I wondered how necessary I was.)

I love being a chef. It’s all I ever wanted, to be honest. It has been one of my proudest accomplishments. To have that name and that respect — but damn, it is hard to be inspired in times like these. Not only inspired, but to also inspire. To be strong, to be a leader and to make a million decisions in my head every day.

A while ago I was told I was emotional, which is fine and funny. It was by a friend that doesn’t know me very well, but it also goes to show me that being vulnerable makes leadership necessary. I don’t always feel strong enough to lead people, especially now. Most days feel hopeless for the future of anyone ever agreeing on anything (ever again). My own patience is worn so very thin, as is yours. I hate the aggravation I hold so close to the parts of me I love the most.

Maybe I won’t be a great chef, like the ones I read about.

And that’s okay.

But I’m still here, and I’m doing it.

I cook your grits and wash your plates.
I lay awake at night hoping that whatever we bring to your table gives you some sense of normalcy.

I have always loved having you at my table — and I’m still dreaming of a future where we are all better people for doing the hard work of being good to one another.

In the meantime, I’ll be here, working in my hot kitchen,
adding more cheese to that pot of grits
(because I know you really need it today.)

hold fast

Story

It’s hard to be inspired right now.

A friend of mine said it best: “I’m not a fan of anyone who it too pessimistic right now. Then again I’m not a fan of anyone who is too optimistic, either.”

Most of the conversations I have with the people I love weigh heavy on me. Some of them, I hear tears being swallowed down as they (like all of us) march through the fog of uncertainty.

A few of my people are really hurting right now. They are quite literally falling around their own heart of darkness and when you love people, you can’t help but to fall with them.

It is too easy to be hard on yourself right now. That dense fog that looms over the next few months is so heavy and I feel it in my lungs, just like you. I fall asleep reading the same gut-wrenching stories and wake up with the hope that my morning coffee feels perfectly hot against the back of my throat.

fog

I spent an evening this past week visiting my sister recovering from surgery. My dad was in town helping so I decided to make some pizza with my niece and nephews, while also catching up with my parents and hoping to get a few laughs in the process.

I’ll start out by saying I’m not great with kids, especially the smaller they are. I just don’t use that part of my brain very much. (Though being silly is so needed right now)

I don’t consider myself a good uncle, but I’ve always felt that as my sister’s kids get older, I’ll be better at it.
As I was getting things ready to make pizza, my niece Anna came and sat at the bar. I know so much about her but rarely do I get to see her face and hold a conversation for more than a few minutes because generally adults are boring and I don’t blame her for wanting to do other things.

But I asked her about cross-country and school and show choir. All things she’s really good at. I listened to her sound so bummed out that she wouldn’t physically be going back to school for another month at least and it equally bummed me out.

I looked at her and saw someone who is so much older than I had realized.

She is a person that is beginning to understand the weight of things and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only is she entering the weirdest time of becoming an older human being, but in the middle of a pandemic — not being able to be with her friends as much as she wants and the uncertainty she also faces in her own future.

I felt some of my own anxiety die down a bit.

I’ve always seen this pandemic as a “row your own boat” sort of thing. The sea is whatever tumultuous thing we are facing. Between a depression, pandemic and civil rights movement, we are all clinging white knuckled to the sides of our vessels screaming:

HOLD FAST.

I was thankful to hug my mom. My sister. My dad. Very rarely do we get those opportunities, as I am just as nervous as you to travel around and possibly expose either my anxiety or germs to other people that do not deserve them. But it’s good to air out your grievances. And it’s good to be respectful of others’, as well.

If you see another boat taking on more water than your own, help them. (But don’t sink yourself in the process.)

To my niece, I would tell her this:

It won’t always be this hard. Things will lighten. You will come out of the fog on the other side, thankful and cautious and ferociously hungry to experience more.
The things you’re learning about yourself now will stay with you forever. This year will be the year where everything changed — and it will be a pillar built on your foundation.
You will still have to move around those large rocks sticking out of the fog — some, you won’t see til’ it’s too late, but there are others that will help you — and I will help you when I can.

Hold fast, love.

The light will inevitably cut through,

and I will meet you there.

 

rage.

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I get so tired of falling asleep with rage in my belly.

I envy those who let things pass so easily and with grace. Sometimes I can, but my patience these days is wearing so thin. I used to be so good at holding things in and during a younger season in my life, learned about the wild things I could no longer contain.

I learned about the airing of memory filled with grief and sorrow, but also a lot of goodness.

The kitchen brought me some rage, as with any high stress job where your margin of error seems almost unforgivable. There is no shortage of things that fill me (and most likely you) with some deep glowing fire.

That kind of rage stays with me. It lingers, mostly into the dark. Sometimes, my only option is to drown it with sleep. I know it’s not good, but sometimes it’s also inescapable.

The last thing I want to do is drag someone else into the things that I feel.

I’ve been learning to navigate some anger — in general I direct it at myself for allowing something to get to me so quickly, but also most of the time, it has something to do with a thing that is not within anyone’s control.

800px-Fire

Being alone can be hard. Self-control is even harder. We’re allowed to let off steam — but never at the cost of hurting another thing. I think this will be a life learned lesson, one that comes at the cost of being hurt by another.

We have a lot to be angry about. Maybe some of that is accepting things were never as they seemed. This feels a lot like being betrayed by someone you love who is never willing to apologize, a toxicity that is being bled out. At some point though, you have to put pressure on the wound.

Maybe that’s what this time is about.

There isn’t much space to hide anymore. In fact, it is maybe one of the best times to dig in deep and work on the next shift of your life. Maybe you’re already doing that and this quarantine has shown you how much you’ve grown into yourself and how you move alongside with the other people in your life.

For me, being alone does not equate to loneliness. Some days are harder, but I’ve been growing in ways I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have this space.

I’ve never been one to stray too far away from a challenge, especially at the cost of my own peace. Surely the older I get, the more comfort I crave but I still recognize the wild things.

The sense to grow and move and challenge my humanity (and maybe yours.)

The rage never lasts. It dies because it has to. (and I continue to lay down weapons I shouldn’t use anymore.)

It will always be in my belly — it is how I’ve come to recognize the most important things in my life and that maybe I need to drop the things I’ve been clinging on to for so long. The heaviness of expectation, the need to please and the wondering if I’ll ever be enough for you.

There are always newer, lighter things to pick up along your way.
I hope you give yourself the time and space to find them.
You’re a gift to the people that love you.
Be sure to love yourself in return.

 

 

 

 

the great unsettling

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What stirs in my heart?

Maybe it’s everything. How does anyone not live a day without wandering in and out of the things they used to believe in and the people they used to be?

I often mourn parts of my life where I had less responsibility. More uncertainty, no doubt, but does getting older ever give you any certainty that you’ll become a better person? Or that the things in this world will ever be enough for you?

This quarantine has given me some perspective on my small space here. I found myself dumping loads of things from my past. A few pictures. Some books. Even the things I have found sacred in the past, I’ve dug up again to be both inspired and challenged.

It is a great unsettling of things.

It’s weird when pieces of your old self reappear and almost with a sense of urgency ask that you remember this piece of you that shifted the way you see everything.

I keep a small shelf with things from my life — things that were given to me by people I love, people who broke my heart and others who give me the most inspiration to push forward regardless of the gravity that pulls me elsewhere.

910jhjw0hrl

I found myself rearranging these heirlooms. These precious bits of a life 34 thus far.

A matchbox with the face of Che Guevera.
A metal cup from my time in India.
A feather from a friend I used to kiss and fall asleep on the grass with long ago.

Some toys from when I was young.
My old pair of glasses, broken.
Fountain pen and some ink.

I keep these things because they help me remember that every good thing shifts in you endlessly.

The bad too, but those things tend to dull over time.

I’m always amazed about how the things that broke our hearts into a million pieces still allow us to feel good about the time we had with them that were beautiful, and that they gave to us what we would have never found without them.

Sometimes you need the person you once were to step up and meet the person you are now. I know I look older by the day, and I often cringe at what I used to call a beard. Now, I still don’t grow the best looking beard, but I see the grey hair that comes with life and its weight.

I have little regret, but deep down in the still waters I know this whole thing is a gift. I embrace the challenge of wandering through this life with the knowledge that it’s not ever easy, and things that matter won’t ever happen quickly.

Sometimes being unsettled is the only way to move forward,

and I will always set my eyes there,
toward both the dying and birth of the new light.

 

(I’ll meet you there.)

Food, Hospitality Industry

It’s hard to put food in a styrofoam box.

It’s hard to watch it die a slow death in the hopes that it makes it to a person in the right amount of time.

I guess we’ll all have to lower our standards. (for now.)
You have to know that this is hard on many levels for many different kinds of people.

I dwell on aesthetic. I think it’s part of my shtick.

I like to touch real things.

Plates. Glasses. Hot water and metal brushes.

I like color. Contrast. Texture. These are things lost in the gravity of my mind.
I know there are ways around this, things I can do really well. But I am rebelling in my mind and it is hard for me to lay down my weapons.

Food, first and foremost, is nourishment. On top of that, are several layers of what makes a dish great. For those passionate cooks out there, putting a $50 dollar piece of meat into a box and into the hands of a person who may not care too much about it is the most nerve wracking — yet here we are. Learning to trust companies that probably don’t give too much of a shit about the quality of a piece of meat, or whether or not a vegetable needs to be eaten immediately.

This is the stuff I stay up late thinking about.

Me, standing on my tip-toes looking over the pass — seeing if you’re enjoying your plate of food.

I feel it in my gut. Things will never be the same. That’s okay. Some things need to change. In fact, I am often hopeful about the future of my kind of work. A different appreciation — a deeper understanding of the world of hospitality and how it is so often the hand that holds our wounds. It is our deepest comfort and gives us some of our best memories.

IFP_OITF_121

Those good things will never die.

But, I think they will change. I will change. (you will have to change, too.)

A lot of us just want to collapse on the kitchen floor and slam our palms to the ground like a four year old that’s tired and hungry and doesn’t want anything you have to offer.

Food, to me, has always offered hope. Dignity. Memory. Those are massive columns that hold up my own code of morality. In return, it offers me the same things.

What I am able to give to you comes from my deeper sense of self, and maybe I don’t always show that. Maybe I show it ways of rage and stubbornness — but it all comes out of the place that wants to give you every piece of my soul.

You wonder why speaking in front of guests at one of our wine dinners makes me so nervous — because it is literally three hours of giving you things I dwell deeply on. I cannot separate myself from the craft, the labor and the people that place dishes in front of you and keep your glasses full.

So yeah, this is what I think about in a day.

Everything is shifting. If you’re not, it’s going to be a hard road for you.

I’m going to end this with an excerpt from one of my favorite poems by Rumi. I don’t know if it has anything to do with what I just said, but it hits different now.

Now, more than ever, we need to meet in the same place and build a better world.

I hope you’ll meet me there.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”

fog.

Food, Health, Hospitality Industry, Story

I really wanted to call this “Love in the Time of Corona” – but of course there are about 60 other think-pieces with this title and maybe we’re all tired of seeing it.

Sure, this is a little easier for introverts. Let it be clear that none of this is easy, for any age group or  personality type. Honestly your pets are super happy  you’re home. Maybe even your cats.

We all might be getting a little chubbier. (Which is OKAY.)

My lack of running around for eight hours a day like a crazy person is showing. Well, that mixed with beer/whiskey/whatever people have been leaving on my doorstep.

This is the most time I’ve had to myself since we opened the new restaurant. It’s been almost two years of constant worry and hustle — of reminders and alarms that I’ve turned off since we decided to temporarily close.

That was a gut-wrenching decision.

I felt like I had failed.

It took a pandemic to close our doors.

I felt so much guilt and pain for not being strong enough to make it  work — to have to tell my co-workers that they’d need to be registering for unemployment.

And I was exhausted. Emotionally. Physically. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you know the mental toll that it takes. In fact, I have so much mental energy left at the end of the day I can’t really sleep without just completely wearing myself out on Youtube tutorials.

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Some days are foggier than others. You know this all too well.

That is mostly hope. Also, perhaps  you’re less hungover from the night before. (Which is a good thing.)

I know we’re all hanging on, here.

I was talking to my Memaw a couple of nights ago. She’s 81 and has been through most of the hard things a person has to go through in one life — and something like this is new to her. It is a hard thing, regardless of age or social capacity. It doesn’t need to be said that being human is being social and that the best feeling is to be loved on by another.

Sometimes, it  looks  darker, like a box you can’t get out of. A heavy fog.

I know.

Hold fast to the things that make you feel strong — feel loved —  feel heard.

We started cooking  again this week.
If nothing more than to pay some bills, but mostly to feel somewhat connected again. The hard pill to swallow is that this changes everything. It changes our business — our hearts and those things that shake us to the core.

But there is a lot of love out there.
The fact that we are staying  put shows that.

I encourage you to keep reaching  out to people. To check in on quiet friends  (check in on your loud ass friends too.)

Be good. Take some deep breaths and give yourself loads of grace (more than you already should.)

I send all the love in my heart,
however long it takes to reach you.

-j