apples and words.

Food, poem

I once wrote a poem about pots and pans,

and how they lined my wall.

I spoke about their scorched bottoms. (Some more than others.)

How they fed my marriage;

deep dark sauces, sometimes too salty — too little — not enough,

and I would wipe my sweaty forehead.

Now those pots and pans are on shelves.

Organized and wobbly. Still scorched. Familiar.

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I also remember carrying a half pig a half mile.

It was for a friend, and it was for her birthday.

I filled their kitchen with smoke from too much

butter in biscuits.

We laughed, and drank more wine.

Proud of my pots and pans.

oh,

It was a beautiful roast!

for the solstice,

for my friend.

I was half paid in apples and words,

but I was in love with this thing,

and the truth is —

I really love apples and words.

eating last.

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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.

noticed.

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There are moments where I miss it. 

Having a good person to come home to is one of them joys of life, I suppose. I never grew up with pets, so I reckon’ it is similar. Though I believe people are a little more complex. Even more so than cats.

When I take some time and settle into myself, I do miss it. And I miss her and I find myself so curious as to how we forgive and move on from hard things. I haven’t cried much at all the past couple of years. I think I got a lot of it out of my system back in that time and to be honest, the waterworks are on hiatus.

I still get sad, for the overwhelming things we see and have to deal with every day. I get angry. I fight. I argue.

I submit, too.

I laugh, and then do this thing where I choke up. Like when I found out I won this really cool award for my work — because it is often times, such thankless work. I laughed because I thought it was funny for a cook to win such a thing, and then I choked up because this work is so hard and I was so thankful to be noticed.

I would like to think she would have been proud. After all, I spent most of our marriage hustling around different cafes and restaurants in hopes that something would stick. And some things did, and sometimes I would lay on her lap exhausted and wake myself up snoring.

When you get noticed, like I find myself from time to time, there is a moment of pure joy where you know you are doing good work — and then the moment comes where you remember all the things you missed getting what you wanted.

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Mississippi, man.

I suppose I find myself thinking about those things. Not much these days. But you always remember your best friends. Best partners. The people who pushed you forward and made sure you got home safe when you accidentally got (hanging out the window at Popeyes) drunk from a work party.

That safety though…is something you will always remember in your belly. The safety of being loved and thought about and cared for. You have those things when you’re single too. It just looks different. And you learn to love yourself in such a different way.

I suppose that is what I miss about companionship — what I crave when the nights get late and I drift away to the sound of my heater.

There are too many frustrations. Things I wished I would’ve done a million times. And then, there is now.

And now is bigger and wilder than I ever imagined. And it’s in Mississippi of all places.

A new home. A platform. A place to grow what my mind has sewn.

Things are never going to be the same. It is all new, all of this that I’m going through and often times it is hard to get out of bed and on to that next thing. But I’m always so thankful that I did…and that I do.

Here’s to our seasons of growth and struggles and lessons — In hopes that you approach them all with goodness deep down in there,

and remember that not everything you lose, you necessarily need back.

 

 

 

advice to the frustrated home cook

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I’ve read some of your blogs, and I think this is what you want:

something delicious
something fast
affordable
makes a lot (depending on how many you’re feeding)

I will go ahead and say that you will be let down at cooking shows who tell you that you can cook something brilliant in 30 minutes. And you can, don’t get me wrong, but those people cooking on TV are professionals, and have done it for a long, long time.

Hear me out!

I’m not here to sound discouraging. I love to see folks cooking at home. There’s something so important about cooking a meal in your home. The smells, making people hungry, gathering folks together. It is what is most important in a lot of our days.

But what I see, is aggravation.
I read people’s frustrations with not having enough time, or you’ll head straight to the freezer section. (Which honestly, you do what you gotta do. I’m not judging you on your eating and cooking habits. I just know, you can do it.)

Yes, you can do it.

I know you worked a long day.

You already made the mistake of coming in to sit down.

You’re watching that show that you love.

Then your stomach starts to growl.

Don’t panic. You still have time to make good choices.

Just because Sandra Lee is doing something “interesting” with canned cheese, doesn’t mean you have to. This is where the home cook learns to grow.

And you know what? You’ll get faster, and faster at prepping meals. That’s what TV shows don’t show you. They have all their stuff ready to go. Oh, four cloves of minced garlic? Watching folks with even decent knife skills, mincing a clove of garlic takes some sweet time. Don’t do that to yourself. Or if you do, leave time for it. Leave time for your prep. Leave time to get things right.

So often, we rush to put things in our belly, and are discouraged at the final product. But then, you’ll start to nail stuff better and better. You’ll have your go-to chicken dish and will think the night before about marinating a pork shoulder, soaking beans, or baking fresh bread.

Cooking at home takes time. There’s no way around that. If it’s not important for you to dedicate time your craft, you will always feel frustrated at the outcome.

Now, I am not speaking to the mom or dad with kids. I can’t say that I have experience with little ones and different eating schedules. And that’s even if your kid wants to eat what your eating or if that’s even an option. Whatever, I’m not getting into that, but what I have seen, and what I like to see, is kids interacting with their food.

Isn’t that the whole point? To connect with the ones you are feeding?

If I’m missing the point, excuse my ignorance. I realize it is different.

I also fall victim to a frozen pizza from time to time. And after I’m done hating myself (just kidding), I’ll know deep down, I won’t be able to do that for a long time. At least I hope I don’t.

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I’ve talked about this before. (In fact, almost exactly three years ago. Damn, I’ve come a long way.)
It helps to keep some things around. The things that they always have on TV shows and in magazine articles. Meal prep.

Have your stuff organized. Your onions chopped. Your liquids ready to be measured. Eggs and butter at room temp if they need to be. Water hot. Oven pre-heated. Yes, kitchens are hot places. But you know the saying.

Don’t kill yourself. Keep it simple. Use that boneless, skinless chicken breast that you love to buy. But please, cook it in a lot of butter or olive oil or something. Load that hot pan up with thyme and garlic and lemon juice. Just throw it all in a pan, tilt the pan, let the juices form at the bottom and baste that super-mom cut of meat. Delicious!

And now, you are a kitchen stud. Roast some vegetables while you’re doing it.

There are many uh, “wonderful”, uh, “things” you can do while your food is cooking.

Just uh, don’t forget to set a timer. 🙂

Multitask. Yeah, that’s what I mean.

– – – – –

I guess that’s my advice to home cooks struggling with time. Buy good ingredients and cook them simply. Save dramatic dishes for the weekend. Good rice with good vegetables is a GOOD thing. And it’s cheap and easy.

Maybe I’m just beating a dead horse now.

Fair enough.