So the title of this blog may be misleading. After the past couple of days I feel like anything but a chef. Melrose and Morgan is this gorgeous take-away shop that offers lunch and prepared meals and I thought my skills would certainly be a fit. They wanted creativity and strong skills. It was a real test of my own endurance and also an interesting comment on British versus American cooking.
My knives were sharp and I prepared portions of vegetables for salads and soups. I followed recipes, I hauled bins of flour down from an attic on a ladder, I picked bunches of cilantro leaves. I cut myself the first day…and the callous on my right index finger turned painful and throbbed on the second. Off the bat the second morning they asked me to concoct a lasagna to sell at lunch the following day…but I must use their bechamel sauce instead of my trusty ricotta-mozzarella mixture. I asked if I could mix the beef “mince” with the tomato sauce, but was kindly told it was best to keep them separate. I forged ahead knowing my tomato beef sauce would be at odds with a bechamel, but nevermind, I wasn’t getting paid for my hours of labor anyway. Then came the butternut squash. Two cases of it. Cut into a dice. At this point I’d been on my feet for hours and hadn’t eaten a bite or had a sip of water. At 37, my body was aching. My fault perhaps for not preparing – like trying to run a marathon without any training before the race. But, I peeled and scooped seeds and chopped for what seemed like days, while the blister on my index finger throbbed angrily. For those of you who cook, you know that cutting something as hard as butternut squash only makes the task more horrid. Meanwhile, patrons came and went, sipping their lattes as their babies cooed in their “prams” and I continued on, trying to laugh at my rusty skills while wondering if making shepherd’s pie for 50 was worth the hours of small diced carrots and onions, wondering if my legs would carry me the 10 minute walk home at the end of it all.
I awoke this morning, the blister on my finger oozing and the entire area swollen so much I can’t hold a pen. Meanwhile, I don’t even know if I got the gig, they probably saw my own frustration and who knows who tasted that lasagna at lunch today? My cat looked at me last night like I had forsaken him by leaving for so long and laundry is spilling over the basket’s edges. While beetroot salads and egg mayo sandwiches and potato leek soup are all part of what I could be creating 12 hours a day, I’m not sure that this brand of cooking is for me. What was always fun about cooking for my clients in the past was the ability to mix and mesh cultural influences in food – much like the United States itself (on a good day). A strict adherence to British food may drive me wonky, as they say here (they don’t keep limes in the shop because they aren’t British – I jokingly asked how they garnished their gin and tonics and was met with a blank stare). I’ll keep you posted.