"Gimme the girl that's beautiful, without a trace of makeup of on,
Barefoot in the kitchen, singing her favorite song.
Dancing around like a fool, starring in her own little show,
Gimme the girl the rest of the world, ain't lucky enough to know."
~Joe Nichols, Gimme That Girl

...not saying that this is me,
but Nichols sure nailed it when
he wrote the barefoot in the
kitchen line!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Laskavost . . . Kindness

    Yes, it has been an incredibly long time since I last posted anything here.  However, neither idleness nor lack of interest in food (or my readers'!) has prompted my temporary absence.  I have been working, and learning.  In a local restaurant.
   Recently, I had to make a transition in the work field.  It was difficult and simplistic all at once.  The need to move on was inevitable; the actual happenstance was more of a struggle.  The new job is definitely more compatible for both myself as an individual, and for my eventual culinary goals.  Bittersweet, I believe the correct terminology would be.
   Every experience at the restaurant has distilled and refined my love for and understanding of the varied souls in the culinary field.  I have walked away from some 4-tops with an incredible loathing for human arrogance and demands, but I have also paused, literally stunned as someone exhibits the deepest forms of kindness.
   This season celebrates God's greatest gift to mankind.  It's a time of giving.  People try to emphasize kindness (if not on the road or in the stores...)  So, in light of the seasonal push towards kindness, and giving, I want to share some beautiful moments that coulda drowned my stupefied self when they occurred.

   I am writing this to the sous chef of our kitchen.  You know exactly who you are.  What you don't know is that you reminded me of the value of life, and the intense impact which words can have upon people.  Upon me.
   Last week, when I was setting your French press and coffee cup on the stainless steel shelf above your prep station, you looked up, and locked solid eye contact.  Then you said, so very sincerely, "You come from good stock, Rebekah."
   Your words were a reassurance to me.  They made some liquidy substance run mascara down my cheeks when I sought a quiet moment at the bread station.  When you said what you did, you had no idea that I was struggling with my past, my history, and everything I don't know...or don't want to know.  My ignorance and my denial were flogging me that evening.  Without knowing this, you reminded me of my family, the ones' who have taken me in, loved me as their own, and placed their brand on my life.  I am proud of that brand.  So, yes, sir.  I do come from good stock.  But then, it takes one and the same to recognize such.

   An odd and rare occurrence, but one day between shifts, we were left without any servers'.  Both the owner, and another employee offered to take any tables that came in, with me filling in on hostessing, bussing, and any minor details.  However, a couple came in wanting a two top, and after seating, watering, and breading them (that sounds strange, but it just means showing them to their table, pouring water for them, and then offering them complimentary bread and butter,) I told J, the fellow employee.  She sweetly urged me to try taking the table's orders, and she'd help me fire them on our POS system.
   It was a positive experience, and the couple never suspected that I was just the busser.  Until the wife asked about a dish, and I didn't know the base of the broth.  A quick chat with Chef told all, and when I returned, the lady joked that she was surprised my lack of knowledge regarding the menu's items.  When I explained the situation, (I was just a fill-in,)  she hoped that I was not offended, which was indeed the case.  An honest question is just so- why would I quibble over that?  Or my own obvious ignorance regarding that specific ingredient?  I don't mind honesty: it's a useful and productive habit.
   For over an hour, I had the pleasure of serving that couple's table.  They were relaxed, kind, talkative, eager to hear about the restaurant and it's recent changes, and how my day was going, while telling me about their holiday happenings.  The give and take was an even flow.  At the end of the meal, before they left, the lady reached out, took my hands in hers, and smiled.  "Once more, my dear," she said, "I hope that I wasn't offensive in my comment."
   "Oh, no.  Not at all," I replied earnestly.  "You were so gracious and accommodating...I couldn't have asked for a better table."
   "Dear," she headed with her husband for the door, "we're so proud to be your first table.  And we'll be back soon."
   At times such as that, only translucent gratefulness abounds for the privacy and quiet of the bread and beverage station.  Laughter, sighs of frustration, and sometimes-tears are commonplace there.  It is my personal preference to share intense emotions with inanimate objects when on the job.  Even when it's inexpressible wonder at the pure kindness of our guests'.

    It has been my honour and privilege to work with a gentle giant who has an enormous heart. We'll call him Mason.  The whole staff was concerned and worried when he accidentally broke all the toes on one of his feet by dropping a keg of wine on it.  He didn't let us baby him, but kept up with his duties and guests'.  It was such a helpless circumstance, and every last one of the restaurant's employees felt badly about the injury.  Some of us tried to cover the tables for him to minimize walking, the bussers' cleared empty plates and glasses; I brought him some green juice to expedite the healing process.
   Recently, I asked him to ring me up on the POS system for the new cauliflower dish that Chef had added to the menu.  Drop.dead.good.  So Mason ordered the dish, and fired it.  He even split a natural cane sugar soda with me when I sat down to eat my meal.  He brought me a knife so as to remove the struggle of deciding whether I should stuff the huge chunks of cauliflower in my mouth, or attempt the slicing of them with my fork's edge.  He plunked down two napkins as well...my eating must have looked ravenously messy.
   After I had consumed every last tidbit of gorgeous purpley graffiti cauliflower, golden cheddar cauliflower, fried! cauliflower, romanesco cauliflower, plump cooked wheat kernels, chopped and toasted almonds, and a perfectly poached egg, I drained the last sip of my lemon-lime soda.  Then I asked Mason for my check.  His whole face smiled, and he shook his head.  "I've taken care of it," he assured me.  Protests and bewilderment did nothing to budge Mason's generous decision and action.  His serene, kindly face continued to smile as I thanked him with all of my grateful heart.  I have always heard that a majority of the culinary world takes tremendously good care of it's own, and I understand that now.  One more time, Mason: thank-you.

  I'll leave y'all with a picture that I took the other evening at the restaurant as the sun was going to sleep.

    And lest I be suspected of Grinch-iniasm, Merry Christmas.
The Barefoot Girl