41 down


    The clue for 41 Down in the “difficult” crossword in Spirit, the in flight magazine of Southwest Airlines was “golden rule word”: unto, as in do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Jesus’ words are as obvious as they are wise. We, as a people, however, often have to be reminded of the obvious.

    When the schedule at work operates as it usually does, Sous and I follow each other working the fish station. The normal flow of a shift is to arrive around two, figure out what needs to be prepped, prep it, work the dinner service, do all you can to be ready for the next day, and clean up the area. The cold top on the line has twenty-two bins, each one containing an item, a sauce, or a garnish for one or more of our dishes. On the fish station, I’m talking about bolognaise sauce, curry sauce, julienned peppers, julienned snow peas, julienned portabella mushrooms, heavy cream, sliced shallots, diced butter, Raye’s Seadog mustard, chopped garlic, chives, diced roasted tomatoes, whole roasted tomatoes, basil chiffonade, chopped tarragon, lime wedges, grated Romano cheese, and sliced chorizo.

    That’s just the top. We have four cold drawers. One for pasta, lobster meat, ravioli, and back ups; one with spinach, gnocchi, Swiss chard, green beans, and mashed potato cakes; one with mussels, crostini, and more back ups; and one with the raw fish, shrimp, and scallops. Much of the prep needs to be done fresh everyday, so making sure the other stuff is stocked when we finish a shift makes the next day a little less hectic.

    All of that to say, one of the other line cooks preceded me on the fish station Thursday night instead of Sous. He normally works the grill, but moved over because of some necessary schedule changes. When he works the grill (a station he shares with Chef), he makes sure everything is backed up and ready for when Chef comes in. He doesn’t share the same work ethic when he works other stations. I got to work yesterday to find my station clean, mostly empty, and disorganized. It took me an hour just to get it back in shape so I could do my regular prep work. My colleague would not have known the answer to 41 Down.

    We buy the wines we use for cooking at the restaurant by the box because of the sheer volume of liquid we use. The box of white wine at my station is the equivalent of twelve bottles. It’s good wine – it’s just in a box with a spigot on the bottom. The Marsala wine at Chef’s station has a notation on the side that reads, “Tilt box forward to get last drop.” Chef showed it to me one day, smiling, and said, “Gee, I’m glad they told me.” One of our running jokes, when I get to the end of my box, is to say, “Man, I wish I knew how to get that last little bit out of my wine, but there aren’t any instructions.” (Ah – chef humor. Sigh.)

    If Jesus had been a cook, which I’m sure will be discovered in the next round of discovered scrolls, he might have elaborated on doing unto by reminding his listeners someone always follows us, whatever our station in life. When we’re doing and cleaning and prepping, we need to remember the one who comes next will be directly affected by how we do our jobs. At the end of our shifts we need to be able to remember what it felt like to be the one coming in to the empty bins at the beginning of the shift, rather than allowing ourselves to only feel the exhaustion that comes with wanting to finish quickly and get home.

    OK, so maybe Jesus wouldn’t have said it quite that way, so I will. We are 41 Down kind of people: we spend our lives doing unto, whether or not we do so intentionally. At the risk of stating the painfully obvious, we need to live like we’re being followed.


    P. S. — There’s a new recipe.


    1. De-lurking to share:

      Your blog is always a good read, with such thoughtful, gentle ruminations that it makes your blog a regular visit for me. It is refreshing to read such well-written posts that can make points in such a positive manner.

      Maintaining a blog regularly can be difficult, but thank you for the work you do, the wisdom you share, and the thoughts you leave with us.

      Best regards,

    2. Hmmm… Jesus as a chef? Well he was pretty good a stretching a meal, and yup, he made some wine in his day, too. Yeah, I guess I can see that turning up in the next scrolls!

      I never got that old saw about a leader being someone who has followers (I never saw the crowds lining up behind me). I like the way you put it — we are being followed, whether we like it or not. So why leave a mess behind?

    3. What a great post! That extra energy to tidy everything at the end of the day it takes for the next person is really a gift to ourselves, isn’t it? “Live like we’re being followed” is just exactly right.

      The recipe sounds great! I’m going to make it as soon as my currently righteously obscene acid reflux subsides.

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