Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Adventures of a kitchen slave pt. 3, La Tortuga

Let the record show, I fancy myself a progressive. Largely devoid of social stereotypes and presumptions based on appearances, I try not to judge (lest I BE judged). "Mouthbreathers" are the one exception. In my experience, those who breath through their mouth instead of their nose (except during times of infirmity) are some of the slowest (physically & mentally) individuals you will ever encounter. I, somewhat, shamefully tell you that I consider this a sign of "lower" intelligence. Oh universe, must you make me so tragically aware of every time I renig on my personal truths? As a kitchen slave, I find myself asked to complete incredibly repetitive tasks tasks on a daily basis. I'm learning, the fastest way to execute these tasks is an "assembly line" basis. Complete each singular step in the task of cutting, say, an onion. Cut off the tops, and tails of each. Then, cut each in half. Next, complete the steps for dicing (as taught in Culinary Principles #1) for each onion in the bushel. Head down, I channel the focus of a factory fast as possible! Fast forward hour, a co-worker tells me its almost time to close down the kitchen, and I should leave my project (incomplete!) to assist them with the evening's cleaning. "How could this be?" I find myself working at turtle speed (my Spanish is improving..."si, la tortuga!"), mouth-open (trying to avoid the tears that come with cutting onions when breathing through one's nose) to complete a single task my coworkers seem to complete at mind-blowing speed. Yes, we've come full circle. I can only hope that I learn a small bit of compassion during my time as a mouth-breathing turtle.

The next day, I get the opportunity to really COOK something for the restaurant (ie: not just cutting vegetable to their appropriate lengths, but rather, apply a elevated temperature for the proper time). Asked to cook 15 two-and-a-half pound Maine lobsters for the July 4th holiday, I welcome the opportunity. I'm not intimidated by these claw-bearing crustaceans. I've sent many lobsters to their end, dipping these pleading, squirming lobs into their steaming oblivion. Yet, I felt the need to "thank" each of these living beings before sinking them into their final poaching liquid. Similar to the feeling when I cook (and eat!)protein..."Thank for giving your life. I hope your delicious." The rule of thumb cooking time is 8 minutes in full boiling water. After cooling in an ice bath, I proceed to take out my every frustration on these poor lobsters, breaking them down with the back of a meat cleaver and a pair of kitchen shears. Standing there covered in shell bits and puke green tamale, I embarrassingly admit to you, "I've never been happier." And, I mean it.

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