I have been thinking about what to write in this blog post since I left work yesterday afternoon. In the time between then and now, I was preparing myself to sit down and write. I also went for a long hike around Mt. Tabor, enjoyed a game night with my housemates, baked a pie, had a bit too much whiskey, slept in, ate breakfast, went for a run, meditated, showered, gamed a bit, and fixed myself a cup of tea.
All of it has been in service to writing this, because if you want to write about Life and Food and Joy and Good Things, a big part of it is getting those things in your life. The bigger part is actually sitting down and writing the thing. Far from being the sole difficulty of creatives, dreamers and nutcases like me, you can find difficulty in Doing the Thing in just about any human pursuit. I think it’s something to do with being sentient robots made of meat and untanned leather, stuck on a speck of dirt rocketing through the void.
So let’s go through my Five Simple Steps to Do The Thing together!
Most of them say the same kind of things; truly, some wisdom IS universal, and writers just put different curtains on it. One book I finished recently, however, pulled off a little twist that made me smile.
When it comes to ambition, goal setting, and planning- whenever someone says “there wasn’t room for doubt,” I don’t think that’s true. I think they didn’t MAKE room for doubt.
That sounds almost cynical and defeatist- and I suppose it could be taken that way. I won’t pretend to be some grand philosopher on that. I’m an anxious person. “Doubting” is as natural to me as lemonade on a hot day- as is planning, contingency, and fear-setting, for better or worse.
If Jesus can have a moment of doubt at Gethsemane, I’m pretty sure us poor mortals can wake up in the morning and wonder if we’re still going the way we want to in life. Those moments are important, because that’s when you make the turns that get you there. Don’t cheat yourself by removing room to doubt.
Service industries- especially the hospitality/culinary industry- are some of the most grueling and exhausting jobs in the world. There are certainly jobs that are tougher physically and come with a higher body count (linemen, miners, lumberjacks, etc), but jobs in the service industry don’t just exhaust you physically. Kitchen work absolutely puts your mind and soul through the wringer as well, leaving many of us exhausted and burned out- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
In order to survive, we cooks have any number of coping mechanisms and habits- drugs and alcohol, unfortunately, being the most famous ones. More and more of us, however, are looking to better and healthier ways to look after our bodies and minds away from the rigors of the kitchen. The lifestyle changes of high-profile chefs like Greg Gourdet, Gabriel Rucker, and the owners of Joe Beef have signaled a change in the “work hard, party harder” atmosphere of the professional kitchen, and cooks- greenhorns and old hands alike- are starting to take their side work seriously.
It’s hard as hell, and the easiest thing in the world. Here’s a few things I’ve learned.
In the space of a year and change, I have trained ten people in some way at my bakery. Some just to pick up a couple tasks left hanging while I’m gone, others to be assistants and stand-ins so that I can take a day off now and again. They were professionals, students, coworkers, wanna-be lifers. A few were just honestly curious- like the dishwashers that wanted to learn to pipe pate au choux, or the barista with some time to kill who wanted to try a couple recipes for themselves.
A bunch stuck around for a while- some got let go. Every one of them learned something though- and I learned that I’m really good at being a big brother.