Reaping Life’s Rewards- What Do You Award Yourself?

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

For the first time in a long time, the writing bug has caught me in a cocktail bar. Not a bierhaus (though I certainly have my favorites in this town), or just a neighborhood bar (plenty of those too.)

Tonight, as I write this, I am bellied-up to the downtown, underground bar of Pepe le Moko. In my bag is a brand-new horror manga, and I am a fine cocktail down (a “Mexican Firing Squad” for the record) and now nursing a small measure of bourbon.

Because this has been a week, I can afford it every now and then, and I have earned it, damn it.

If you want to build good habits, or just remind yourself that life isn’t necessarily an endless hamster-wheel till you die, rewarding yourself for good work is critical.

Animated GIF of Leonardo DiCaprio toasting a glass of wine as Jay Gatsby in "The Great Gatsby"
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The Heart of Life- 5 Lessons from the Kitchen to Take Anywhere

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

The bakery was going through a spat of high turnover. New hires were either leaving, vanishing, or simply showing themselves not up to handling the work. It was becoming disheartening, frustrating… and more than a little exhausting. “Many hands make light work” kinda relies on there being “many hands.”

In the seven months I had been working for the bakery, I’ve had to train six people in my station as the morning baker and “ovenlord.” The work is not especially difficult- the specifics of it can be written down or memorized quickly, and the skills involved can be mastered with practice.

When our production manager started wondering aloud how they could train employees to make them better, and more quickly- I suggested they all learn my position first. While the specific knowledge and skills of the morning bake are easy to learn (I actually wrote a teaching aide/cheat sheet to help people who got lost), the most challenging thing for a new person on the shift to learn is something they can take anywhere in the kitchen- or in life: time management.

clear glass with red sand grainer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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The Comedown- Beating an Anxiety Feedback Loop

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

I’m pretty sure I’m incapable of actually being on vacation. Moving the body doesn’t necessarily move the brain.

Emily and I finally managed to get nine days of vacation together, spending most of them in Corvallis, Oregon and being hosted by an old high-school friend of mine and her husband.

For the first time in three years, I am on a trip where I truly have nothing to worry about… except for the fact that I have nothing to worry about. It’s hard to beat a habit of a lifetime.

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Mise En Temps- Timeline Like A Baker

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors.

The clock starts as soon as I walk in the door.

In the first 10 – 15 minutes of my day in the bakeshop, I need to:

1. Determine the state of the front counter and what they will need immediately.
2. Whether anything has been requested that I didn’t anticipate the day before.
3. Amalgamating my task list for the day.
4. Pulling anything that will need time to come to a workable temperature (frozen doughs, cream cheese to soften for icing, etc.)
5. Prepare my station- knife roll where it’s accessible, sanitizer bucket and towel, extra dry towel tucked in my apron.
6. Review any instructions from the pastry chef.
7. Get a cup of tea or energy drink in me.

Once I have that list ready (as well as an energizing beverage), the planning begins.

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Keeping It Tight- The Need For Mise En Place

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

Bakers live at least 24 hours in the future. We get a reputation for being sticklers and detail-oriented, because we are somewhat literally programming ourselves for the next few days. We predict eventualities, contingencies, and even our own potential failings.

Cooking is about control- ordering and directing everything from your ingredients, to your environment, to your equipment, to yourself. Baking- being necessarily hands-off for an enormous part of a process that is itself time-consuming- requires this to the extreme. It leads to bizarre truths of kitchen- the sauce for your steak having been started earlier that morning, or that freshly-baked pie starting it’s production nearly a week ago.
To invoke that much control, attention, and planning is practically a martial art- one that cooks call “mise en place.”

Mise-en-place for a professional kitchen

Image from Wikipedia

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