We’ve been short-handed for a few months now, and a COVID scare has the whole cafe on a staggered schedule until everyone on staff gets a negative test. In practical terms, that means that I need to bake fresh pies for the case and the entirety of the next days wholesale in under five hours.
I’m dashing around the empty kitchen, checking three ovens and answering texts from my boss and fielding questions about the schedule from staff… until it clicks. I stop trying to do the work and do the work, the Ancient Baking Wisdom flowing for heart, to muscle, to fingers. I clock out and leave the next shift instructions about what’s available and when the wholesale will be done. I was in The Zone, and doing what I loved paid off.
As I type this, Emily is clattering around in the kitchen getting the last few things ready before we run out the door for a belated Thanksgiving dinner with my friend Gwen and her partner, so I am on something of a time constraint. I wanted to write something for this week, but given that I’d been working my whole ass off this week at the pie shop, I just never had the energy to think longer than 20 minutes about it.
In place of a proper entry then, please accept this simple post of “thank you.”
This last year was wild and hard, but I’m thankful for so many things. First and foremost, the love and presence of Emily, my family, and friends in my life who cheered me on and kept me on the level when things got weird.
I’m grateful that I have a new job in the industry that I love, and one that values my skills and abilities. I feel more excited to work now than I have in the last several years, and Em smiles seeing me come up with new menu ideas. This past week was the hardest have ever worked in my life, but thanks to my amazing team we landed the metaphorical plane. Over 1500 pies in 4 days… I earned a day of doing nothing yesterday.
I’m also beyond thankful to all of you. The readers who enjoy and share my blog, who support me on Patreon, buy my books, and remind me that I have good stories to tell and people that want to hear them.
I’ll be back with more thoughts next week, but Em is in the shower now and that means I ned to back everything up. According to Gwen, dinner’s ready.
The rain is dripping off my coat as I fumble finding the right key in the dim early-morning light outside the bakery. House key, house key, bike lock key, multi-tool, office key… got it. A little finagling and I’m in out of the rain. At least there’s that. Autumn in Portland heralds the rainy season. “Isn’t every month in Portland the ‘rainy season’ though?” Yes. Haha, you’re very funny.
Quickly locking the door behind me and switching off the alarm, I put the water kettle on to boil then turn on the lights in the kitchen. There’s some slight detritus from the last shift, but overall my team keeps things clean and tidy. I see the small pile of recipes at my station that apparently don’t scale correctly or need to be re-written, along with the daily production checklist I made for my team. I’ll deal with those later- there’s a bigger fish to dry waiting in the office.
Opening the office door, I drop my bag on the desk and switch on the light. Sitting in front of me in my boss’s spreadsheet outlining our Thanksgiving orders and their due dates. We have over 2000 pies due between now and Christmas, and private orders are still coming in. This was always going to be the biggest challenge of the year, and of this job. I knew it. I figured I’d be prepared. I’d done some banquet organizing and logistics work before, after all. How much more different could this be?
Staring down at the spreadsheet, I can already feel the television static fuzzing my vision. I’ve got a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it.
It’s rare to work in a bakery where you are the first person in at 6:30 AM. I’ve spent a while waking up to start work at 2 am, and there’s other bakers who start work even earlier.
That’s not where I am now though. What I’m doing now is unlocking the door, shutting off the alarm, turning on the lights and starting the ovens leisurely late in the morning before I drop my bag at my desk. I have one of those now too- a desk, half an office, and “my station” in the corner of the kitchen where I can see, supervise, and be found when needed. I’m the pastry chef, after all.
Here I thought the Kwisatz Haderach could be in many places at once.