Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Homeless……..part 3
January 16, 2017

arched-window-overlooking-stairway

Since I couldn’t afford rent and utilities, I gathered up the few possessions I had and moved them into the basement office of Beans and Barley. I was homeless. I didn’t want to admit failure to my family or friends, so I said nothing about my move.

Thankfully, the restaurant had some resources I could use. The staff room was equipped with a washer and dryer (we did our own linens) and a shower. As for storing my clothes and belongings, I came up with an inventive plan to keep them out of sight. Underneath the front stairway which led to the public restrooms, there was an access panel for the underbelly of the stairs.

The front part of the restaurant was heated by hot water radiators which were part of the main building boiler system. During construction it was determined that there wasn’t enough flow to the radiators to provide heat in our area, so a booster pump was installed to push the hot water through our system. The pump and its manual switch were located underneath the front stairway. The pump had to be turned on every winter. This area would be my new closet. I placed clothes hooks on each of the stairs and hung my clothes there. My sleeping bag and pillow fit nicely also. Each night, after the staff had left, ( I would leave with them and walk around the block and then come back), I unscrewed the panel, took my sleeping bag and pillow, set it on the floor of the office and went to sleep. In the morning, I would put everything back and re-screw the panel back in place. The staff always wondered how I beat them to work every day.

I lived like this for a couple of years. The good part was that I learned lots. Eighteen hour days became the norm and I put my heart and soul into the place. There were still bad periods before things began to turn around. Creditors called at all hours and it was difficult to do cooking when the phone never stopped ringing. One day it was so bad, I called the phone company and had the phone removed, (phones weren’t un-pluggable at this time) and a pay phone put in, which had an unlisted number. Finally, some peace! I could still call out when necessary, but I stopped being harassed.

Strangely enough, this action helped the business. It alluded to customers that we didn’t need a phone for business. It made us more popular. This, plus the fact that the food and service was immensely improved put the restaurant on the road to recovery.

By the way, I paid off the loan before it’s due date and never missed a payment.

 

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Homeless….part 2
January 14, 2017

buena-vista-building

 

So, I got the loan and I was happy for the moment. Moments pass. Reality set in. By the time I had paid for the contractors to make the place into a restaurant, there was the other incidentals: equipment, food to start up, money for wages, taxes and overhead.

By the end of construction, I had managed to pay for everything except the food which I needed to open. I ordered the food and wrote the checks with absolutely no money in the bank. The bank manager calls me and asks me to come down to discuss the situation. I appear and he tells me he is going to bounce the checks which I had written for the food and supplies. So I said (with my back against the wall) “Go ahead, but all the money that’s invested will be lost”. I had no choice. Pay them or I won’t open, and there will be nothing to recover.” He paid the checks. I was left with an overdraft.

First business was brisk and it covered the checks that I had written. It was new and everyone had heard about the place through word of mouth. Everyone came to try it out.

Well, aren’t they sorry now. Inconsistency, badly cooked food from people who should have known better and canned beans. Business dropped off faster than the recession killed jobs.

After I fired all the cooks and took over, there was not much choice. The few people that visited the premises were new and hadn’t heard of the happenings. I was down to one server and myself. And she turned out to be an alcoholic that stole booze from the storage cabinets in the basement. Not pleasant as she tried to keep on her feet, serving customers. Duh!

Frustrated, I terminated her, hired a new person who cared and we had two to go forward with enthusiasm. At this time I was living above the restaurant in a single apartment for $110./month. No furniture, just a sleeping bag, a lamp, a few pans to cook food with, and a pillow. My meals were consistent. Pan fried potatoes and two fried eggs. It’s still one of my favorite meals when I’m feeling out of sorts. The income from the restaurant was not enough to sustain this. So I gave it up and came to the conclusion, I only had one resort.

Unappreciative
August 31, 2016

AAA

He’s here for a short stay. She knows him and seems like she is looking forward to the change. We will be leaving for a short sojourn of five days. He will be taking care of her.

We all like change when it looks like we’ll get what we want. Otherwise it’s painful and unwanted. It seems this change for her is “her escape”.

I’m listening to her conversation with the guest. She says ” I like to eat different things, not the same thing every day. The meals should be small. I don’t like to eat too much. I’m eighty pounds and that’s my perfect weight”.

It reveals, that as we suspected, she in her mind, feels that eighty pounds for her five foot one frame is a good weight. She would be blown away in a ten mile per hour wind, and if she turned sideways, she’d almost disappear.

Her mindset is like Fort Knox. Inflexible and like steel.

All these years I’ve fed her every morning, noon and night, varying her menu so she wouldn’t get bored with the food. Bending over backwards to accommodate every whim and wish, only to discover it all meant nothing to her. She could care-a-less. She is only interested in maintaining some illusional weight configuration in her mind that , as she sees, is perfect. I may as well be serving her ice cubes.

So after the sojourn, maybe when I return to her care taking, her meal will be a grain of rice, or a trip to Syria.

Nothing like contrast to bring a person to their senses.

A Young Genus Dei, “Cooking for Jesus” from One, a musical
August 19, 2016

Cooking For Jesus11

Scroll down to read musical.

Helpful Hints
June 3, 2011

How do you stop bananas from turning brown?

Sprinkle peeled, sliced bananas with powdered sugar, from a wire mesh strainer.

If you’re cooking and grease forms on top of your finished product, how do you remove it? Eg; Soups, Stocks, Crock Pot Dishes.

Lay paper towels over the surface. The towels will absorb the grease and leave the rest. Throw the paper towels away.

How do you stop sliced apples from turning brown? Place them in a bowl of lightly salted water for a few seconds.

Thanks Mark. This blog is for you…..r

Meat and Potatoes
April 11, 2011

 

Meat and potatoes are comfort food. Memories bring comfort too. Good times bring comfort. And all together, you get happy.

Happy is a lost comfort for most now a days.

How do you regain it?

Invite some good friends over for dinner. Nothing special, just meat and potatoes. But do it well. Keep it simple. Crock pot of meat or roasting pan in the oven. Add a baked potato, some good bread and a simple salad. Sit around a table and enjoy the food. Help clean-up a bit. Sit back down and play a game. Something simple you haven’t played in a long time. Some game that makes you have interaction with each other. Something that makes you laugh and enjoy the moment. Some game that takes all of your thoughts away and replaces them with enjoyment of the company.

Have dessert. Chocolate cake and ice cream. More simplicity. Offer coffee. Savor the simplicity of the evening. You have a new memorable moment.

Friends, food, familiarity.

Happiness found.

Like a rare jewel…..precious.

Color Your World
March 9, 2011

It’s 5:00am. Today I start my change. I turn on the TV to Public Broadcasting. It has a program on about photography. I watch for a half hour as the guide takes his photos through Arizona and parts of Utah. Not only is it beautiful, but I learned something about light, shadow, composition. As a matter of fact it reminded me of how I used these same placements on a plate of food when I cooked in my restaurant. I drank a cup of coffee while watching this. It’s the only cup I have each day.

Well, it’s now or never I thought. I got up and climbed on the exercise bike. Switched channels to the local news and biked for a half hour. I could feel my legs when I was done and I was sweating heavily from my head and body. I switched channels to BBC news at 6:00am to catch the world news.  I haven’t exercised in quite some time, so I’m beginning slowly, so my body does not go into complete shock. My mind is already in shock. I did fifty wall push-ups (actually did it against the kitchen counter). I don’t think my arms have the strength to hold my whole weight. Then I did thirty crunches, followed by stretches, front, back and side leg lifts. I remembered a few exercises I use to do when I was younger. More like a yoga exercise. I used them also. Butt clenches with one leg forward and hold the core stomach tight….ten each leg, for a count of fifteen seconds. Side crunches to get rid of the spare tire…twenty each side, overhead lifts….thirty each arm. Total time twenty minutes.

I turned off the TV and did last night’s dishes, made the bed and began my morning clean-up for work. With the noise off I was able to concentrate on doing a visualization of breathing in and out of my heart, while picturing it as a giant golden sun. All the while shaving, brushing teeth and showering. Dressed, shut down the apartment and got in the car for work. Turned off the car radio and concentrated, while driving, on my breath, to a constant repetitive phrase of ‘I am light’, till I got to work.

At work, I opened the office with its usual rituals. Lights, computer, blinds and downloaded emails from last evening. Went to the kitchen and gave instructions for restocking, prep and making up stock items. Asked if they had any questions or concerns, and answered them. Got a cup of tea and ate a hard-boiled egg.

Back in the office. I respond to emails, type up the new orders that came in, turn on the second computer to do invoicing from yesterday and call clients on yesterday’s orders to see how everything went. Process invoices, credit cards, quickbooks and review supervisor sheets. Van #1 needs wiring review. No power to lights in back. Van #4 is ready for tire rotation and oil change. We send Van#4 in for service. Review with supervisors any discrepancies on orders and procedures from yesterday. Compliments where necessary. Post Weekly Specials for next week and email to all clients. Post pricing from latest purchases into our control software and review prices and effect on our menu pricing. Handle phones and emails, type new orders, trip to post office and that brings us to 12:00 noon.

For lunch I eat a single chicken drumstick, mixed green salad with a tablespoon of dressing, and drink a Perrier. The next hour I devote to current clients. Give them a call and touch base and see if I can increase any sales from them. The rest of the afternoon was spent in answering phones, doing proposals for clients, checking supplies, taking out materials for tomorrows orders that I had just received, and phoning back one friend in Canada, who I couldn’t talk to when he called.

I left work at 5:00pm, got home at 5:20pm. Brought a lot of vegetables with me and some chicken breast. I make up a vegetable soup for dinner, with enough to last me the rest of the week, plus a little more. I take a portion of the vegetable soup and add a roux (thickener) and the chicken breast. I’ll have this for a change, once in a while for variety, during the following week. I freeze what I’m not using for this week. I have a bowl of the vegetable soup (14 different vegetables and beans) and a cup of milk. I happen to like milk. I’m trying to bring my calorie count down. I watch the evening BBC World news, and turn off the TV, read one of my favorite books. I take twenty minutes and try to get back into a quiet meditation. Then I do another twenty minutes of exercises while listening to one of my favorite CDs. I set up the laptop to type the rest of this blog, but for some reason, I cannot get a connection. After trying for half an hour I give up and decide to go to bed.

I won’t be as detailed in my follow-ups on my change. Today I was trying to see how much productive and informative work and information I could achieve in a normal day. I will add and subtract as I go along. I do enjoy watching the travel logs on PBS. Since I can’t get there in real life right now, it allows me to be educated, entertained and gives me a broader sense of understanding of the world we’re living in now. Something to look forward to if I eventually get the time to travel. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to find out what you like and what works for you. I’m only trying to put those things in my life that resonate with me and make me feel alive.

You should too.

Fine Food
February 4, 2011

Anything described as ‘fine’ has depth in character. It transforms  a thought form into reality. Somehow the essence of ‘simple’, and it has to be ‘simple’, has to be purity. Hard to achieve in a world of imperfection. But, it can be done. Most ‘fine’ work is not recognized in its purest form. It is usually discovered too late or after a passing of an individual. In rare cases it can be experienced here on this plane. Thank you, to those trying so hard to live what they feel.

You’ll know it when you experience its soul. It comes from the person preparing or making it happen, behind the scenes. Their very being is allowed to leave their body and become part of what you’re eating or experiencing. As a book is only as great as its writer, food is only as great as it’s creator. Nuances are only appreciated if you have yourself experienced the same life changing experiences as the food’s creator. That’s what makes it all encompassing and memorable. You get to re-live your life experiences through what you’re tasting, feeling and consuming.

It’s not just with food. It happens in all aspects of life. Look for the purity in simple things. You’ll touch the source.

Canadian Thanksgiving
October 13, 2010

In America its Columbus Day. In Canada it’s Thanksgiving. A little earlier than in America, but the growing season is much shorter in the north and if they waited till the end of November, everything would be frozen.

I miss the celebration of family. In earlier years I took it for granted, and now that I’m older, it’s an impossibility. Our parents have passed away and emotionally, life has driven the family into unchangeable cubicles of assorted beliefs.

Mom was a great cook. I’ve never been able to cook like my mom. Maybe I came close a few times, but her energy and love were different and whatever vibration she transferred to the food always created a different taste and feel to mine. Maybe that part stemmed from her youth. She was raised by her aunt. Aunt Bertha. Also known as Aunt B or Auntie B. From stories and my recollection, a severe person. Demanding in every aspect from obedience to cleanliness to perfection. Maybe it was that upbringing that made Mom so demanding on us kids.

When Mom was a small child, her father held her upside down, outside a seven story window and threatened to drop her. Details are sketchy to say the least, because no one ever talked about the incident.We were all told as children that Mom’s parents were killed in a car accident. It wasn’t until I applied for my green card that the history came out into the open. It’s still unknown what happened to Mom’s mother and her father’s relationship. What is known for sure, is that Mom’s mother took Mom to Hamilton from Chicago, to be raised by Auntie B.

My only memories of Auntie Ber were vague, and what I know of her were incidents revealed to me later in life. Mom and Dad had moved to Edmonton to get away from Aunt B and begin a new life. Aunt B used to park outside their apartment every night after they were married and would stalk them on a regular basis. When I was two or three years old, Aunt B came to Edmonton for a visit. There was only my brother and myself as family at the time. During that time, Mom and Dad took a weekend getaway and Aunt B said she would look after us kids for the two days. Aunt B did not like me. Maybe with my dark hair and whatever personality I revealed at the time, I might have reminded her of my mother. When my parents arrived back from their holiday, they found my brother had been decked out in all new clothes. I, on the other hand, had the same clothes on that I’d been dressed in when they had left. Aunt B hadn’t even changed my diaper. We never ever saw Aunt B again after that incident, and I really can’t remember what ever happened to her. But, I digress.

Fond memories arise when I think of Mom’s food. I know that when I’d been away for any length of time, upon my return, she always cooked my favorite meal. I looked forward to it. And I remember so well, her Thanksgiving meal was always outstanding. She would begin days before, and start with the shopping and preparations. She gave endless attention to every last detail. The day of the feast she would get up early, make the dressing, and then stuff the bird. While it was cooking she’d prepare wonderful accompaniments. And, I remember, when I was younger, she even made all her own pies. Finally when everything was cooked and ready, all nine of us would sit down, say Grace and start in with warm glee. Until that is, someone started a fight. Eventually, Dad would step in and calm the waters of discontent and we’d all have dessert.

As I think back, I’m so grateful for the memories. Even though, I can never be part of those past events again, I’d give anything to sit through one of those childhood fights, just to be able to taste Mom’s food again.

Just Cooking
August 26, 2010

It’s 4:00am, and considering the time I feel quite good. I’m wide awake and looking forward to cooking.

Before I went to bed last night, I watched one of the cooking shows on TV. I haven’t had the time in months to watch one and I wanted to see what I’d been missing. It was one of those pre-scripted  reality food shows, that seems unscripted, with mouthe, pompous, arrogant know it alls, demeaning the poor uninitiated chefs into the small worlds of what the arrogants feel is great. As a friend put it to me once, “if their talent ever catches up with their egos, they will be great”. I continued to watch the show to the end, even though I resented how they belittled their group of would be chefs.

I start cooking. I begin to feel that joy I get, when I cook. It’s different from the office work. It gives me an instant satisfaction and a great feeling of accomplishment. I like the simplistic thoughts that enter my mind and the loss of consciousness with the outside world. I enter into a cooking realm. I don’t expect perfection, because I know it doesn’t exist. I only expect the best I can do in any given moment. It can’t be forced. It must well up from inside you as you move from moment to moment. Interjections from the staff have me smiling. It’s an egoless group and I love working with their knowingness. No one takes offence to suggestions and everyone gives them in a spirit of helping one another. Carefulness, complexity and caring rule the room. Today, I feel honored to be working with them. I feel their respect and I have great respect for them. The chef teaches me something I have forgotten and with a laugh we work together on a new solution to an old problem.We’re both happy with the result.

I juggle my time between the kitchen and the office. I answer emails and return phone calls, while my heart is still in the kitchen. I surprise myself on the roasted potatoes. I could swear someone else made them, and the rice pilaf came out well also. The staff compliment me. I move through a series of rituals and performances always thinking how I can improve. My imagination begins to think of endless scenarios of untried food fantasies. Now is not the time. I move on, and the staff pushes me a bit on my time. This is the best I’ve felt all week. It’s a committment, but un-pressured, I’m relaxed, happy and I’m totally enjoying myself. If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was having sex.

I guess all of this is just an indicator if you’re suited to what you’re doing in your life. It never really feels like work and if it comes close to feeling like you feel when you have sex, you’ve found your calling.

By the way, I’ve never read the book pictured on this blog. I just liked how it felt when I saw the cover, so I used it. It’s available on Amazon….r

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