Doesn’t take direction well

Yesterday was the first time in my little life that I ever walked off the job.

I got a phone call from a woman whom I had met years before who was now working as a housekeeper and personal assistant.  She asked me if I was available to work for her boss on Wednesday morning, for a party that was happening on Friday.  It’s happened before, and why not–people don’t have the time to cook, so they hire someone else to cook, and call it their own.  I asked her if her boss could call me so we could work out the details.  “She is very busy” she said. (and what am I, chopped liver?)

“I need to talk to her” I said.  Would you send a dancer into Swan Lake without knowing the choreography or even what show it was?  “Don’t worry” she said, “It’s no problem.  You just come here.”  It was sounding like late night crime TV.

“Please ask her to call me,” I said.  “OK” she said.  “Tuesday night.”  Tuesday night I got a call from the housekeeper.  “She’s very busy” she said.  I was sending out cooking show treatments, looking for Ferdinand’s homework folder, letting his dinner get cold on the stove, typing menus for France and Italy and worrying that I had still hadn’t bought my plane ticket between Rome and Paris or bought new underwear for the past two years.  “I’m busy” I said.  “You come tomorrow.  She has books.”  This was getting weird–some kind of Candid Camera remake or wacko blind date.  “Be here at 9:30” the housekeeper said, “we’ll be ready for you.”  “But I have no idea what she wants on the menu.  I don’t know how many people are coming, I don’t even know where she lives.”  “It’s no problem” she said. “Don’t worry.”
On Wednesday morning at 9:30:
I made my way over the marble and into the kitchen.  I was handed 3 loose sheets of yellow paper by the assistant–the house grocery list with my grocery list plus a few things to make a cheesecake–and Lady of the House lost patience with me all together when I started to sit down to have a look.  “GO, GET GOING!!” she screamed at me, in a panic that everything at the market was going to be gone before I got there?  I have no idea, except I hate being screamed at before I properly meet someone.  I left before I could get past the pink post-its and notes scribbled in the book.  Do you remember that feeling when you really ARE on a wacko blind date, and you think to yourself–I am just going to walk the walk here and not hurt anybody’s feelings and when dinner is over, I will never have to do that again.  I think that must have been what I was thinking.  I am not sure,  because I also felt like I was about 20 feet under water.  I talked about it with the cab driver on the way over to the market.  He told me “there’s crazy ladies, very crazy ladies out there–you cook and then you go home.”  It sounded like a plan.

I started to go through the list:  1. Frozen spinach.  Now how am I going to do that? How do I go ahead and walk past the tender tiny spinach leaves that I yearn for, get goosebumps for, would tango for, if they were done just right with a little pepperoncino, olive oil beautiful enough to make your heart beat if it had stopped, and a pinch of salt from the sea.  I threw the spinach in the cart.  How could she fight me on the spinach?   2.  Canned chicken stock.  I don’t even know where the canned chicken stock is.  And you want to know why?  Because if I did, you know where I would be don’t you, like some kind of missionary in the canned and boxed stock aisle preaching to the good people about the beauty of MAKING YOUR OWN.  I passed by the carrots, celery and onions, and headed towards the organic wings and backbones.  And then there was the Contadina tomato sauce.  This is where it really crumbled.  I picked up the can of Contadina, and I looked at it, and I put it back, and I picked it up again, and I read the label.  Onion powder, garlic powder.. you know the rest and a scene came back to me of my 5 year old niece in the flagship store of FAO Schwartz walking around with a little rabbit that she had carefully picked out as a gift, feeling fine and ready to walk up to the cash register and go out into the big wide world when all of a sudden, she saw–The sparkly, pink, gold, silver flashing, feathers flowing, tulle tripping, dreamy palace of princess aisle.  She stood right where she was, threw the rabbit to the floor and said, “I DON’T WANT THE BUNNY, I WANT THE TUTTU!

When you know who you are and what moves you and what makes you tick so loud it can be heard in the next town over, there is no rabbit.  There is no Contadina.  I put it back on the shelf and got the ingredients to make my own sauce.  When I got back to the house, I only had half of what was on the list and legs instead of thighs for the fricassee, pate instead of chopped liver, no oreos, no chocolate pretzels, and no Philadelphia cream cheese.

It went downhill from there.  Lady of the House was not interested in my spinach, my stock or my sauce.  She asked me, Had I Seen the Recipe.  She made comments about my timing and how my canned whole plum tomatoes were not organic.  She refused to let me use salt or pepper.  Because she doesn’t like it.  I took off my apron and told her very politely we were not a match.  She had hired the wrong cook.  “When I cook for you, you get me, all and every part of me from the bottom of my heart.”  That was not me, in that jar.   For me it would have been like making love to my husband with someone else in the bed and me in a chair on the side.” I refused her money and left.

I had cream of wheat for dinner last night.

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