I’ll do anything

it takes to get a job done.
Yesterday I was called in to fill in for a friend of mine who cooks breakfast and lunch for 45. I know I can do it, because I’ve done it before.
I spend one hour:
filling four coffee machines, stocking the drinks fridges, clearing up last night’s dishes, unloading two dishwashers, frying bacon, making eggs, and grating apples for muesli and stirring it into yogurt, honey and oats. Yesterday I forgot that I needed a pass key to get in. Normally I get in at 7, and because I’m a freak, I get there 20 minutes early. You never know.
Without the key I couldn’t start until 8. That left me three and a half hours for lunch.
No more than running in shoes with loose laces, except the menu wasn’t mine and the oven was like nothing I’d seen. A Hindenburg in stainless steel. You can tell me there are another twenty people coming or that there are no potatoes, but trying to make somebody else’s food and firing up new equipment on a tight schedule is like dropping me in Hindi class–I don’t know the alphabet.
I drank a Dr. Pepper and ate 3 mini Krackles.
The menu on the board:
frozen pre cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce, grilled chicken cutlets, steamed broccoli and bow ties. I hate precooked anything. Poor guy was trying to make it easy on me. I put a braising water on with shallots, thyme, parsley, and olive oil that wasn’t mine, coriander, lemon zest and a piece of tomato. I figured after a good half hour I could throw the shrimp in and they would pick up flavor. I put the pasta water on to boil.
I grilled chicken–one side of the grill was the temperature of Mt. Etna. The other was just past tepid shower water.
What I wanted to do: pound the cutlets flat, dip them into flour, egg and homemade crumb. What I had time for: season them with salt.
I made chocolate chip cookies just in case nothing worked. I live by Amelia Bedialia. I roasted the broccoli at 250 degrees to “seared forest” in ten minutes.
The oven had no ozone layer.
I sauteed red peppers in one pan and onions in another and then tossed them with the barely breathing broccoli. I added lemon, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and parsley. The truth is I don’t like broccoli and it doesn’t like me. No explanation, just the truth. I tasted it six times and never liked it.
A lot of cooks are like that, secret ingredients that they hate like a date that clings. I plated it anyway, and hoped for forgiveness.
For the pasta I sauteed slivers of garlic with fresh basil and lemon zest. It was beautiful until I burned it. In that precious moment before service, when the pasta is about to be strained and the chicken is grilled and waiting for it’s browned butter with lemon and capers and the shrimp is treading water in it’s braising bath that I didn’t have to use in the first place, I turned the burner up under the sauce for the pasta to jet propulsion. I forgot about it for exactly the 14 seconds it took to blacken the bottom half of everything in the pan. I added ricotta and fresh arugula to the bow ties and hoped it would blunt the impact of the carbon in the front seat.
The salad was a salad. Greens, cherry tomato and fresh fennel. An elbow, a polyester slip.
I got the job done. I made lunch–but I didn’t like it. I put everything away, cleaned up, put my coat on, threw my bag over my shoulder and sat in the dark of St. Bartholomew’s for ten minutes before taking the subway home.

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