on the edge

I was on 5th street between 49th and 48th and I got a message from a friend of mine that someone needed a full time live in cook and did I know anybody. I have never wanted to work as a live in cook. If you live where you work, what is that? To me, it sounded infinite. You don’t stop after dinner.

And I don’t know anybody, so I started to type enough of that to release me. Until I thought, “I suppose I could do it. For a week or two. Until they found someone else.”

I am here now, hours from NYC, looking out across the water from my window, listening to birds, fish. They circle twenty feet above the water, flapping their wings like crazy and take a dive head first at full speed. I have memorized where the farm stand is and the King Cullen. I know where the gas station is. A Russian guy pointed out parking spaces to me on the far side of a small bridge, just before the edge of the ocean. I saw dolphins this morning.

Cooking for someone new is always hard for me. It is going on a blind date. They don’t pick you because they like you. They don’t know you. You just show up. Once you are there is when it starts; it is either going to work or it isn’t. So far, so good. I have made salmon flown in from Alaska, chops, shank, risotto, pasta rolled out with a wine bottle, lobsters, scallops, pies, tarts, cakes, creams, and none of it has taken me down. It was blueberry pancakes yesterday that were a wolf in a rabbit suit. I melted the butter, brought the eggs and the milk to room temperature, whisked them all together, sifted the flour and then sifted it again with a little sugar, salt and baking powder. I heated an iron skillet and waited for the butter to stop sizzling. And nothing. No bubble in the batter. No puff in the pancake. Sometimes people ask me what is the difference between a cook and a chef. I will never be a chef, because I don’t want to be, but the first difference is, you don’t sweat. You keep going. If Act 1 doesn’t work, you start writing Act 2 without anyone knowing you are changing the script. I decided it had to be the baking powder. I checked the bottom of the can and it was out of date by more than a year. I swept Act 1 into the garbage, except the blueberries. I lifted those and rinsed them off. Then I walked past the pool to where I keep my suitcase and unpacked a can of baking powder that I carry with me. I started again. I added a few spoons of sour cream to the milk for flavor and body, with a nudge of baking soda to support the acidity. I erred on a little too much melted butter in the batter, which is never truly a mistake. I served them with more butter and a ceramic pitcher of maple syrup on the tray.

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