Haven’t heard from me in a few days- why is that- because I have been busier than a cat covering shit in a coal pile. Let me try to fill you in. First, two people get assigned to prep dinner every night for the class. Chef pulls out some stuff from the refrigerator and we have to figure something out for dinner. No challenge you say – we do that everyday at home. I disagree. You don’t get handed leftover octopus and lamb ragu. Anyway, no problem, there are two of us working on it (after all day in the kitchen). This particular night my partner is stuck on the salad – for 2.5 hours, so the whole rest of the dinner is on me. Something came out and everybody ate. End of discussion. No, not really.
Around 10 PM there is a knock at the door, it is Andreas, he is holding a wet dripping notebook and he says he found it in the chlorine sink with the dirty cutting boards. He believes it is mine. He is correct. He starts to crumple it up, but I grab it from him. He says it can’t be saved, but it is every single note I have taken since day one. I bring it in and Kristine and I work for an hour peeling sodden pages apart and spreading them out on every towel we have all over the floor, the drying rack (the Italian version of a dryer) and on a spare bedspread. A survivor of Katrina, Kristine knows wet papers. As we work, the lines on the pages are disappearing, but miraculously the words remain. Only time will tell.
The next day we are divided into groups for a menu planning and execution over the next 3 days. Have to have 7 courses, and it has to be from a particular region. All well and good you say. Yes, it sounds pretty easy. Then we take our menu to chef for review and approval. Nothing survived. We start again with a different menu and we are exhausted from being yelled at, belittled and insulted. Back in our room, Kristine is planning to pack and leave, Donna never showed for dinner, and I couldn’t even find my body to get back into it. I didn’t know whether to cry or slam doors. Kirstine and I talked. The next morning was a nightmare of confusion and irate discussion and me saying what I think. At the end of the night one person told me I was the harshest person in the group. I took that back to my room and tried to figure out what part was mine and what part was hers, but I did apologize if she felt injured by my tone. I asked Chef for a thermometer to make the biga – one of the assistants told me not to worry, she knew where it was, but in fact, she didn’t, so I had no thermometer to make the biga. Fortunately biga is flour, water and yeast, so I did it by feel. It worked. The next day, my team leader told me I was too negative and questioned everything. The team leader gets to make all the decisions; I am supposed to just do what I am told. OK, I must really be an asshole. I say I know how to be a soldier, and I do. The Chef then tells us that we have to voice our opinions to the Team Leader. They he proceeds to rip the Team Leader up and down. I am confused.
Then Chef calls a meeting and we go back to our rooms before we can go into the kitchen. After the meeting Kirstine and I are just plain flattened. I sit on the bed trying to piece my ruined notebook back in the correct order so I can find the recipes I need to prepare and she is sitting on her bed trying to find the word for towel in the English-Italian Dictionary, cause we need ones that don’t reek of chlorine (However, since it has been raining for a week, the towels will smell like smoke because they build a fire to dry them out, the enhanced version of line drying.) We prefer affumicato to chlorine. They must be short on towels cause what we get is much more reminiscent of linen kitchen towels than anything you might use in the bathroom. Oh well, I’ll use more baby power.
I don’t know exactly how we got where we were but one of us said something funny about the situation and that led to something even funnier and before you know it we were barely breathing with hysteria. I pulled out my red pen wrapped with the obligatory duct tape supply and she thought that was the funniest thing she had ever seen. Together we made a few lists.
The Rules of the Kitchen
1. When Chef is pissed – we get yelled at.
2. When Chef is pissed at another Chef – we get yelled at.
3. When Chef makes a mistake – he blames us, and then we get yelled at.
4. Whenever Benzie says anything at all – we all get yelled at.
5. Va Fongool, with or without the accompanying arm gesture, can be substituted for any noun, verb or pronoun, or the articles “the or but”, and the conjunction “and”.
After that we started a list of All the People Who Need a Good Ass-Kicking, but then it was time to get in the kitchen. Things went a lot better this afternoon.