I’M INVOLVED WITH A VIETNAMESE OR Thai kitchen – likely a restaurant – and we’re dealing with a huge bowl of soup. It’s festive, everybody’s happy, there’s a lot of golden color in the room, rather rustic with a late-afternoon feel.
Out in the dining area, they insist I eat it – press the bowl (blue and white, by the way) to my chest and face – but I’m leery, given my inability to handle hot spices, yet I don’t want to offend anyone, even if they are kinda daring me. Especially the younger owner right in front of me. What becomes clear is that I’m also facing a deadline, this is for a food page centerpiece, one I’m producing, and Flash is there, smiling, encouraging, and lifting his camera devilishly.
Despite the underlying tension of the difficulties of the newspaper side (a recurring theme for me), this is communal, upbeat, joyous.
I’M BAKING SPECIAL COOKIES at the rear of a large cafeteria when I notice they’re using child labor, and mistreating them. Child slaves. I say something to an obese Eastern European supervisor – gray, ugly hair – “Mind your own business,” she grunts. In front of a large pizza oven, a child stands, waiting. He smiles but the bottom edge of his white kitchen-staff busboy’s jacket starts to smoke. An ace-student screams, “Look! His coat!” and I rush up, grab him away yelling “Charlie!” He’s still smiling. I tell her to run for water, but she doesn’t. Only after a second order, she does but not fast enough. I grab the child and place his head under running cold water, a faucet over a big washtub basin, careful not to get water in his mouth or nose. Just as he starts gasping for air (he’d passed out), B.B. rushes up in her white Chinese suit and asks, with a combination of maternal instinct and reportorial business, “What’s the matter?”
COOKING (WITH MY GODDAUGHTER? not my wife, at least at the beginning) and I’m given a large onion to cube and add to our large stainless-steel skillet to saute. (In fact, I do not use onions – this is purely for others.) But it’s uncommonly large, bigger than a cabbage, in fact. So I make long slices (what emerges looks like a purple cabbage) but keep getting stuck when trying to figure out which way to go with the emerging slabs. I never even begin on the second half … is it that I keep awakening myself?
She had gone off on a tirade around dinnertime and hadn’t let up. I really do feel I can’t do anything around here, especially not “their” way.
I’M PUT IN CHARGE OF A CHARITY PANCAKE breakfast. Never participated in one before, and I have no idea where things are or exactly who to contact or rely on. Still, I plunge blithely ahead. We’re very inefficient and very slow and soon it’s 11 a.m. and nothing has been served.
When I awoke, 5 a.m., not really disturbed by this variation of the unmet deadline. I had, though, enjoyed cooking two dinners the day before, in addition to some heavy editing of a novel was pressing to have up next week for release a week later.
NEXT, AT A RATHER FORMAL DINNER (the couple’s still rather in-heat), they move their forks and spoons and find, among packets of mint and the like, a condom neatly wrapped … and iced! Seems everyone gets these at their setting.
CUTTING AND CLEANING A LOT of chicken parts in stainless steel bowls in our kitchen. Lots of them.