Monday, July 25, 2011


Seems like I still need to write about my transition from frazzled business owner to woman of semi-leisure. That is, after all, what I know right now…and one of the rules imparted early on to neophyte writers is “Write what you know.” I shall, however, endeavor not to whine…

Three weeks ago, 99.9% of the physical baggage of the café was trundled out the door by a Portland restaurant supply house. I sorted out about half a pick-up load to be taken home—some frozen foods and dry goods that did not get used, selected pieces of equipment and smallwares that I guessed would be useful going forward with the concession business. It looked like a pitifully small collection, next to what we sent away. But integrating it into my kitchen and/or the storage space in our garage has proven tediously challenging.

I’ll admit that part of the challenge has been that I just don’t want to look at this stuff right now. I want to set it aside long enough for the bad feelings associated with it to lose their sting, and deal with it when I get around to it. But, you know, you can’t just leave it crammed in the back of the truck and the trailer. Especially when those two vehicles will be needed for our event coming up next month. So I had to once more snuff my burning desire to get away from all things café related, suck it up and get to work. But I wasn’t happy or nice about it. And, of course, we picked the hottest day of the year to mess with it. (I understand that our “hot” would be laughable to the rest of the country this year. Still, it was stuffy and muggy and would have been a day much better spent at the beach or in the woods or anywhere else doing anything else. And I am supposed to be ON VACATION!)

The thing that has been problematic about stowing these things is their sheer size. When one works in a commercial kitchen with gigantic appliances, fifty linear feet of shelving, under-counter storage galore, plus an 80 square foot dry storage closet, one doesn’t worry too much about where to put a 2 ½ gallon stock pot or a twenty quart mixer. The pot doesn’t fit in any of my kitchen cabinets; the mixer weighs about 200 lbs. and rides on a rolling dolly. The pot is currently taking up half my kitchen stovetop; the mixer was shoe-horned into the garage alongside the two ovens, eight freezers, two heated display cases, two hotboxes, three pan racks, folding tables, rolling carts, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum already stored there for the concession business.

I spent about an hour yesterday afternoon trading out my years-past-dated, household-sized jars of spices for the ones I salvaged from the café. Most of these will be used in production for the events we still do. But some—for instance, a 14 oz. container of fennel seed, nine inches tall and three inches wide—would last me and six other home cooks until the next millennium. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. But I physically could not throw it away. Guess I’ll have to research great fennel seed recipes.

Which brings up another problem: Cooking.

I am used to BIG—pots, utensils, containers, appliances, sinks. Now, let me just say that we didn’t buy our house ten years ago based on the merits of the kitchen. It is tiny and awkward, but we didn’t cook or entertain that much, so kitchen size was a non-issue for us. After five years preparing lots of meals for lots of people in a commercial cooking space, I find my little kitchen woefully inadequate. There is no counter space for prep, the task lighting is atrocious, my fridge (which seems to be the only design that will fit in the awkward space allotted it) can hardly hold a gallon of milk, much less a seven-quart container of…anything. When I try to cook or bake using my home-sized appliances and utensils, I feel like I’m playing Suzy Homemaker with my Easy-Bake Oven. It’s frustrating to the point where I literally cannot cook.

And I want to cook. I actually enjoy it, when I don’t have a gun to my head and a million other things to worry about. So I’m desperate for a space to indulge that passion. I can’t see us having the money to re-configure our current space. Maybe I should apply to one of those shows on HGTV, like The Ugliest Kitchen In America. “Dear HGTV: I am a retired restaurateur in dire need of a kitchen makeover…” Problem is, my kitchen isn’t really ugly. It just…sucks.

Those life lessons just keep streaming, don’t they? This week, I’ve learned that you never simply walk away from anything in life. You take it with you, it becomes part of you. Some things are assimilated more readily, more joyfully than others. It’s not always easy. Still, you have to make room in your “new” life for pieces of the “old” life; the ones you want to keep, and the ones that will go with you whether you want them or not. Those bits—wanted or otherwise—are what make a life. We would be so much less without them.

1 comment:

  1. I don't really see you making your own Italian sausage, but they do use fennel seed as a flavoring. That mixer sounds like a real herker.