Wednesday, February 18, 2009

33 Moments of Happiness in the Kitchen

Chin Shengt'an was an 17th century scholar who, while staying in a temple with a friend for ten days because of foul weather, wrote 33 happy moments. While I don't find all or even most of his moments all that happy for me, I do re-read them from time to time just so I can think of my own happy moments in life. For the next few posts I want to give you my 33 happy moments in the kitchen. I hope you enjoy them but more importantly, I hope it makes you think of what your happy moments are while cooking. 1. It's early in the morning and I walk into my kitchen. There are no sounds. The hood isn't on yet. There are no people talking or making noise. It's only me. I slowly begin putting together my work station while thinking quietly about the day ahead. Ah, is this not happiness? 2. The restaurant is full and the kitchen is very busy but the cooks are all dancing with each other flawlessly. The sound of pots hitting the stove top. The sound of knives on the cutting boards. The sound of the chef calling his tickets. Ah, is this not happiness? 3. The look of a perfectly cooked piece of fish. Ah, is this not happiness? 4. I had a guest ask me about how to poach an egg. I wasn't busy and invited her to come into the kitchen to show her. After discovering it isn't all that difficult, she smiled. Ah, isn't that happiness. 5. I hire a dishwasher who has had some bad breaks in life. She has no or little education and often comes with a record. After a few months of washing dishes he shows an interest in learning to cook and I teach him. A few years go by and I hear from her and learn that cooking has given her a good life. Ah, is this not happiness? 6. A couple comes into the restaurant for their anniversary but it is soon apparent they don't have much money to spend. The man, though he doesn't readily show it, wishes he had more so his beautiful bride could have a nice dinner. Without making a show of it, we roll out the red carpet and send them extra courses on top of what they have already ordered. They leave satiated and happy without ever knowing what we did. Ah, is this not happiness. 7. It is late afternoon. I brew a pot of my favorite tea and take it down to the dock on the river just behind the restaurant. I watch the ducks diving for food while drinking my tea, and looking up I see my wife coming down to meet me. Ah, is this not happiness? 8. I have had a hard day and notice there are some dishes to be done. Going back to the dish room I get myself lost in just doing dishes and forget about everything else. Ah, is this not happiness? 9. It is winter time and there is a storm raging outside. The restaurant is warm but because of the storm we have no customers. I'm sitting at the table beside our big window looking outside while reading a cookbook and drinking tea. Ah, is this not happiness? 10. It's my day off. The day outside is beautiful. The sun shines and there is a cool breeze, but off in the distant brews a thunderstorm with it's black clouds. I have spent the morning preparing food for the afternoon. The house is full of our best friends drinking wine and eating food. Laughter can be heard and the kids are all running around getting themselves into trouble. I'm sitting in my favorite chair smoking my favorite pipe. Ah, is this not happiness? 11. My son is at the restaurant hanging out with us. He is not doing anything in particular except looking up points of interest on the Internet. Just when I am at my busiest in the kitchen he wants to show me something and I don't really have time, but because he is with us I make time, usually putting an order on hold. He shows me something trivial. We laugh or plan or look at each other knowingly. Ah, is this not happiness? OK, this is the first 11. I'll post the next 11 in a few days.

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