Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Vito farewell

Today is the big day! Vito is quietly playing with one of his favorite rattle balls unaware of his fate. Oblivious to the drastic separation he is about to undergo. I know this will be harder on me than him. And it would be harder on me if I had time to think about it. So away Vito will go to the house of 2 Steve Bickfords, and I am off to Russells. I will kinda be like his new pet for a few weeks. He'll probably have to feed me and cuddle me and clean up after me a little.

My plans for moving all week were dashed by an aweful case of the flu. 3 days in bed, and the first 3 sick days I have taken from Lampreia in the 2 and a half years I have worked there. My nurse did a good job and I am back up. Everything must go today. One of the perks of being a Bickford is that all the men have trucks. Big trucks. So at 3 this afternoon 2 trucks will arrive. And one station wagon. And away my material trappings will go!!

So a farewell to apartment J. So long Vito. It's been a good ride.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A brief history of me...

Last night after a marathon of a dinner service I began to discuss my vacation with my fellow cook. Apparently in honor of my culinary trip to London, is entirely devoted to London. "Vacation?" she said, "Dana, you are going to be working 6 days a week from sunrise past sunset. Are you sure it's a vacation?"

Indeed, this is my kind of vacation. I had also applied for an internship right outside of Sausalito. It was an old army barracks that had been converted into a center for the arts. Yes, I would be there to work cooking 3 meals a day for the artists in residency and banquets for the people who drive from SF to see the artists lecture series. But it would have been like summercamp for me. I visited it in September to push myself on the coordinator and check it out. It was on a headland above the coastline of Marin county and one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. I have seen the coast of Spain, Italy, Greece, new jersey, Washington, Oregon, and Santa cruise. And this place ranks up there with the best of them. There was serenity there that I would have liked to experience.

So in explaining to Anjana why this was actually like a vacation for me (the month at the end with libs is the icing on the vacation cake) I started to tell her of my rather enterprising youth. Wouldn't a future employer love to see the following jobs on my work history.

When I was all of 5 I asked my mom to let me open a lemonade stand at the end of the driveway. She said no and went about her business. An hour or so later she found me at the end of the drive way with my little desk set up and my business open to the public. But instead of a lemonade stand, I had opened a poetry stand. For a nickel you could buy an original Dana Bickford composition. To this day on her fridge remains one of the poems I sold to her. She bought poems to send to Boompa and Mimi and they were beyond thrilled.

during the summer between 3rd and 4th grade I started my second venture in the world of small business. "Little Helpers" was our name. Our mission was to provide low cost child labor to our neighbors in the way of yard work, baby sitting, and dog walking. I had fliers that I posted throughout the neighorhood providing a reasonable price list and my phone number, and I didn't just sit back and wait. I knocked on doors and handed out more. I had hired 3 employees; Libby, and the Koger children, Will and Sarah. A 5 dollar lawn mow was our hot seller. If I did the work, I kept all the money. If one of my employees mowed the lawn, they got 3 dollars, I got 2. Well, after a month or two Libby and Will decided this wasn't what they deserved and quit to start their own child labor camp. Lucky for them they hadn't signed a non-competition waiver and were free to open "Business Busters". They offered the same services to the same customers at discounted rates. They were pitting our neighbors loyalty against their frugality. But before this could get ugle school started and we were back to being full time students.

After that I began to sell my time to others. I shared a paper route with Libby during the last days of the afternoon newspaper. But times changed as they always do and the public demanded their news in the morning. So cute 60 pound kids with 50 pounds of newspapers over their shoulder were replaced with a guy in a dented Hyundia who throws the paper at your door from the street.

I refereed soccer for a few years. You'd think it wasn't a difficult job. Just blow your whistle when the ball goes out of bounds or when a kid falls over. But the job they don't tell you about in training class is dealing with the parents. Holy crap. There was one at every game. Sometimes more. The crazy dad who had more personally staked on the game than the kids on the field. And do you think an irrational and emotionally charged grown man wants a little 15 year old girl telling him he had to leave his child's game? The dads were 10 times worse at girls games, don't ask me why.

Libby got me a job at McDonalds. We worked there for one summer. And as a one time summer job it was acceptable. We left with a little money in our pockets and something to put on future applications for work history. But there was no way we were staying on once school started, or ever going back. That's not really relevant, I just wanted to point out that Libby got the job first.

After that it was a little burger stand left over from the 6o's, Rays drive in. The crew was comprised mostly of our highschool friends. You can only imagine what that leads to.

I was a security guard at the community college one summer. I didn't have a badge or a uniform. And my only real duty was to write parking tickets. Oh, the power I wielded. I wasn't impartial in any way either. If I knew you, you could park all day without a ticket. It was the only quarter Rusty didn't rack up his usual 20 parking tickets.

Libs and I were lifeguards at the pool by our parents house. We taught swim lessons to the children, which I really liked. The worst part of my day however was the getting wet. I hate getting wet. Ironically I don't mind being wet.

Then there was the espresso stand run by christian fundamentalists. They didn't much like the references I made to the church of caffine.

See how much I like holding jobs? We are only up to age 20!!

Then I started working full time at a little breakfast diner to pay tuition at culinary school which I attended full time. That was a full plate, but wasn't as hard as it sounds. When you are doing it, you just do it and don't really think about it.

Now it's Lampreia, and up until last Monday, a part time job at a bakery to round out my skills. I've got cake decorating skills, baking skills, cooking skills. Guys only want girlfriends who've got skills.

I didn't have a job for a week about 3 years ago. I sat around for about 2 days before I turned my parents house into an Easter cookie factory. Every person I knew got a basket of these Martha Stewart style iced sugar cookies. There was even a series of little duckie cookies decorated to look like plaid. Jessica asks for those every year now.

Friday, February 18, 2005

step two

It's amazing how many little ties we have to any kind of life we build. It's like a cobweb, netting us to where ever we are. The string aren't too hard to break, but there are so many of them. Canceling the phone, electricity, gas, cell phone, car insurance, breaking a lease, shedding off all the stuff you acumulate, and the hardest one of all.... getting out of your gym membership. I have as of yesterday been released of further financial obligation regarding my apartment. It's the first lease I have signed that wasn't month to month, the first time I commit to staying put. And what do I do? I break it to go to England.

So step two is complete. I am out of my apartment in 9 days. Which marks one of the hardest steps I am going to have to take. Parting ways with my cat.

Vito. My baby. I promised him I would be with him forever. That he could grow old with me. But alas, he has to move in with Uncle Steve and Stevie. At least he doesn't have to change his last name. And he can be a guy instead of the mama's boy I have made of him. He can go outside, climb trees, get in fights, smell bad, guy stuff. Libby is afraid that Stevie and his friends will light Vito's tail on fire. But Stevie assured me he wouldn't and that he actually likes cats. Uncle Steve is prepared to fall in love with Vito. And for the first time in my life, there is a part of me that is alergic to cats. A big part.

This weekend I will be packing up all the things I want to put in storage. My fiesta ware collection, kitchen stuff, pictures, clothes, and cookbooks. I am keeping my 2 pieces of furniture. And the following weekend I will send everything else in the apartment back to the goodwill. It belongs there anyways. I had this shabby chic flea market style going. It was working well untill the day I woke up and realized that I had just filled my apartment with old shit. But it worked for my budget and there isn't much that I can't just walk away from. It was kinda fun hunting for everything. Now, someone else can find all these gems on one of their junk hunting trips.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Fat Duck

I sent a group e-mail informing many of the people I care about (and whose e-mail addresses I know) that I had created this blog to keep them in the loop while I was abroad. And then I realized that many of them aren't in the loop as to why there is a loop in the first place.

I will be filling a "stage" at a restaurant outside of London called the Fat Duck for the months of April and May. A stage is the fancy European word for an internship. The Fat Duck is a Michelin 3-star restaurant in a town called Bray. It is doing with food what is considered Molecular Gastronomy. Think sardine on toast sorbet, cauliflower carpaccio with a disk of chocolate jello, and table side preparations using dry ice. This movement in gastronomy was started in Spain by a man named Ferran Adria at El Bulli. It sounds really wired, I know.

It is said to bridge the gap between your senses and your intellect, and plays with what you think you know of food textures, flavors, temperatures, smells, and appearances. For example, when you eat the sardine on toast sorbet, your sense of touch will recognize the dish as sorbet and tell your brain to interpret something sweet and fruity. But your sense of taste is telling your brain that it is a salty fish on a crispy toast. And at the same time your brain is tasting the toast but not feeling the anticipated crunchy texture. There is a lot about the experience that is not this extreme. Not only is this kitchen run by an amazing staff of chefs and cooks, but scientists too. From what I have read and heard in conversation, the multi course menu blows your mind. I will start work at 8 in the morning and finish at 10 at night, 6 days a week. So aside from all the artsy fartsy food stuff, it is going to be like boot camp. Kitchens of this caliber are run like the military I hear.

This hectic schedule is in part the reason for this blog. I won't have the time to individually update everyone. So by all means, please comment back.

And following that I will spend the month of June with my sister Libby, who as you all know, lives in Germany.

And that's it! After that it's back to Seattle, back to Lampreia, and the start of much much more. Just forgive me if I return with a temporary accent!!

Step one

On my list of things to do in preparation for this trip was to finally invest in a knife of quality. I have been using the Messermeister that was given to me upon entering culinary school as part of my textbook package. It is also the cheap knife they buy in bulk for kitchens like red robin. You girls know the one. You can just barely make out the Art Institute of Seattle logo on the side. "But Dana," you might ask, "can that knife still be sharp? It's soo old, and so crappy!!" Well, it is old, and useless for that matter. In fact, it's been the source of much mockery directed at me from my cooks. Thankfully they have nice knifes for me to use. And in doing so I have had the good fortune of testing different knives and settling on the one I wanted to invest in. A knife to a cook is like Robin to Batman, Grace to Will, scratchy to itchy. And this isn't a relationship to enter into lightly. This knife will be with me for the next 10 years at least, 20 if I treat it right.

The winner is the Wusthof Grand Prix, 10 inch. It has beautifully forged steel, impressive heft, perfectly balanced, and is just big enough that it borders on a small sword.

So thanks to the magical combination of Valentines day and the sweetest guy in the whole world, this knife and I are starting our journey together. Nothing could be more perfect for me that a man who expresses romantic sentiment with a knife so big that airport security would consider it a weapon. This knife could be another source of mockery directed at me from my cooks if they knew it's mushy origins.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

All aboard

Hop on friends. This is the begining of my journey to England. Granted I don't leave for a month and a half. But the journey begins here with diminishing my life, breaking ties, and deciding what few things in my life are so valuable that I won't be able to let go of. I am sitting in my cute loft unit in the Avalon co-op living the life I was so excited to see perpetuate. Here I have so much to make me happy. and for two more weeks I can sit back and enjoy the life I worked so hard to build for myself. I am finally in a gear I would like to coast at for a while. But I wonder if I would have been as satisfied with this if I wasn't leaving it. Probably not. Well, at least I am learning what is truly important to me and what is just life filler.