East Atlanta Strut !!!

I got a phone call from Tracy , a good friend of mine that lives in East Atlanta. She said that there was a festival up the street in her neighborhood, cars were parking up  an down on her avenue and she could hear music in the distance. Normally on a Saturday I’m at work, in fact it’s rare  cooks never get Saturdays off. But I’m a lucky son of a gun and this particular beautiful, sunny day in Atlanta was mine, to do what I pleased. So she called and I was like hey, I’ll come over and we can go check it out, sounds like fun.

On the Menu

East Atlanta  put on a helluva street festival. Thousands of people turned out to show their support, have  fun, and just vibe with the funky music , good beer, the delicious food and outstanding works of art that was available. To say the neighborhood charm worked like a charm is an understatement.

Sticky, Smoky , Tangy , Sweet Ribs , Falling of the Bone

I had the opportunity to sample ribs and chicken sliders from Boners BBQ. This food truck served some of what I thought was the best BBQ ribs to be had anywhere.We actually went back for a second serving and bought more at the end of the night to take home. Nothing says summer like a bottle of cold ginger beer to drive away the heat. Even better, it was Jamaican…….. nostalgia in a bottle. I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of the food from Boners because we were so hungry, and the food disappeared in minutes.  What a summer festival without funnel cakes. I had to try them, the booth next to Boners was doing a brisk business, frying and serving them hot and covered in powdered sugar.This was too much for us to enjoy by ourselves. Tracy called her sister and told her to bring the kids.

Funnel Cakes and Corn Dogs

 

 

 

This was a party that needed the whole gang.There was something for everyone. The weather was clear, bright and sunny. A perfect Saturday afternoon for friends and family to support what was truly local and unique about East Atlanta. Despite the massive crowds the event did not feel congested. There was no rush like at a football or baseball game, where the press of a crowd can become quite claustrophobic and stuffy.

The East Atlanta Strut is a jolly good vibe. Live bands, a bull ride, and a carnival act keeps the crowd in a festive mood. It was a treat especially for the children.Tracy and myself who had now been joined by her sister decided, to let the kids have some fun in the Bounce House.Beer for the grown-ups and popsicles for the kids. They even had popsicles for big kids like myself , blackberry mojito anyone?

Blackberry Mojito in a Popsicle

It was delicious !!!! Reflecting on the events of the day as it unfolded; I was struck with an idea that grew in volume and side like flood waters cresting a dam. It’s an idea that I would like to share with you all, in the hope that it grows beyond even what I envisioned. Like the single raindrop, that grew into a stream and gathered strength until it swept   away all that opposed it. One raindrop, an event, where friends, family and strangers’ rubbed shoulders without bias or prejudice.  Imagine if instead of mouthing the words, we actually practiced tolerance for each other. If a man could respect another man for being unique and different then we could all move towards uplifting ourselves as a society with a conscience that acted in an ethical manner. Gradually, these ugly words like war, hate and prejudice would fade from our vocabulary. Like rainbows after the storm, we would look at the world around us, with an open heart and open mind. Imagine how uplifting it would be if we took the East Atlanta Strut and lived in harmony like the colors of the rainbow. It would be a brighter day, and we would be better people for it.

Ghost in the Kitchen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Thursday, September 12 , 4pm,“Lord, today I need a break, something’s gotta give,” Christian muttered to himself. This remark, was overheard by Nora the grill cook, who snorted in contempt, as she removed the silverskin  of a tenderloin with her boning knife and began to portion it  for tonight’s service.

Look closely

“Christian!!! Are you talking to yourself again? Muttering all that mumbo jumbo crap, if you’re gonna  go crazy, do it on your own time, pantry boy,” grumbled Nora  as she aggressively cut 8 oz. pieces of filet mignon and stacked them in a ½ pan. Christian sighed quietly to himself, secretly; he was afraid of Nora and did not want to piss her off, especially with a razor sharp boning knife in her hand. In this kitchen, his station was right beside the grill. When Nora was upset, which was often, he would have to hear her mouth all night, better to shoot himself in the head.

Sighing again, but quietly, he picked up a case of Romaine lettuce and walked over to the station. His cutting board was already set up beside the sink, which was filled with water waiting for him. “Cut the damn lettuce, wash the damn lettuce, spin the lettuce”, he grumbled.  “Is this what I went to culinary school for? If I had known this was my fate, I could have saved my forty grand and went to work for FedEx instead.”  Still grumbling to himself, “Go to culinary school and become a chef my ass.” Christian’s first job in a professional kitchen was what other line cooks referred to as the “salad station.” So far he had spent an entire year washing lettuce.

Through the looking glas

He felt unappreciated and unnoticed, as if he was a ghost unseen by his supervisors and executive chef. Nora, looked over, as he methodically chopped the romaine into smaller pieces with his French knife, “don’t look so sad, what you thought you’d have your own cooking show like Emerill? Nora laughs at her own joke.

His dreams dashed, Christian hustles to plug in the salad spinner. It was 4:35pm, he had fifty-five minutes left to have his mise en place ready for service, or Dave his supervisor would be giving him an earful, again. For the moment, the kitchen was as serene and tranquil as the sea, quiet, but with a serious undercurrent of cooks hustling to finish prep for their stations before service. Craig the sauté cook was set for service, which gave him time to flirt with the new cocktail waitress. He was pure testosterone with a head, hands and feet. Like a shark, he was always on the hunt for fresh meat. For the past week the cocktail waitress has been in his sights and she looked like her resolve was weakening. Christian saw her discreetly slip a piece of paper into Craig’s hand. He wanted to be like Craig, arrogant, loud, quick, able to sling it, when the action got dirty and heavy.  Both of them had started working in this kitchen at the same time and within a year, Craig had been promoted to chef de partie. He was yet to see Craig in the weeds. 

A Ghost ?

“Lord, today I need a break, something’s gotta give,” Christian thought to himself. It was 5:15, the lettuce for Caesar salad was cut and in his reach-in cooler. Mixed green lettuce, already did that. Candied pecans, done. Jumbo Shrimp, poached in court bouillon for shrimp cocktail, chilling in the cooler. Mise tray for the Cobb salad, straight. Christian made sure to double check and poked his fingers into each nine pan, stirring them around. Yesterday, Dave had poked around in his cooler and found a nine pan with slimy ham. Dave holding little cubes of ham between his fingers so Christian could see the slime dripping down, “would you eat that!” “No” he had mumbled. “Go get the garbage bin.” Christian had to watch Dave unceremoniously dump his entire Cobb salad prep, one by one into the garbage. “You have fifteen minutes to reset your Cobb prep, start now,” without another word, Dave walked away.

Christian loved to cook, he loved the kitchen. Honestly, the work was hard, and the pay small, but he knew in his heart he would never be happy doing anything else. It’s a grind, to cook and maintain the same intensity and focus making sure that each and every plate that goes up in the pass is perfect. These thoughts flashed across his mind as he raced against the clock to replace his prep before Dave came back. For the last three months Christian had been trying to get promoted. He hoped that if he impressed Dave by working harder and faster than everyone else, he might just make it onto the appetizer station beside Craig.  Luis the app guy had quit two months ago and Craig was running both stations until the chef found a suitable replacement. He had already begun training with Craig on slow nights and was doing as much of the prep and cooking as Craig would allow.  All the line cooks had complimented him on his progress and Christian felt that he would eventually catch the eye of his supervisor.  “Isn’t that how it’s done, you work hard, take your licks, wait for your chance, and eventually you get promoted?” he asked Nora. She only nodded in assent and turned to focus on her steaks on the grill. “Tomorrow I’m up for review and I have a feeling that I’ll be promoted to the appetizer station,” he told Nora while making a mixed greens salad.

The next day, Friday, September 13, Christian bumped his head on the glass ceiling at work and became a ghost. There is no other way to explain it. Christian was as confused about his transformation as any new ghost would be.  Puzzled, he walked over to the mirror in the men’s locker room and looked at his reflection. A slightly rumpled chef’s jacket and checkered pants covered his scrawny frame. What he saw made him feel depressed. His face was as smooth as a cup of cappuccino, chocolate baby cheeks were eclipsed by a nose as broad as a cinnamon bun. Brown eyes brimming with innocence were shaded by eyebrows frozen in a quizzical expression, as if unsure of their place on a face bereft of any other facial hair.  He scrutinized his jaw line carefully; hoping that a stray follicle would attach itself and sprout into a goatee or even a thin mustache.  He tried to convince his reflection, “I’m not invisible, a real ghost can’t chew bubble gum or have holes in their socks?” The blister on his left thumb agreed starting to throb and sting painfully, chastising his foolish notion.

 This made him mad; his thumb was hurting and today Dave was going to do his review. How could he get promoted if his supervisor could not see him?  “Lord please, don’t give me ghost fingers today,” he pinched his cheek to make sure ……… ouch………..  ahmmm, his fingers were still there. He wiggled his hand and rotated the bony wrist that protruded from his chef jacket; satisfied, he picked his nose.   Christian did this when something was bothering him. It helped him think, some people closed their eyes, others talked to themselves, Christian picked his nose. Whenever he needed to think really hard, his finger would involuntarily lodge itself in a nostril. Like using a mouse to Google his brain, his finger would eventually hit pay dirt, whether a gnarly bugger or deeply buried elucidation, the answer would come out.  

If he was a ghost, he was in serious trouble, his shift started in twenty minutes. “Who would believe me?” He imagined himself trying to call off from work, “hey Dave, ahhh, I can’t come into work today.” “Christian you idiot, what did you do to yourself this time,” Dave his supervisor screaming at him through the phone. “Well I, uhmm, bumped into this glass ceiling at work and it kinda, ahh, uhmmm, made me invisible.” “You must be kidding me, there’s no glass ceiling in this kitchen,” the sound of laughing through the phone, silence, then a dial tone.

Ghost in the Kitchen

Not a good idea, he was panicking, a wave of nausea gripped his stomach and squeezed it like a lime.  This caused him to break in to a cold sweat. Feeling like jello, he sat on a bench and tried hard to stop himself from crying. Another wave of nausea and the reality of his situation struck him full in the face like an onion. Christian started to cry, fat tears were flowing down his cheeks, onto his chef jacket and spilling onto his clogs. As each tear struck, his shoes began to fade as if they were being erased. “I can’t die, who’s going to feed my cat.” Another wave of sobbing and his checkered pants began to shimmer and turn translucent. Christian was becoming invisible, “this can’t be real, where’s the tunnel and the bright lights?” A sob escaped sounding like a tiny squeak and his chef jacket and name tag winked out like a light bulb, “and where’s St. Peter and Jesus?”  He was embarrassed, a grown man crying like a baby in the locker room at work. Sniffling, he used a grubby finger to wipe away a single tear that hung suspended on his eyelash, as his face grew paler and paler, until it too began to disappear. In the last millisecond as his brown eyes blinked for the last time, the truth dawned on him. He was trapped.  He had a feeling that he wasn’t going to be promoted. Not today, maybe never. As long as he stayed where he was, he would remain invisible, a ghost in the kitchen.

Steak Tartare for Him

And oysters for the lady.

When a man falls in love with a woman, their relationship is woven from gossamer threads, to create an intricate tapestry that captures its essence and the need for it. There is a story to be told. Each thread, part of a pattern that becomes a shared memory – intimacy, passion, sorrow, joy, wet kisses, children, family. With time, the weave becomes interspersed with silvery flecks of gray and love takes on the pastel colors of friendship, reliance and understanding.

In these twilight years, before love smolders and the embers die. Choose the time and place well to renew a man’s passion for his woman.

Suggest a neighborhood bistro where candles cast tones as soft as egg yolks. The linen is white and the patio trellis is covered with morning glory, sweet peas and passion flowers. Begin at seven, this is the best time, the restaurant has just started to hum, the prep is done and the cooks and servers are eager to please.

Take time to peruse the menu. Allow your eyes to nibble at the appetizers and savor the main course. When the time has come at last to decide and the waiter waits with pen poised.

Order Steak Tartare for him

Raw and primal, steak tartare resonates with the carnal instinct inherent in all men. A finely diced tenderloin seasoned with worcestershire , salty capers, shallots, Dijon mustard,  olive oil, parsley, a dash of Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. Add two raw egg yolks and combine. Garnish with cherry tomatoes, a tiny bundle of frisee and a garlic crostini.

Order 12 fresh and plump raw oysters for her

To the palette, a fresh and plump raw oyster is deliciously sensual with its briny sweetness and salty liquor. On a bed of shaved ice, place 12 oysters on the half shell. Garnish with a lemon wedge and cocktail sauce.

When the meal is done, and the plates are cleared, pay the bill; then take his hand in yours and hurry home. Waste not a minute, life is short, and love, precious.